Tips for Getting Those Old Home Photos Off the Internet

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The first question many agents generally hear from buyers after closing is: how do I remove the photos of my new house from Zillow and all of the other real estate websites? They think the listing agent will do it for them, but it is not that easy.

MLS Forever

It starts with MLS. Sellers want their home advertised everywhere possible online. Increasing the exposure to online shoppers tends to maximize profit potential; their thought process is the more websites, the merrier. Many websites feed from MLS. Sellers don’t necessarily care about the ramifications or the buyers’ privacy after the transaction closes

Photos of Your Home for Sale–After It’s Sold

A funny thing happens, though, after buyers become homeowners. Although the buyers may have lusted after their new home on their smartphone prior to purchasing, right after the sale closes they may suddenly feel differently. What was once a fantasy becomes a reality. They now claim ownership, and ownership feelings can be intensely and extremely private. So private, in fact, that they feel invaded by the online photos. They want to stop anybody else’s eyeballs from falling upon their built-in dishwasher or 6-burner range.

Legal opinions can vary, but most lawyers agree the photos do not belong to the homeowner, nor does the homeowner have the legal right to demand the removal of the photos. Furthermore, some of them simply cannot be removed.

The Never-Ending Galaxy of MLS

To figure out how to remove photos of your home from real estate websites, it helps to begin by understanding how the photos ended up there in the first place. It starts with MLS. Depending on your local MLS, that system might distribute its contents downline to 20, 60 or 100-plus different websites. Automatically. This includes popular homes for sale websites such as Zillow, Trulia or Realtor.com: the big three.

For many years, agents could just post listings to Zillow. However, Zillow’s policy now prevents it, and it has negotiated feeds directly from MLS companies across the country.

Each website might also distribute the data to its sister websites. Agents might blog about their new listings on social media–like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Pinterest–and post photos. In the case of Pinterest, other users can then snatch the photos to “pin” on their own page. It’s like a never-ending galaxy that often leaves the homeowner in a black hole.

Best Way to Remove Photos of Your Home from Websites

The single best way to remove photos of your home from real estate websites is to ask for this in your purchase offer. Make the removal of those photos from MLS a contingency of sale. This means once you have removed your contract contingencies and are close to funding the loan, you might ask the listing agent to immediately remove all photographs from MLS. Keep in mind, however, this doesn’t necessarily mean removal from other websites or social media platforms.

Secondary Ways to Remove Photos of Your Home from Websites

If you’ve already closed and you want the photos removed, start with the listing agent. Be polite and nice. State your case. You might even suggest that you realize the request might seem insignificant to the agent, but you would appreciate if the agent could take a moment to remove the photos from some of the websites to which the agent has access, such as Zillow.

The agent is under no obligation to grant your request; however, many real estate brokerages and–by extension–the agents themselves, prefer to foster goodwill in the community and might help you out.

Do It Yourself

You can also remove photographs from Zillow yourself by creating a Zillow account. Then, sign in to your account and claim the home. Once the home has been claimed by you, you have the ability to remove photographs. Zillow customer service representatives can also assist if you find this step challenging. Zillow feeds its listings to Trulia, so once removed from Zillow, the photographs will also vanish from Trulia.

Most other websites, with the exception of MLS, will remove photos if you ask their customer service department for assistance. MLS is fairly strict and does not want to alter its research archives. To find these websites, enter your home address into the search box of your favorite search engine. For example, I entered the address of a random home I sold six years ago, just to count the number of entries that still exist. This home was still listed on 72 entries, some with photos and some without.

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