What to Look For in Listing Photos

Listing photos are a useful resource, but be sure to look them over with a critical eye.

Browsing listing photos is part of the fun of searching for a new home and an important part of narrowing down your search. But using the listing photos as a deciding factor is a no-no because pictures don’t tell the whole story. It’s common practice for realtors to use professional real estate photographers who know how to make a home look bigger, better, and newer than it actually is.

It’s important to take these carefully crafted pictures with a grain of salt and learn to look at them with a discerning eye. Read on to learn what to look for in a listing photo and what to look out for.

What to Look Out For:

Fish-Eye Lens

 /><figcaption>This type of lens can create a super-wide, 180-degree view.</figcaption></figure>
<p>Typically used to make a room look bigger and/or wider, a fish-eye lens is an ultra-wide-angle camera lens that distorts an image to create a wide panoramic view. This type of lens can create a super-wide, 180-degree view, so if a photographer uses it to capture a room, the room will appear much bigger than it would in a normal picture, which can be very misleading when it comes to listing photos.</p>
<p>Pictures taken with a fish-eye lens are usually pretty easy to spot as the image looks somewhat distorted and much wider than a normal photo.</p>
<div class=
A spacious living room interior with plants and an outside view through big windows
Photographers often use photoshop to lighten a picture.

If a home doesn’t have a lot of natural light due to few windows, low ceilings, and/or shaded areas, photographers often use photoshop to lighten a picture. While this is to be expected (after all, both the buyer and the seller want you to be able to see the house clearly), it can also be misleading as a buyer might be disappointed when they visit the home in real life and it appears darker than expected. If the photos appear unnaturally lightened, it’s a good bet they were photoshopped.

Roof Quality

A closeup on composite roof shingles
Replacing a roof is an expensive project.

Surprisingly, you can tell a lot about a roof just by looking at it or a picture of it. You can see what the roof is made of, if there are any shingles or pieces missing, or any deformities indicating that the roof is worn or old. Replacing a roof is an expensive project, and you’ll want to start inspecting it right away, even from the listing photos.


A wooden table with a green plant beside a set of windows
Window replacement is another big expense.

Be sure to take note of the window frames and sizes when looking at listing photos. Do they appear old, small, cracked, or foggy? Window replacement is another big expense and windows that need to be replaced will be a huge factor when negotiating the price of a home.

The Number of Photos

An older woman browsing listing photos on her laptop
The sheer number of photos can make a buyer think the home is larger than it really is.

One trick some real estate photographers or realtors use to make a home appear more spacious is by using a lot of photos in a listing compared to the size of a home. A realtor may include 5 or 6 shots of the kitchen alone, all from slightly different angles, to make the area appear bigger than it really is.

Although it can be helpful to see a room from a lot of different perspectives, the sheer number of photos included can make a buyer think the home is larger than it really is.


A modern kitchen interior with stainless steel appliances in a luxury house
See what quality of washer and dryer, oven, refrigerator, and stove is included in the listing.

A quick glance through the listing photos will give you an idea of the appliances included in the listing and what kind of space is available to accommodate them. Check out the laundry room and kitchen photos to see what quality of washer and dryer, oven, refrigerator, and stove is included in the listing. If they look old or out of style, you may want to consider the cost of new appliances in your offering price.

Exterior Vegetation

An old house overgrown with grass
Large bushes and shrubbery can be expensive to prune or remove.

Take note of the vegetation in the exterior photos, and keep an eye out for invasive plants such as ivy, which spreads easily and may be difficult to remove. Large bushes and shrubbery can also be expensive to prune or remove. Mature trees, although lovely for shade, can often include large invasive root systems that damage pipelines and disturb foundations. Take extra care to be on the lookout for this potentially expensive problem. Sometimes large roots are visible poking out of the lawn or even cement.

Pet Accessories

An empty dog bed basket with a dog bone snack left on the bed
It’s an indication that the home might have pet stains, pet hair, or a pet smell.

Dog beds, cat toys, food bowls, cat climbing trees: These are all signs of furry tenants living in your possible future home. It’s a good indication that the home will likely have pet stains on the carpets, pet hair, and worse, that hard-to-remove cat urine smell. Of course, just because a pet lives in the home doesn’t mean there will be any of these issues present, but the possibility is there, and it’s something to take note of.

Take Note if the Photos Don’t Include:

Just as you need to be wary of what a photo does show, be on the lookout for what the pictures don’t show. If a listing doesn’t show something, it’s a pretty good bet that it’s either nonexistent or in pretty bad shape.

  • Closet Space – Closet space is a valuable commodity, and if a bedroom or hallway photo doesn’t include it, it’s probably smaller than what’s ideal.
  • Garage – Garages are also valuable space as most households use them for storage as well as a place to house their vehicles. Take note if the space isn’t included in pictures.
  • Basement/Cellar/Crawl Space – Many homes have at least a basement, cellar, or attic/crawl space. If the listing doesn’t show this space, be sure to ask the realtor if the home includes such storage. 
  • Yard – No picture of a yard can be a huge red flag. It’s either tiny, nonexistent, or in need of a lot of work. If a listing doesn’t include photos of a yard, look on google maps and find an aerial view of the property to get a better idea of the outdoor space.
  • Curbside View – A curbside view gives buyers a good idea of what the outside of the house looks like and what condition it’s in. If an exterior picture isn’t included, the outside of the home probably needs some TLC such as a new paint job, new landscaping, a new roof, or more.

Can you spot the $207,744 difference between these identical homes?

Financing is the difference!

Get the details in The 62+ Loan Homebuyers Guide.

55places Mortgage is a joint venture between Mutual of Omaha Mortgage and 55places.com.
Details here.

Share this post:

We're here to help! (800) 928-2055

Call us to speak with a customer service representative.

Subscribe to Our Newsletter

Get Weekly Updates

I agree that 55places and its affiliates, partner providers or agents may call, text, or email me about my inquiry, which may be made with automated means. I understand that my consent is not a prerequisite for buying a property. I may revoke my consent at any time by contacting [email protected] Message/data rates may apply. I also agree to 55places.com’s Privacy Policy and Terms of Use.

The Best Places to Snowbird in 2021

We’ve gathered 25 of the best places for snowbirds, including cities in Florida, Arizona, California, Texas, South Carolina, and Nevada. For each entry, we’ve also provided a list of recommended 55+ communities in the area. If you’re ready to find your own winter retreat this season, here are some of the best places to consider.

A woman drinking her morning coffee on a balcony overlooking Downtown Miami.

Urban 55+ Communities: You Can Retire in These Cities

There are many benefits to living in a city, from having easy access to daily needs like grocery stores and pharmacies to having an assortment of cultural amenities and entertainment options nearby. Still not convinced? Here are some cities with urban 55 communities that just might pique your interest.

Happy mature couple dancing together in the kitchen at home in a 55+ community.

Top 10 Benefits of Living in a 55+ Community

Living in a 55+ communitiy is so much more than just convienent for active adult retirees. The right community will help them downsize, manage their finances, increase their activitiy, and meet new people. Check out all the benefits of living in a 55+ community.

View of Downtown Provo, Utah during autumn at dusk.

The Best Cities for Aging in Place

Deciding on where to retire is always a challenging question. What do you look for when searching for your ideal place to age in place? There are a variety of factors that come into play when looking for that perfect spot such as health care, wellness, general livability, transportation, or community engagement, just to name a few.

Closed up on a tiny wood home model on green grass with sunlight background.

This Month in Real Estate: A Housing Market Summary

The new year is showing that the predicted changes coming to the housing market were accurate and kept with the trend for 55+ homebuyers. If you’re just entering the housing market as a homebuyer, make sure you’re aware of the changes happening so you’re prepared to make the best purchasing decision. 

Aerial view of a picturesque olive plantation in Bakersfield, California.

The Cheapest Places to Live in California

With almost year-round sunshine, some of the world’s prettiest beaches, world-class shopping and dining, and a never-ending list of recreational and entertainment opportunities, it’s no wonder California is such as sought-after state to settle down in.

A sunset over Huntington Beach Pier in California.

The Active Adult Travel Guide to California

California is known for its diverse regions and cities. This means if you’re an active adult looking to vacation in the Golden State, you’ll have a lot of options. We breakdown the state into its three main regions and find everything you should do while on vacation.

About 55places

We’re changing the way people 55 and older are searching for their perfect next place. With a national network of hand-selected real estate experts, plus comprehensive information, unbiased content, and on-the-go insight about thousands of communities across the country, we’re a trusted resource paving the way from here to home. Whether you’re interested in a low-maintenance single-level residence, an active lifestyle or age-qualified community, an intimate enclave, or anything in between, we can help you make your next move the best one yet.

Scroll to Top