New Homebuyers versus Old Listing Photos

Most prospective homebuyers invest a lot of time on property websites, pouring over listings and saving their favorites. The photos displayed in those listings can be incredibly helpful in deciding whether you want to tour a property and potentially purchase it.

But how do you feel about those photos after the sale is complete? 

For some buyers, old listing photos are no big deal, especially since all the interior furnishings were removed before closing. 

Other buyers, however, view the old photos as a subtle invasion of privacy and want them removed—or inaccurately assume they have the right to take them down.

Before deciding which camp you fall into, it’s helpful to understand how and why listing photos make their way across the internet.

Sellers’ perspectives

Imagine for a moment that you’re on the other side of a real estate transaction, hoping to attract a buyer to purchase your home at the highest price. Of course, you’d want to showcase your property to as many potential buyers as possible!

Your listing agent hires a photographer, then submits these photos along with property details into the MLS (Multiple Listing Service), features the listing on their website, and markets the property on other online platforms, including Facebook and Instagram.

Pretty soon, the photos appear on dozens of websites. As a seller, this is terrific news. Bring on the buyers!

The role of the MLS

Even though listing agents have multiple ways to market properties, they rely most heavily on the MLS—a closed network restricted to local real estate agents and appraisers.

Most homebuyers have heard of the MLS, but don’t understand how it works. 

For example, did you know there is no such thing as a “national MLS?” Instead, the MLS is comprised of several hundred different MLS organizations scattered across the U.S.

Each MLS operates under its own set of rules, including the way properties entered into the MLS can be redistributed to public sites like Zillow,, etc. 

The public sites receiving MLS listings may, in turn, redistribute this property data to additional sites, placing the listing well beyond the control of the real estate agent who originally entered it into the MLS.

Implications for homebuyers

If you’ve recently purchased a home and are concerned about the presence of old listing photos lurking on various websites, the bad news is that you won’t be able to remove everything from the internet. 

There are, however, several steps you can take that could significantly reduce your home’s visibility online (at least until YOU decide to sell your home and start the cycle all over again).

Talk to your local MLS. They might have procedures for helping homeowners remove their property photos from public syndication sites. Your buyer’s representative may be able to direct you to the right person.

Talk to the listing agent. Even though he or she sat on the opposite side of the table when you purchased your home and has no obligation to assist you, there’s a good chance they’ll be willing to comply with a polite request.

Beyond the MLS

Since every MLS has different syndication arrangements with public property sites, their control over property photos varies. You may have to contact each site independently, expressing your wishes as the new property owner. 

It’s a bit tedious, but not an impossible task.

For example, Zillow allows homeowners to “claim” their home on the site. Once you’ve done this, you can remove (or add) property photos

Any changes implemented on Zillow will automatically roll over to Trulia, which is part of the Zillow Group.

In contrast,® offers two options. If you only want the photos removed, this can be done immediately. (A Google map will replace the images.) 

You can also request complete removal of the property from the site, which takes up to two days. Contact the customer care center at 800-878-4166 or

An ounce of prevention

If you’re still in the process of shopping for a home, talk to your buyer’s representative about adding a contingency clause to your offer that asks the listing agent to remove the images from the MLS and any public postings they control.

Even with this stipulation, you may not be successful in erasing all images, but it could greatly simplify your efforts after you close and move into your home.