Rules for Virtually Staged MLS Photos

RealTracs has recently updated its Rules and Regulations to address the approved usage of virtually staged photos. Check out the revised Rule 2.7 below to learn the do’s and don’ts to successfully using virtually staged photos within the MLS.

2.7 Listing Media Requirements. The primary purpose of photographs, sketches, diagrams, and other media submitted to RealTracs, Inc. is to convey a visual representation of the property listed to other Participants and their clients and customers.  The primary subject matter, therefore, must be the listed property.

a) Submitting images for company or agent advertising is prohibited. “For sale” signs incidental to the listing are acceptable.

b) Digitally altering images to include overlays of other images, text, photos, or logos is prohibited.

c) Digitally altering images that change the accuracy of the actual listing’s depiction or representation is prohibited. The use of “virtually staged photos” is permitted so long as the images are not deceptive to potential buyers.

  1. A “virtually staged photo” means an image that has been altered with editing software to create a conceptual rendering of what a room and/or the property might look like if it were physically staged or lived in.
  2. All virtually staged images must be designated as such in the media remarks.
  3. Except for To-Be-Built and Under Construction listings, an image of the existing room or property in its current state must be included immediately before or immediately after the virtually staged image. In other words, “before” and “after” images must be included and disclosed.
  4. Virtually staged photos may include personal property items not conveyed with the real property. Examples include, but are not limited to:
    • Applying digital photos edits of furniture, mirrors, artwork, rugs, plants, etc., into a photo of an empty room.
    • Removing an existing non-fixed home element or furnishing from an image and replacing it with a digital representation of one similar. Examples: furniture, mirrors, artwork, rugs, plants, etc.
  5. Virtually staged photos may include landscaping improvements that could realistically be made to improve the property’s exterior appearance.
  6. Virtually staged photos may not include deceptive elements including, but not limited to the following:
    • Furniture or personal property that will not fit within a room’s dimensions.
    • Views from the property that do not exist, such as lakes, rivers, fields, skylines, and landmarks.
    • Fixed features that do not exist, such as a fireplace or property addition.
  7. Virtually staged images cannot remove elements outside the property owner’s control, such as buildings on adjacent properties, power lines, utility poles, water towers, retaining walls and highways.

d) “To Be Built” listings will be designated with a default image indicating construction has not begun on the property. Additional media may include floor plans, elevation sketches and photos of properties similar to the “To Be Built” listing.

e) RealTracs, Inc. staff may remove photographs, sketches, diagrams or other media that do not adhere to these Rules and Regulations.


Lots of REALTORS work with a professional photographer on a regular basis for their listing photos, and why wouldn’t they?  Just like consumers trust REALTORS to guide them through the home-buying process, many real estate professionals trust the ‘photo experts’ to guide them through the intricacies of getting just the right photos for their listings.


There are many questions to ask a potential photographer such as the type of equipment used, what kinds of shots will be taken, and much more.  However, one of the most overlooked questions is potentially the most important.

Who owns the photos?

When you ask the photographer this question the answer should always be a resounding YES.  Not only should you own them, but there should also be no restrictions or limits on the photos.  Just like your latest real estate transaction, the key is to get everything in writing.

Be sure you receive a written release and save it with the other paperwork for that particular listing.  Your time is valuable; the last thing you want to get involved in is a legal fight over who owns the listing photos.  Be sure to check out NAR’s resources for sample work for hire, assignment, and exclusive license agreements available for your use.

This article is adapted in part from Inman News and was initially contributed by Laura Ure, CEO of Keenability, a full-service marketing agency specializing in lifestyle and creative real estate marketing.  View her full bio and other articles at

The original Inman article can be viewed in its entirety at