How to Remove Old Photos of Your Home for Sale From Websites

Unless You Step in, Those Photos Will Be Out There Forever

remove home photos from websites
Many buyers want home photos removed from other websites after closing. © Big Stock Photo

MLS Forever

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. They don't necessarily care about the ramifications or the buyer's 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 in the privacy on their smartphone prior to purchasing, sharing links with all of their friends and family, 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 they feel invaded by the photos. They want to stop anybody else's eyeballs from falling upon their built-in dishwasher or 6-burner range.

Legal opinions vary, but most of the lawyers I know agree the photos do not belong to the homeowner. The homeowner does not really possess an inherit nor legal right to demand the removal of old photos. Further, some cannot be removed, no matter what. 

The Never-Ending Galaxy of MLS

To figure out how to remove old photos of your home for sale from websites, it helps to begin by understanding how the photos ended up where they are in the first place.

It starts with MLS. Depending on your local MLS, that system might distribute downline to 20, 60 or 100-plus different websites. Automatically. These include popular homes for sale websites such as Zillow, Trulia or Realtor dot com, the big three.

Each website might also distribute the data to its sister websites.

Agents might blog about their new listings on other websites and post photos. You've got Facebook or Instagram, and Pinterest, where others will snatch photos to "pin" on their own page. It's like a never-ending galaxy, and you're aboard the Enterprise, trying to boldly go where no man has gone before, without any success, into a black hole.

Best Way to Remove Old Photos of Your Home for Sale From Websites

The single best way to remove old photos of your home for sale from 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 our mothership, MLS.

Secondary Ways to Remove Old Photos of Your Home for Sale From Websites

If it's too late, and you've already closed, and you want those 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 it would mean the world to you if the agent could take a moment and remove the photos from some of the websites where the agent may have access such as Zillow.

The agent is under no obligation to grant your request, at least not in California, according to my legal advisers. However, many real estate brokerages and, by extension the agents themselves, prefer to foster good will in the community and might help you out.  

Do It Yourself

You can also remove old photographs yourself from Zillow by creating an account at Zillow. Then sign in to your account and claim the home. Once the home has been claimed by you, you have the ability to edit photographs (remove them). Zillow customer service reps can also assist if you find this step challenging. Zillow feeds its listings to Trulia, so once removed from Zillow, it 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 hardcore and does not want to alter its research archives. To find the websites, put your address into the search box of your favorite search engine. For giggles, I entered the address of a random home I sold 6 years ago, just to count the number of entries six years later. This home was still listed on 72 entries, some with photos and some without.

At the time of writing, Elizabeth Weintraub, CalBRE #00697006, is a Broker-Associate at Lyon Real Estate in Sacramento, California.