I’m so old that I can remember when people first started looking at listing pictures on the internet. It’s funny to think of now, but most photo file sizes in our world today would have blown up a computer in the past. We are able to get such detail in our pictures that many have made the incorrect case that we can always just look at the listing pictures when determining whether or not to buy a home. Having seen hundreds of thousands of listings online, and many of those in person, here are some of the things that can look very different between the two.
- The quality building materials used on the outside. Just recently, I saw a home online with a wonderful stone facade. In the picture the facade was yellow. In person, the stone was grey. The house looked 10 times better in person. On another listing, the pictures showed a wood facade and pink trim around the windows. When I physically went to the house, the trim was actually a dark red, and the house looked really nice.
- The size of the yards both front and back. Real estate professionals are pretty tricky when it comes to showing the true sizes of the yard. One trick is to not show the yard at all, especially if it is really small. Another trick is to take a picture of the yard through the window, which will make it look much bigger than it is. My favorite trick that no one seems to notice is when a photographer will use a fish eye lens for the outside shots. You’ll see the corners of the image bend a little bit, but other than that the yard looks huge! On the other hand, there are times when the yard is huge but you can’t tell from the pictures. Pay attention to what is in the yard. If the yard has a lot of stuff in it, the yard is usually smaller in person. If the yard doesn’t have a lot in it, the yard is usually much bigger when you go look at it.
- Paint colors. As wonderful as photography is, sometimes the colors don’t render right on the screen. Walls that look yellow online can actually be white when you visit the home. Pink walls can look red, and green walls can look blue. You probably aren’t buying a house due to the color of the walls from pictures online, but those color combinations can keep you from scheduling showing. Whatever your opinion on wallpaper, you will definitely be surprised when you see a home in person versus what you saw in the pictures. The wallpaper might make the rooms darker than they are in person.
- Quality of paint jobs. No agent is going to take a picture of a white ceiling where someone got a little excited and accidentally painted part of the ceiling the wall color, tried to wipe it off, and now it looks like garbage. Similarly, when you see a white door in a photo online, you might think the door is white. When you get to the house, the door is white, but it’s the primer…no one bothered to paint the door!
- Paint finishes. From the online photos, you see a nice wall with some color on it. When you physically go to the house, the wall has a high gloss finish on it and there are thousands of imperfections in the wall. Similarly, you see a wall with a flat finish and don’t notice anything other than a lot of staining. The reason you see the stains when you go to the house is that flat paint is really hard to clean. You see lots of imperfections on the high gloss finish because the finish itself seems to show everything wrong with a wall.
- Wall textures. In one of the photos I was looking at online the other day, I saw a concrete wall in the basement. When I went to the house, it wasn’t a poured concrete wall at all, rather, it was a concrete block wall. I was looking at a white ceiling in a room online, and when I physically went to the house, the ceiling was a popcorn ceiling. For some reason, the textures just don’t show up well online.
- Flooring types and condition. Think you can tell the difference between a Pergo style floor and a hardwood floor in pictures? Good luck! I’ve seen listings with beautiful hardwood floors only to be fooled by Pergo. The current trend is tile that looks like wood plank. In pictures, it is so good that you can actually think you are looking at wood floors when it is tile. About a year ago I was looking at a beautiful hardwood floor in a basement online that turned out to be vinyl when I actually went to the house! There was another house that had wood flooring in pictures, but when I went to the house, there were huge gaps in the flooring due to a bad install. Buying that house at the price asked would have involved repairing or even replacing the flooring, which can be quite expensive.
- Carpet. Looking online at pictures of carpet, it looks so lush and comfortable. Physically going to the house, you see tracks where the carpet is matted. Even worse, there are areas where there are stains that aren’t coming out and you have no idea what happened in the room. One of my favorites is when you see a bathroom but don’t see the floor. That’s usually a sign that there is carpeting in the bathrooms. Agents are smart enough to put the best pictures online. They don’t take pictures of things that will detract from the house.
- Non updated bathrooms. One of my favorite things to do is look at a listing online and see what the total number of bathrooms are versus the number of bathrooms shown in the listing. Usually, when you see a three bathroom home online, you will only see a picture of one of the bathrooms. It just so happens that bathroom looks great. What about the other two bathrooms? Why aren’t there pictures of them? They’re probably not updated or downright scary.
- The bustle of the street the house is located on. This is one of my favorites! According to this website, the average traffic count on Tesson Ferry is about 10,000 vehicles per day. That’s an average of around 400 cars an hour. In listing pictures of houses on Tesson Ferry, there’s never a car to be found on the street! Some people don’t mind the cars, but others are looking for a little more quiet.
- Commercial activity located near the home. There could be a grocery store, a bank, or a 24 hour drive through right next to a house, and you’ll never see it in a listing picture. A while back I was looking at a house in Maryland Heights. The house had a nice backyard with a 6 foot wood fence. We got there around 7 pm, and it turned out that there was a huge shopping center on the other side of the fence, and the parking lot lights never went off. Sure, you could use shades on your bedroom windows, but you would never know the lot was there from the pictures.
These are just a few of the reasons why you should always physically look at a house before you disqualify it by looking at the pictures. There are some great homes that get overlooked by bad pictures, and there are lots of homes that look awesome online that you’d never live in after seeing them in person.
How should you use the pictures online? Use them as a guide only. If the house address is on a known busy street, you should expect the street in front to have a lot of traffic. If a house is priced lower than the houses around it, you should expect that the house needs cosmetic work at a minimum. If the house is ultimately in an area that fits your budget and it looks decent online, schedule a showing. You might just get an advantage. At Deerwood Realty, we take the time to educate our buyers on this process. Call us to get started on your new home search.