Privacy Matters – What Happens to the Photos of the House *After* You Close?

What happens to the photos of the house after the house closes? Who owns them? Do they stay forever?

A client emailed me some time ago:

Do you have any idea how one goes about removing internet photos of the house after it’s been purchased? I did it from Zillow and claimed it there, but they are still on Trulia. I just feel that’s too much info to be on the internet.

Darn good question, an answer to which my client provided before I could respond: (bolding mine)

You have to email them to ask them. (Interesting that) someone else owns photos of your home and it’s not so simple to take them down once you own the home! I’m not overly concerned about people seeing photos of my house but I’d rather that not be out there if I can help it!

The Internet and real estate marketing are interesting things.

Licensing of photos is a challenging concept.

Quick background: Some Realtors tend to strip the MLS of photos when they either lose (to another agent) a listing or it sells. That serves only to greatly, shortsightedly (and spitefully) devalue the MLS when there are so many other sites that keep the photos that the Realtors don’t control. The National Association of Realtors’ own site, RPR which isn’t public, for example, keeps the photos. So does Zillow. And Trulia. And There are countless other sites that scrape and steal information and photos … once a photo (or anything) is online, it never goes away.

Not so easy (or fast)

– The photographer owns the photo; they grant a license to the Realtor to use in marketing and then —
– Once we upload to the MLS, the MLS has a license to use them yet —
– Through the magic of syndication (sending to Trulia/Zillow/ Internets) by sending to them, essentially all of those entities then have rights to use the photos in perpetuity.


Be aware of what’s out there. I wonder what would happen if we were to try to request/negotiate photo rights in our offers and Contracts.

My client continued:

“I read a story about a person who hacked the monitor and was speaking to the child, who would complain to his parents of voices in the room at night. Finally one night they happened upon it and believed him.

While I’m ranting, I have a huge problem with the geotagging on instagram, which most people don’t realize is happening and if you have a public profile, your instagrams are tagging your home, work, church, etc etc. I have read a couple of stories about people being stalked because of it. I actually feel like contacting people I don’t know to tell them they are leaving their home as secure as a front door unlocked and wide open.”

Instagram is one of those things that is way more than a double-edged sword. It’s cool to share, but you’re sharing a lot more than you may want to (or know) share.

Now that Instagram offers multiple account management within the app, I’ve been using the RealCrozetVa Instagram account a lot more. Compared to my @JimDuncan Instagram, I’ve noticed that a vast majority of my new followers have private accounts; that’s a very good thing, IMHO.


Short summary: be aware of who owns what, and what’s out there.


While we’re talking about creepy things, how’s this?

“Internet of Things” security is hilariously broken and getting worse

Shodan, a search engine for the Internet of Things (IoT), recently launched a new section that lets users easily browse vulnerable webcams.

The feed includes images of marijuana plantations, back rooms of banks, children, kitchens, living rooms, garages, front gardens, back gardens, ski slopes, swimming pools, colleges and schools, laboratories, and cash register cameras in retail stores, according to Dan Tentler, a security researcher who has spent several years investigating webcam security.

“It’s all over the place,” he told Ars Technica UK. “Practically everything you can think of.”


Did I mention that I have some of the best clients?



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1 Comment

  1. Chris May 4, 2016 at 10:58

    Interesting question I had not considered. Makes me glad my house was new construction and never listed. One point about geotagging on Instagram (or Facebook or wherever): it’s easy to turn off geotagging of photos on your phone altogether. On my Android phone it’s in the camera settings under General Settings.


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