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RMLS and Photos

We live in an ever increasingly digital age. A picture was worth a thousand words and was as close to the truth as you were likely to get. With mainstream digital photography and photo editing software, a photo may not be the truth. The impetus of this post comes from another real estate related blog discussion where a Realtor has posted a picture on RMLS where the grass has been painted green using software; almost a toxic dump site green. The comments of that post begin by saying t there should be rules, followed by there are no rules where, in fact, there is a rule and then what is the punishment for breaking the rule? That’s why the subject deserves its own thread here. The photo alteration rule went into effect August 8th. I know RMLS is working on a revision of their rules now and, from what I can see, there is no modification to the status quo regarding photos. There should be some discussion. I hope RMLS, the public and Realtors participate.

RULES AND REGULATIONS OF RMLS™
REGIONAL MULTIPLE LISTING SERVICE, INC.:

3.7 Photographs. Listing Brokers may submit up to sixteen (16) photographs for all listings to be Published in the RMLS™ System. The photographs are to be submitted without any alterations

I’d consider myself a semi-serious armature photographer. We use a mix my photographs and a professional photographer for our listings. I use a Nikon digital SLR and have a full version of Photoshop and other editing software which I’d rate myself about a B student on.

The question for me is what is an altered photograph? The first picture here is the snapshot that came off the storage device. The second simply has the color auto-corrected in Microsoft Picture Manager and is slightly cropped. Is the second photo altered? Yes, it is. Should it be considered “altered” for RMLS purposes? I think not.

Sink1

Sink1altered

This photo was just for fun. Real estate is marketing. Nothing about the subject property is changed. None of the physical attributes of the neighboring properties have changed, I’ve just drained the color out of them to highlight the house in the middle. Altered?

Whiteside_photoshopped

Cropping or editing? I could have edited the portapoti out of the picture using Photoshop. It is sitting on the property. Is cropping the picture out so it can’t be seen altering? I could have taken the photo from a slightly different angle or zoomed in from the camera to avoid it.

Dsc_8747

Dsc_8747cropped

Is removing a pedestrian that happens to walk into that perfect shot an alteration that should constitute a violation? I don’t really think so. Is removing a power line? Yes, it’s not going anywhere. Is painting a pink house blue? Yes. Is auto correcting? No (I wish more real estate photographers would take this step). How about removing yourself from a mirror or other reflective surface? How about this shot? It is four pictures stitched together (notice the bend in the rails (this was my first attempt at this software):

Smallpano_2

RMLS clearly took a step in the right direction by adding the alteration clause but I don’t feel it can completely address the issue that easily. I’d be more than happy to participate in a group addressing it. Regarding fines? I don’t see it specifically addressed. Fines under $100 are waived if corrective action is taken within seven days of notification. I’d expect that photo-related infractions would all under this category ($2500 fine for a giving out use of our lockbox key or password into RMLS).

5 Comments on “RMLS and Photos

  1. Hi Charles – As it turns out, the RMLS Board of Directors and Rules Committee have been having similar discussions.

    So, RMLS is proposing to replace the following section from Rule 3.7: “The photographs are to be submitted without any alterations” with “The photographs are to be submitted without any added text or graphics, or any alterations that misrepresent the property”. Hopefully, this will help to clarify our expectations without being too specific.

    The new text will be reviewed by the Rules Committee later this month. If they endorse the text change it will be sent to the Board of Directors in November for their approval. If approved we will add the new text to the RMLS Rules and Regulations.

    As for the application of this rule, essentially our Rules and Regulations department agrees with your examples. They see no problem with correcting the color of a photo as long as it doesn’t result in recoloring the photo. Also, cropping or resizing images is acceptable.

    However, as you mentioned, removing something permanent like a power line or an apartment building in the background would be considered a violation of this rule.

    Violations of rule 3.7 are considered to be “Incorrect or Missing Information in Required Fields” and each incidence is a $25 fine.

  2. What about blatant errors in the listings? For instance, MLS ID# 8092526 says the lot size is 1.6 acres. Is there any ramification to misrepresenting the lot size?

  3. For that matter, what is the ramification of an NAR fine? If a REALTOR (tm!) violates one of the NAR rules, what happens? Is there a publicly available record one can look up?

    I’m trying to find a 0.5+ acre property in the Beaverton area, and have been struck by the NUMEROUS erroneous listings. Is there any ramification if a REALTOR (tm!) blatantly lies on the MLS or Zillow listing? If so, how do I report incorrect listings? Thanks!

  4. As for the application of this rule, essentially our Rules and Regulations department agrees with your examples. They see no problem with correcting the color of a photo as long as it doesn’t result in recoloring the photo. Also, cropping or resizing images is acceptable.

  5. If an agent finds an error in the information in a listing, they can call it in at 503-236-7657, fax it in to 503-230-0689, or email it to rules@rmls.com and our Rules Department will contact the listing agent to get the information corrected.

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