MLS Photo Fail

by Victor Lund on August 28, 2012

low resolution image

“A picture is worth a thousand words” is a rather famous old adage that refers to the notion that an idea with complex meaning can be conveyed in a single image. It allows the viewer to experience large amounts of information in a moment, and in doing so – often have an emotional reaction.

In real estate, photos are the most powerful and compelling elements of a listing – they are the essence of meaning. Many suggest that without the substance of a photo, you fundamentally do not have a listing. The notion dates back to the days of  Aristotle, who suggested that imagery is the purest definition of that which is real. Imagery not only identifies an object, but eschews volumes about its property, or state of being. A plant is just a plant, but beheld more glorious in the spring of bloom than in the struggle of extinction.

Today, even the worst camera on the crappiest cell phone takes glorious photos in high-definition with splendid resolution. Many agents extend great bounty for professional photography on their listing so that they might expose the beauty of a home. Technologists like virtual tour and print marketing companies have waited for years to take these raw, high quality photos and automate their conversion into artistry. Today is their day,  if they can only survive one foe, the MLS.

The MLS is the villan to beauty, to artistry, to emotion. They take the loveliest and grandest of megapixels and process them into low resolution grainy oblivion. There was a time for this pragmatist, but his day is day has past. Long gone are the days of dial-up modems. Even mobile devices pass data at 3G or higher speeds. Even the lowliest of device screens displays in high resolution. Terabyte data storage drives are $20. Bandwidth costs are trending down each year.

Why does the MLS still destroy the photo quality of the images it receives?

If you want to raise the bar in real estate as an MLS, stop destroying high quality photography. Accept it. Embrace it. Push it out in your data feeds back to your brokers so they can drive their marketing efforts. Perhaps you don’t know this, but brokers and agents spend hours deleting the photos they get from you and reloading the originals to power their print and virtual tour marketing. They provide you with great photos and you destroy them and return garbage. Stop that!

If your MLS has left behind the tyranny of truncating photos, speak out so that others may admire your leadership, for you have given the freedom of expression a voice – and perhaps a thousand words.

p.s. Feel free to continue sending awful photos out through the syndication feed. Surely it would not harm your customers if listings appeared sharper, brighter, and in higher detail on agent and broker sites.

{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Jeanne Radsick August 28, 2012 at 8:09 am

In our local MLS, it’s not the MLS that is hampering professionalism, it’s the agents with their multiple excuses why they can’t/won’t put more photos in. An attempt to raise the “requirement” to include 6 photos was met with hostility and accusations of trying to “standardize” independent contractors business models. You raise a good point about the pixels and clarity of the photos, but it has no effect if they refuse to upload more than one photo of the front, or just the door itself.

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Dave Keillor August 28, 2012 at 9:53 am

As a home seller, I don’t care about the MLS rules, but I do care about the marketing of my home. An agent who doesn’t show my house in the best possible light doesn’t deserve a commission.

As a former MLS vendor we provided the capability of 3 resolutions: Thumbnail, intermediate, and full (as uploaded). MLSs should demand no less.

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Victor Lund August 28, 2012 at 9:57 am

Well stated Dave!

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James Harrison August 29, 2012 at 1:14 pm

Photo Feasts, Not Fights at MLSListings Inc

I couldn’t resist the temptation to jump into the fray over photos, if for no other reason than to set the record straight from the MLSListings perspective. We are not the purveyors of imperfect pictures, but instead the proselytizers of picture perfect presentation. We require photos with listings; at least 1 and up to 25. We also make moving pictures available to MLSListings subscribers via vendors. Some footnotes about the picture practices at MLSListings:
* In 2011, we increased our photo resolution for upload, photo viewing options, the number of photos that can be uploaded, and we have added caption options for each photo
* We offer photo URLs for vendor access to combat the universal challenge of having to download large images while still providing download options for reduced sized images
* We offer top notch virtual tour and virtual photo sites

I realize and appreciate the spirit of your article, “MLS Photo Fail,” but not all of us are failing. I love your artistic use of language in the article; however, I must ask you to refrain from painting us all with a broad brush.

James Harrison, RCE, CAE
President and CEO
MLSListings Inc

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Victor Lund August 29, 2012 at 1:24 pm

I would submit that MLSListings is way ahead of the curve, and you are likely to be one of the first MLSs to increase your photos up to the new Realtor.com allotment of 32 or 36 or whatever the new number is.

To you point about broad brushes – we kinda do that so we do not get called out for shunning specific vendors or specific MLS policies. The goal is to get folks to think about it. I can tell you that there are numerous bay area MLSs who have not done the hard analysis around this issue – and the brokers are suffering because of it – Ask Pacific Union, Sotheby’s, Coldwell Banker, and Alain Pinel how they manage photo quality across various MLSs – They are all in pain in some other markets. Glad you have their back!

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James Harrison August 29, 2012 at 3:04 pm

Thanks, Victor!

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Boren Thursdale September 8, 2013 at 6:31 pm

James, I am not a real estate professional, just a seller and buyer. I am trying to understand the perspective in your post. It comes across sounding like you guys have the best system, its just that everyone uploads low res pictures? And if only all of the agents would just do it right then we the consumer would have the hi-res photos we need?

I am just confused (really, no bashing) because I read you post, and it sounds good, but I still have a terrible experience when looking at properties.

I appreciate that you are no doubt accurate in your post, I just trying to figure out where the gap is… Do you think its the agents?

thanks, Boren

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