Online Privacy and Your New Home

Raziel Ungar

Raziel Ungar

November 14th, 2022 - 3 min read

I just bought my new home and I’m seeing photos all over the internet. Can I get them removed? The short answer is...yes.

This Article Includes

But first, some background…

When sellers choose to put their homes on the market, as you might expect, they agree that their broker or agent may take photographs of the home which will be used to advertise their home in the MLS. They also agree that the photos can be used on their agent and their brokerage’s website, MLSListings (our local MLS provider for San Mateo, Santa Clara, and Monterey Counties), and other marketing materials and sites. They also usually agree to have the listing appear on public-centric websites such as Zillow, Redfin, Realtor, etc. Obviously, sellers who choose to put their “home on the market” want as much visibility as possible. While the photos are typically paid for by the listing agent, as I do, the photographer retains the copyright for the images, and as the listing agent, I retain an exclusive right to use the photos in marketing the home.

In this article, we’ll share with you some context about ownership of photos and provide suggestions for what you can do if you’d prefer that the photos of your home be hidden from public view. 

I know photos of my home are online. Please give me some context for what happens in the beginning?

Prior to placing a home on the market, the listing agent will upload the photos to the MLS. Once the property is active on the market or “for sale”, MLS will distribute the listing information to all companies who subscribe to the data feed from MLS. These include who you might expect - real estate brokerages like Compass (where I am proud to work), Coldwell Banker, Keller Williams, for example, as well as other companies such as Zillow, which is a home search platform, and Redfin, which is a home search platform that is also a brokerage. Each company receives the same data, though some choose to display the data differently than other sites.

Regardless, all of these companies display the data via an automatic feed from the MLS, and their websites are typically updated within 15 minutes of any MLS change. For example, when I put a home on the market for our sellers, then within 15-30 minutes, all of the third party websites would display my new listing in their search results.

What happens after the home is sold?

When a listing reaches its final off-market status, usually Sold/Closed (other statuses are Expired or Withdrawn), all data, including photos and supplements, become a part of the permanent record for the listing. MLSListings rules and regulations prohibit the removal of photos from a listing. Third-party websites can typically still display photos of the home that has closed escrow.

Privacy is important to me, and I don’t have a good feeling about photos of my new home staying online for basically the general public to see. Can I do anything about it? 

After the sale is closed, MLSListings allows the images to be “hidden” from public websites like Zillow, Trulia, Redfin, etc. Photos from the listing, except for the primary photo, will be removed from those sites, but the photos will still remain in MLSListings. Photos will be viewable by MLS members which are comprised of licensed agents and appraisers only and can be used for comparables.

It’s important to note that hiding the photos on the MLS and syndicated sites is at the sole discretion of the listing agent. After the sale is closed, buyers can ask their agent to contact the listing agent to hide the photos.

I’m still seeing lingering photos of my home online. How else can I get them gone?

As the new owner, if you are still seeing photos of your home online, you can reach out directly to the various websites to remove the photos.

Below are some links to help you connect with a few of the main websites:

  1. How to remove photos from Redfin

  2. How to remove pictures from Zillow

  3. Trulia – removing photos from Zillow will remove them from Trulia

  4. Claim your home on to remove photos, and then you can edit the description and images

  5. How to remove photos on Compass

I can’t believe I just paid that much for a home. While it was a fair price, I really don’t want my family or friends to know what I paid. Can I hide the sales price from appearing online?

Unfortunately, you cannot. If someone knows your address, they can easily find out what you paid. In California, all transactions of residential real estate are considered public information. So if someone knows your address, they can search what you paid for your home.

Now, if you were looking to shield others from knowing the name of the purchaser, you could choose to take title as part of a trust, as long as the trust wasn't sure your name, like the Sam Smith Family Trust, which would defeat the purpose. If you took title as the Golden Gate Trust, for example, it wouldn't be obvious who was the owner, and make it a little harder for someone to track you down and associate you with a particular home. For this type of privacy, it would be best to see the advice of an estate planning attorney who can best guide you.

Can I blur out my home on Street View on Google Maps?

Yes, you can. Check out this article on LifeHacker for a step by step overview.

This article is copyrighted by Raziel Ungar and may not be reproduced or copied without express written permission.

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