One of the first things new agents and buyers realize is that awful real estate pictures are everywhere. There’s just something about the combination of real estate agent + homeowner + camera that leads to an artistic disaster. That’s why we reached out to some of our favorite agents and friends to gather the worst of the worst real estate listing photos for your viewing “enjoyment.”
We also collected six expert tips and advice on staging and photography so you can ensure your listing photos never end up here!
Fixing & Flipping
Is it weird that I actually respect an agent who had the confidence to drive to this listing, take this abomination of a picture, drive home, and upload this to Zillow without taking literally one second to make sure the picture was right side up?! It’s like he’s daring us to hate him and I just can’t. If you posted this, call me. I want to know your secrets.
2. ♫♬ Come With Me & You’ll Be in a World of Pure Imagination …
“OK, I’m thrilled you chose me as your listing agent! You won’t be disappointed with our marketing services. Now, I’m thinking we start with some virtual stag—”
“My nephew Francis is good with the computer.”
“Right, OK, but we have a talented virtual staging company we work with who make some—”
“My nephew Francis is gonna do it. Don’t make me change my mind. Now, for pictures, my cousin Jenni has a real good camera.” 😬
Pro Tip: Get Results Like THIS 👇 for Just $7 per Photo
With virtual staging companies charging $30 to $100 per picture these days, most agents only use them for luxury listings. Sure, there is DIY staging software out there, but most are a pain to use and the quality is awful. That is until a new startup called Apply Design launched.
Apply Design is the first DIY virtual staging software that is easy to use, easy to get professional looking results from, and best of all, affordable enough for any agent. They even have a 100% money-back guarantee and you can stage your first room free.
3. Send in the Clowns, but Leave the Cookie Jar
I mean, we’ve all been there. A homeowner or renter has appallingly strange taste but you still need to get pictures for Zillow. It’s a real problem! I guess one way to handle it is to just turn lemons into lemonade and lean into the weirdness with your listing pictures. Unless maybe the weirdness includes a nightmare-fuel sad clown like this one.
I do genuinely want that dog cookie jar where you get cookies from his butt. Kind of feel like the clown’s eyes would glow red and he would attack me if I tried, though… 😁
4. When Tinder Meets Zillow
Hey, when you have a professional photographer at your house you might as well get your money’s worth, right? The best part is that there are 81 more pictures of this house on Zillow and they still decided they needed to keep this one.
5. I Wonder What His Hobby Is?
What is it about—and let’s be honest here—men of a certain age and their hobbies? It’s like they turn 50 and the man cave with a few toy trains in it turns into a full-fledged toy train museum, and every book in the house is about toy trains and all they talk about at family gatherings is toy trains. Of course, a toy train museum would be kind of cute in a listing picture, but this Zambian royal palace theme is on another level entirely.
6. Ah, That’s More Like It!
See what I mean? This guy is clearly into taxidermy too, but instead of trying to recreate a Zambian royal palace, he went with some very tasteful, uh, bright red carpeting and furniture that looks like it came from a banned Simpsons episode where all the animators were on LSD.
7. Your Grace, Your Throne Has Been Prepared
Fun fact about Henry VIII: The “Groom of the Stool” was actually a very prestigious position in the royal court that dukes and earls fought to get. Whoever held this position was one of the few members of the court who could get a private audience with the king.
What you won’t find in Henry VIII’s Wikipedia entries is that he also sentenced Realtors who didn’t close the damn toilet seat when taking listing pictures to 100 years in the royal dungeons for crimes against real estate photography.
8. Crouching Fish, Hidden Zebra
I really, really wish I could talk to the person who designed this … room? I mean, that looks like the front door, but like, “the secret garden” sign makes me think this leads to the backyard? Or is the secret garden in the … fireplace(?!) they have right next to the … front door? So many questions.
9. I Treat My Chickens Like Family & Vice Versa
“You know that show ‘Fixer Upper’ with that nice TV lady, Joanna Gaines?”
“Well, she said country chic is in this year.”
“Say no more. I’ve got a shed full of chicken wire.”
10. The Extra-long Cow Is Hoping Those Aren’t Hamburgers
I mean, we get the cow theme and all. It’s as classic an animal kitchen motif as the rooster. But I think the idea is to use multiple cows in your kitchen, not a mythical room-length cow. Otherwise, you end up here in our bad listing photos article.
11. They Spared No Expense …
Kind of hard to say what’s off about this listing picture―the red carpet with the red velvet saggy chair, or that strange-looking beige armchair. Maybe it’s the TV placement? That mantel also looks a little dated, or maybe IT’S THE GIANT FREAKING T.REX SKELETON WEARING A BRIDAL VEIL NEXT TO THE DOG SKELETON IN THE LIVING ROOM. Could be the angle here too. I mean, taking this shot head-on would probably make a nicer overall picture.
12. Bed, Bath & Be-gross
“Hey, remember when we talked about decluttering before the shoot? I was just thinking that—”
“THE SPA BED STAYS!”
“Well, see the thing is most buyers want—”
“THE BED STAYS.”
13. ‘Honey, Should We Hire a Realtor?’
Example number 7,861 that proves FSBOs are a goldmine for agents who aren’t afraid to pick up the phone and call them.
If you’re still not convinced, spend a few minutes scrolling through an FSBO site and you’ll learn just how horrible 99% of FSBO marketing is. When you get back, our best FSBO scripts article will be waiting for you.
14. I Can Really See Myself Living Here…
If there’s one thing I look forward to at the end of a long hard day, it’s putting on some soothing music, lighting some candles, slipping into the tub, and staring up into a nightmarish constellation of reflections of my own naked body.
15. Or Here. I Can Definitely See Myself Living Here Too
More of a foodie? Imagine yourself winding down after a hectic day at the office with a savory home-cooked dinner in this elegant and tastefully decorated dining room. The 73,000 reflections of your own head from every mathematically possible angle will really help melt away the stress before you slip into bed and dream of your morning bath.
16. Do You Remember 1990s Video Games? Do You Want to Live in One?
Well, here’s your chance. This horrific virtual staging made us say, “What the hell” out loud in a crowded coffee shop. And this was created for a multimillion-dollar townhouse in Manhattan. A listing where the commission was well into the six figures!
The Best DIY & Pro Virtual Staging Software (+ Tips)
17. ♫♬ Strike a Pose, There’s Nothing to It
This one is actually kind of fun in that “design is my passion” kind of way, but just imagine being in this place AT NIGHT. 👀
18. ♫♬ Hunka Hunka Burnin’ Commission Check
“Hey, so I was wondering if, you know, Elvis could ‘leave the building’ before the photo shoot?”
“Well, not everyone loves Elvis. In fact some people—”
“Don’t you love Elvis?!”
“I, um, never mind.”
19. YOU SHALL NOT PASS!
“Unless you have a milk bone—or any treat, really. OK, OK, I’ll let you by if you give me a quick head scratch.”
If you know anything about plumbing, then you know this would take an absolute eternity and a small fortune to install. The obvious question is why?
21. The ‘Number Two’ Hallway
“So, I’m thinking instead of making your hot tub smaller or getting rid of the double sink, that we just put the toilet into this long skinny hallway here.”
“Are you really an architect?”
“No, I work at Arby’s, but my cousin always said I was good with drawing.”
22. ‘Well Yes, I Am a Cat Person … Why Do You Ask?’
In my daydreams, that jukebox only has one song on it: It’s “Eye of the Tiger,” and the owner plays it on a constant loop all day long.
23. Thomas Is Watching. Thomas Is Always Watching
Don’t you think there’s something just kind of creepy about Thomas the Tank Engine? No? Did you see the one where they sealed a bad train-person into a tunnel with a brick wall “The Cask of Amontillado” style?
24. Hear Ye, Hear Ye: The Goldenrod Emperor Is Selling the Yellow Palace!
Sometimes yellow gets a bad rap. Even though it’s a bright, happy color, it’s hard to see it in a listing photo and not think of all the less-than-well-thought-out design choices of the 1970s. Still, it can look just lovely in a kitchen, and a more subdued goldenrod shade can make a killer accent wall. Of course, when it comes to bathrooms, yellow is just not the best choice.
25. Hear Ye, Hear Ye: The Queen of Flowers Has Decided to Sell Her Summer Castle!
So, is that carpet covered by a plastic tarp? Also, is that toilet seat made out of mother of pearl? Then, there are the statues … and that wallpaper. I think I need to renounce all worldly goods and become a Buddhist monk. I will never know the answers to these questions, and I think I need spiritual help because of it.
26. The Pinnacle of 1970s Carpeted Chic
Check out how enormous this room is. It has double doors and a built-in Jacuzzi. It likely cost the owners a pretty penny when they first built the house in the halcyon days of the late 1970s. And then added their … uh … special feature over the bed. We’re thinking whoever owned this place drove a Corvette and wore lots of gold chains.
27. Hear Ye, Hear Ye: The Red Prince Has Also Decided to Sell His Palace!
Would you think I’m weird if I told you I kind of dig this look? I mean, not for a bathroom, but my cult is looking for a new ritual blood sacrifice room. We meet on Wednesdays, and this week Harold is bringing donuts.
28. Is That … Jabba the Hut?
OK, maybe it’s the fact that I’ve been staring at stupendously bad real estate photos for the past what, five hours? However, I can’t help but see Jabba the Hut in that hideously bad mural over that hideously ugly tub that, for some inexplicable reason, is up on a pedestal along with the toilet and $99-special-at-Home-Depot vanity.
29. ‘💀 GET OUT!!! 💀’
Speaking of creepy … yikes.
30. The Ceremony Shall Begin at Midnight
“Hey, thanks for letting me tour your house for my comparative market analysis. What’s happening in this room? Let me guess: just a storage issue where you put the chairs in the bedroom because you ran out of space in the dining room, right? Guys? Hello? Who are those people in the red robes?”
31. ‘My Nephew Said Twilight Listing Pictures Are Hot These Days’
I mean, there’s a house here for sure—somewhere in the deep dark gloom. Why they didn’t just back up like three feet so we could see the whole damn house, I’ll never know.
32. ‘Can You Make It Brighter?’
If I were a galactic overlord, I would make owning Adobe Photoshop a criminal offense for people who don’t know how to use it. Basic skills and sanity tests will be given before Photoshop licenses will be issued.
33. ‘Didn’t I Tell You My Nephew Was Good With the Computer?’
Please, no. No more. I can’t take it anymore. Someone, please make it stop.
34. ‘OK, I Guess a Few More Pears Won’t Hurt’
I mean, what goes through someone’s head when they get something like this and think, “Yep, that’s the one for Zillow!” It’s just sheer madness.
35. A Chef’s Bedroom
“So, here we have a formal dining room and sitting room. Next, we have the chef’s bedroom.”
“Wait, don’t you mean a chef’s kitchen?”
36. When Your Architect Mistakes His Viagra for Aspirin
Sometimes, a window is just a window. However, in this case, we can’t help but wonder whether the architect had something else on their mind.
37. Can You Have the Actual Room Call Me When It Gets Here?
Seriously. The actual room owes me money and has been dodging my calls for weeks now.
38. Holy Country Club Cow
Holy mother heifer! Pray for our sins, now and at the hour of our milking. Or from the looks of it, before you leave for the country club social? We’d ask why but, yeah, just rolling with them now.
39. Must Love … Animals?
Or is it a love of weirdly folded blankets? Messed up panorama shot? Or maybe a dog moved too fast, so it looked blurry in the picture? Never mind. I don’t want to know.
40. Ascending to the Throne …
These toilet thrones are actually weirdly common. Is it a plumbing issue? Some weird throwback interior design trend from the 1800s? If there are any plumbers reading this, can you please solve this mystery in the comments?
41. ‘Yes, But It’s a Very Upscale Basement Dungeon Room’
I do wonder if they take off that blue velvet tub cozy when they take a bath, though.
42. ‘Did You See What My Nephew Did With the Kitchen Pictures? He’s Very Good on the Computer!’
You know, I’m actually pretty good at Photoshop and I have been wracking my brain trying to figure out how on earth they managed to mess this up so badly.
43. ‘Wait, Your Bathroom Is Where?’
“Hey, where’s your bathroom?”
“It’s on the first-and-a-half floor. You can’t miss it.”
44. ‘Pfft, No Way I’m Hiring a Real Estate Photographer. I Do Just Fine With My iPhone!’
Actually, this might be the work of a conceptual artist who was trying to highlight the inherent absurdity of the commodification of living spaces in the digital age.
45. Perfect for Multitaskers!
Just think, you can stack some cookbooks on the back of the toilet and save some time on your weekly meal planning.
How to Make Sure Your Listing Pictures Never End Up Here
Look, we get it. Taking Instagram-worthy pictures of creepy and cluttered houses isn’t easy. A listing is a listing though, right? If you want to actually sell the place, you’re going to have to suck it up and do your best. Here are six simple tips to take better pictures of, shall we say, visually challenged homes.
1. For the Love of All That Is Holy: Put the Toilet Seat Down!
Even if you couldn’t convince the homeowner to ditch the creepy doll collection, there is one thing any Realtor with hands has control over. PUTTING THE DAMN TOILET SEATS DOWN. Seriously. If you can’t be bothered to put in that minimal effort to sell a house, you should be sent to Realtor jail.
2. Offer to Pay for a Decluttering & Cleaning Service
A dirty house filled with junk is always going to be the last one buyers schedule a tour to see. That means your listing will sit on the market longer, and you might need to lower the price to get the house some love. So if your homeowner refuses to clean or move the Star Trek collection to the garage, consider paying out of pocket to get the job done.
The Open House Checklist Top Agents Use for a Stress-free Day (PDF)
3. You Don’t Need to Show the Weirdness
Let’s say there is, I don’t know, a giant T. Rex skeleton wearing a bridal veil in the living room of a house you’re trying to sell. It’s funny, right? You should take pictures of it, right? No. No, you should not. Put the camera down and take pictures of literally anything else. There are exactly zero reasons to upload pictures of your homeowner’s weird belongings to Zillow. Sure, buyers might hate it when they come for a tour, but at least they will come for a tour!
17 Clever Home Staging Tips From Top Agents (+ DIY Shopping Guide)
4. Resist the Urge to Edit Your Own Pictures
Unless you’re a professional editor, editing your own listing pictures is never a good idea. It is absurdly easy to make a mediocre picture worse and you can hire a professional editor for as little as $5. So do yourself a favor and leave it to the pros. You’ll thank me later.
5. Use a Professional Virtual Staging Service or App
Virtual staging might not be as affordable as editing, but unless you’re selling an abandoned shack filled with poisonous snakes in the middle of Death Valley, shelling out fifty bucks for virtual staging will always offer a good return on investment (ROI).
The Best DIY & Pro Virtual Staging Software (+ Tips)
6. Learn the Basics of Photography
If you insist on taking your own pictures instead of hiring a photographer like every successful real estate agent on planet earth, at least take a few hours to learn the basics. It’s not easy, but it’s also not as hard as you think it is. Check out our deep-dive guide below to learn how to take pictures that won’t end up here.
Real Estate Photography: 24 Tips for Stunning DIY Photos
Over to You
Have some unbearably bad real estate photos to share or a real estate photography tip that works every time? Send it to us at firstname.lastname@example.org or share it with us on Instagram via @theclosedotcom.