The lighter side of real estate

Is Instagram Real Estate’s Next Frontier?

Kate Folk

Kate Folk is a writer for Movoto. She's from Iowa and now lives in San Francisco. She also writes fiction.

11 articles, 1 comments

Our Five Favorite Filters for House Photos

The value of having professional photos taken for your house listings has been thoroughly documented. A well-composed photo using professional quality equipment can make a huge difference in how potential buyers perceive your listing, as the Wall Street Journal reported two years ago.

But recently, the photographic spotlight has been stolen by an application created for the amateur photographer. Instagram, which was acquired by Facebook in April in an epic (and oft-derided) 1 billion dollar deal, has 50 million users and counting. With its simple interface and roster of filters, Instagram is making artistic photography accessible to anyone with a smartphone.

Businesses are quickly capitalizing on the possibilities of the application, including real estate companies like Century21. With the right filter, any house photo can be transformed into an object of nostalgic desire.

So which Instagram filter will sell your house? It depends on what your house looks like, and who you’re selling to.



Hashtagged as #nofilter, this default setting is preferred by those concerned with an appearance of authenticity. #nofilter is a bragging right. It implies that your subject is aesthetically blessed enough not to need digital manipulation. This non-filter will appeal to cynics and those who have been burned in the past by misleading real estate photos.
House style:

  • Any. Just make sure to emphasize the fact that you didn’t use a filter.



This sepia filter is best suited to homes with a rustic feel. Houses with natural wood siding would fit well with this filter’s gold and brown tones. Toaster can evoke memories of warmth and comfort for those suffering through the tough winters of temperate climates. It can be used to “fake” a sunny day, if your photo was taken on an overcast one.
House style:

  • Adobe
  • Log houses located in any region where cowboy culture has a niche.



The classic black and white filter. The high contrast adds an understated elegance and emphasizes strong lines. You might use this filter if your house’s exterior color is underwhelming, or if your original shot had poor lighting.
House style:

  • Modern
  • Post-modern
  • Any other style in which form trumps color scheme.



This filter renders crisp images with a purplish tint. The top border has tiny numbers in the style of an old-school film strip. Use Nashville if your target audience includes creative types who like to imagine their lives as a movie.
House style:



Another retro filter with a crisp, Polaroid-esque white border. This filter will appeal to anyone familiar with the art of shaking a fresh Polaroid to make it develop. With its washed-out colors, pictures with the 1977 filter resemble vacation snapshots faded by the sun.
House style:

  • Ranch
  • Lake houses reminiscent of family vacations

The Verdict

There are at least a dozen more filters available, but these five provide a good introduction to the possibilities of Instagram marketing. Instagram’s currency is nostalgia, and there’s no more fertile breeding ground for nostalgia than houses. People are more likely to invest in something if it reminds them of their childhood home or something they saw once in a movie. With apps like Instagram, photo manipulation is now accessible with a tap of the screen.

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posted on: June 27, 2012
423 views, 13 comments


  1. Kelly

    What are you nuts? Changing the colors of a house, as most of these filters do*, misrepresents the property and THAT can possibly get you into legal trouble later with the buyers. There is a time and place for these wonderful “arty” filters but NOT in Real Estate Photography.

    *BTW “Normal” shouldn’t be considered a filter.


  2. damien

    Kate, you are brilliant. This article is the kind of stuff that real estate agents need to hear.

    I know I would definitely be more attracted to any one of those filtered photos, vs. the professionally captured and edited version showing crisp colors and contrast. Those professional looking photos look too real. Those filtered instagram pictures are beautiful.

    You must be really smart about things like technology and real estate and stuff.

    • Kate Folk in response to damien

      Thanks, damien! I think they’re pretty too!

      • are you kidding in response to Kate Folk

        I really hope Damien is kidding. Seriously as the first post suggested, these filters are a misrepresentation of the property. Use them at your own risk, many property sales have fallen though due to a purchaser, whom is still not 100% even though they have paid their deposit etc, comparing photo to actual real view and pulling out or even trying to sie as false advertising.

        As far as the article goes sure photo filters can look pretty or artsy when used properly, but NOT for real estate.
        Without meaning to sound overly harsh and dont take it that way but obviously Kate has never had much to do with selling or photographing real estate, if she had she would know better then to actually link this app to real estate use even if that is the app creators intention.
        And before you flame me i take real estate photos for a living and i know if i handed something like this to any agent/owner i would get laughed out of the office without any money for the job, and if these actually did get published i would be hoping like hell i didnt later get in trouble with form of legal battle, and have no doubt it wont be the agent that takes the heat, they will thow a photographer under a bus in a split second when it comes down to it.

        • rudi in response to are you kidding

          “are you kidding”…I too would be scared if the only way I knew how to make money was quickly being replaced by a free iphone app. Instagram is simple. That’s the point. Try to have more confidence your photography abilities. Also and more importantly- I’m pretty sure no one ever started the home loan process based on a picture.

        • Chris Kolmar in response to are you kidding

          Everyone starts their search on the internet now a days. And the houses they decide to go see are based very much on the pictures they see online. Anything you do to make the pictures look better to consumers will get them in the door more often, but it will not make the sale. That still lies in the ability of the agent.

          • are you kidding in response to Chris Kolmar

            Rudi – Actually i have a number of skills behind me so this is not worrying me as i know more than one way to make a living, as for an app replacing actual real photography, i highly doubt it, it is another fad that will come and go with all the othe 99cent apps.

            Rudi and Chris – as stated by Chris 90% of properties are first viewed online, yes the photos is what makes the initial attraction and it is the agent that makes the sale most of the time, but the amount of high end homes that actually sell sight unseen is amazing, and i am talking multi-million dollar properties (company tax write off’s etc), and there are many cases that have fallen through because of the photographer or agent misrepresenting the property, do some research. The last person i would want to be potentially sued by for effectively falsly advertising their new property is someone who can afford to spend multi-millions on a property sight-unseen.

            Im posting here purley as a word of warning to people whom may think this is the next best thing, it isn’t and it will certainly get you in trouble or you will lose all professional credit you have worked hard to get.

            Either Kate, Chris or should clearly have included a warning on using photos like this in regards to the potential ramifications this is likely to place a photographer or agent in

            As far as losing business from an app, not going to happen, a professional real estate agent/broker/office, architectural firm, hotels, furniture designers, builders …..etc etc etc would not be caught dead using a product like this, they are professionals for a reason, they use professionals. The last thing these people want to do is have their products tinted with a filter to make them look completely different.

            Infact if i was selling my property and my agent turned up and took photos like this to sell my biggest investment they would be given the option to either photograph it properly or loose the listing, if your agent thinks this app produces professional results do yourself a favour, fire them and find a professional agent.
            I know most people would be the same, sure you might have a minority who are trying to hide the defects in their property with fancy looking photo effects, but they are the properties that never sell, buyers arent stupid.

            I know the USA is a different system to here in Aust. and your agents/brokers are slow to take up professional photography in a lot of cases compared to Aust. or New Zealand (this is fact, feel free to check there is plenty or info to back this up)
            But in the USA you can be sued for anything and everything, so feel free to test this app out, thats if you dont get laughed at when you as a “professional” photographer or agent tries to actual use images like this.

        • rudi in response to are you kidding

          I’m gonna sue you for writing too much stuff here. I’m wearing my google goggles and it was very difficult to read the whole comment. my eyes hurt.

  3. Will

    Finally a tool to help sell houses where the owner has picked terrible paint colors or everything’s worn and faded. Genius!

  4. MB

    It’s silly to think that anyone would sue or cancel a transaction as a result of an Instagram photo. People don’t buy homes because of the photos, people go to homes because of the photos, quite different. That would be like saying I could sue because the place appeared bigger due to the photographer shooting with a wide angle lens make it appear to have more volume. Which a lot of photographers, at least in our area, shoot with wide angle lenses.

    In our real estate practice, we use Instagram in addition to professional photography just like this example photo. The primary benefit to using Instagram isn’t so much the better photography as it is the social network aspects coupled with visual language that is easily translated to whole new demographic of potential buyers. And that’s a demographic that is damn hard reach.

  5. Slick Vick

    I refuse to buy anything that is not advertised with Instagram photos. Anyone who uses normal photos is completely and utterly insane. I have sold five houses in the last year only by using my cell phone apps

  6. Slick Vick

    Ok, that was silly, but seriously. Yes, people sue over dumb things all the time based on all kind of things but, for a misrepresentation claim, the plaintiff has to “justifiably rely” on a “false statement of fact”. Taking photos through different lenses is not lying, they are obviously just different lenses, the property is the same regardless and no one is try to lie about it. Furthermore, reliance that the property would look exactly the same colors in the photos based on the appearance of the filter, especially when they have not even seen the house in person, is not really justified. Any reasonable person would understand that it is important to go see a house before they buy it.
    On that logic, I could sue a fashion designer for using a different lens or even for the fact that, when I go to the store, I don;t get to see the model.

  7. Lisa

    It would make sense to me that if filters could get someone sued then so can doing professional photo editing. I dislike showing up to a property that looked light and bright only to see even on a sunny day there is no light inside. It goes all ways..


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