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 14 expert tips and advice on staging and photography so you can ensure your listing photos never end up here!
1. 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.”
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 real- …”
“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.” 😬
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.
📌 Pro Tip
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. 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.
5. 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.
6. 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. This is because whoever held this position was one of the few members of the court who could get a private audience with the king.
What most people don’t know about Henry VIII 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.
7. 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 …
8. 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.”
9. 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 roosters, but I mean … I think the idea is to use multiple cows in your kitchen, not a mythical long cow. Otherwise, you end up here in our bad listing photos article.
10. 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.
11. ‘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.
12. 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 done for a multimillion-dollar townhouse in Manhattan? A listing where the commission was well into the six figures?!
13. ♫♬ ‘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. 👀
14. YOU SHALL NOT PASS!
Unless you have a milk bone … or any treat, really. OK, OK, I’ll let you pass 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―and we have that monastery web page open in another tab just in case―is why?
16. ‘I Do Like Cats … Why Do You Ask?’
In my daydreams, that jukebox only has one song on it and it’s “Eye of the Tiger”—and the owner plays it on a constant loop all day long.
17. Thomas Is Watching … Thomas Is Always Watching
This show was on well after my childhood ended, but isn’t there 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?
18. ‘Hear Ye, Hear Ye! The Yellow 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.
19. ‘Hear Ye, Hear Ye! The Queen of Flowers Has Decided to Sell Her Summer Palace’
So, is that carpet covered by a plastic tarp? Also, is that toilet seat made out of mother of pearl? Then, there’s 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.
20. The Pinnacle of 1970s Carpeted Chic
Check out how enormous this room is. It has double doors and a built-in Jacuzzi. This room 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.
21. ‘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’s ritual blood sacrifice room. We meet on Wednesdays and, this week, Harold is bringing donuts.
22. 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 Home Depot vanity.
23. ‘💀 GET OUT!!! 💀’
Speaking of creepy … yikes.
24. ‘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? This is probably just a storage issue where they put the chairs in the bedroom because you ran out of space in the dining room, right, right?? Guys? Hello? Who are those people in the red robes?”
25. ‘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?
26. ‘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.
27. ‘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.
28. ‘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 all just … sheer madness.
29. 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?”
30. 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.
31. 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.
32. Must Love … Animals?
Or is it a love for weirdly folded blankets? Messed up panorama shot or maybe a dog moved too fast, so it looked blurry in the picture? Never mind.
33. 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?
34. ‘Yes, But It’s a Very Upscale Basement Dungeon Room’
I wonder if they take off that blue velvet (?!) tub cozy when they take a bath, though.
35. ‘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.
36. ‘Where’s Your Bathroom?’
“Hey, where’s your bathroom?”
“It’s on the first-and-a-half floor.”
37. ‘Pfft, No Way I’m Hiring a Real Estate Photographer. I Can Do 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.
38. Perfect for Multitaskers!
Just think, you can stack some cook books on the back of the toilet and save some time.
How to Make Sure Your Listing Pictures Never End Up Here
While we know you can’t control every aspect of your listing, we can leave you with some general tips. We reached out to friends for their expert opinions on what to avoid.
Manhattan Luxury Broker Becki Danchik
It takes more time to expose properly for the windows but, in the end, it completes the image and tells a more accurate story about the home. When the windows are not exposed properly, it looks like a view of white light.
Manhattan Luxury Agent Kathryn Landow
View your apartment as if it was a hotel room or suite—how would you want it to look when you check into a 5-star hotel?
Manhattan Luxury Broker Gerard Splendore
Rule number one of any photo shoot: lower the toilet seat. There is nothing that sends a worse message than looking into an open toilet.
It goes without saying that “inappropriate” or “unphotographable” items should be removed before the photographer’s arrival. I had to request that a seller remove a leather sling, prominently featured in the master bedroom, before the property was photographed.
Manhattan Luxury Agent Noemi Bitterman
Never, ever post photographs from your iPhone, even if you have the latest iPhone with the “best” camera a phone can have. Always hire a professional photographer to showcase your listing. A photographer has the equipment, the software and, most importantly, the experience and eye to capture the property from the best angle. We live in a visual world and if photos of a property are not pristine, you are doing your seller injustice.”
Real Estate Photography: 24 Tips for Stunning DIY Photos
Manhattan Luxury Agent Steven Gottlieb
I think putting a pet, no matter how cute, is a bad idea. I think it looks amateur to do this—we are selling a home, not pets—but, more importantly, it can be a turn-off to anyone who doesn’t like animals. We are trying to bring in the widest audience possible, no matter how cute the overly groomed purse-dog looks. Furthermore, many people suffer from dog or cat allergies and can’t even visit an apartment that has pet dander.
Manhattan Luxury Agent George Case
I see so many listing photos with so many “don’ts,” I often wonder if the clients wince when they see their listing. The key to real estate photography is that it is aspirational and edits a seller’s personal space to the point that buyers can see themselves living there.”
Robert Rahmanian, Principal & Co-founder of REAL New York
Don’t take photos in poor lighting. Natural light is utterly important in setting the mood within a house. Open your blinds and let the light inside. Don’t be afraid of using lights as a secondary source to brighten up the room.
Louis Adler, Principal & Co-founder of REAL New York
Always avoid the reflection of the photographer when taking pictures of a listing. A house can have many reflective surfaces, like mirrors, windows, and even shower doors. Taking a picture while using the wrong angle might provide pictures where your reflection is visible. You want the potential buyer or renter to be able to picture themselves in the listing—and not the photographer.
David Barrick, Coldwell Banker, Schererville, Indiana
While it may be tempting to photograph every little detail of the home to make the buyer feel like they are really there, what you’re really doing is overwhelming them and/or causing them to lose their attention. Instead, find that sweet spot by making sure they are able to get an idea of the layout and features through listing photos, but are still intrigued enough to come see the home for themselves.
📌 Pro Tip
Make sure your photos are uploaded in order. You want prospective buyers to understand the layout and flow of the house through the photos.
Jennifer Piglowski, Coldwell Banker, Saint Charles, Missouri
Don’t use photos that have holiday decor as it will date the photos if the listing does not sell immediately. If you do use photos that display holiday decor, be prepared to reshoot after the holiday if the listing is still being marketed for sale.
Candace Taylor, Coldwell Banker, Highland, Indiana
Removing some of the more subtle things from your kitchen can really make the home look better for photos. Consider removing the kitchen garbage can, dog bowl, and dish towel, as this can make the photo so much cleaner.
Rudy Vincent, Coldwell Banker United, Realtors Austin, Texas
Listings that promote great views need to show it in the photos. I see so many shots of downtown views, but they are a little tiny blob in the photos or don’t capture the entirety of the view. Either get a better photo of the view or don’t use it.
Scott Bullard, Coldwell Banker United, Realtors Austin, Texas
Not including photos of the area’s amenities or nearby activities (pools, shopping, bike paths, and so on). With so many folks relocating to Austin, people like to see the community as well as the home. And don’t take the photos that are already out or other agents have used, without at least asking first.
Frank D. Isoldi, Coldwell Banker Realty, Westfield, New Jersey (Westfield East Office)
Clearly, not using a professional photographer is your first mistake.