Talking really bad listings photos, with the man who made them famous

By Sharon Krum  | May 28, 2015 - 8:59AM
Apartment hunting isn’t officially a psychiatric condition, but it should be when it’s  basically a nervous breakdown on a plate. Is there anything to laugh about in the  process? Absolutely, says Andy Donaldson, a senior digital communications manager in London who is the mastermind behind the popular blog and now  book, Terrible Estate Agent Photos
After seeing some hilariously awful photos online  during his own apartment search in  2013, a blog celebrating listings with bloodstains on the carpet and people still asleep  in bed was born. Here, via email,  he explains why agents love his site, how  incompetency in real estate photos is global, and whether a room full of garbage is a selling point. 

It’s not a prerequisite by any means, but if your grandparents end it all in a suicide pact, it may be an idea to clear things up before the agent comes around.

Have agents upped their game now they know you are out there?
Part of me would like to think that a fear of being featured by Terrible Real Estate Agent Photos would somehow raise the worldwide standard of estate agent photography, but I doubt it. Anyway, the longer the standard remains this low, the longer I have something to write about.

Ah, the parties we used to have. Remember the one when  we murdered everybody?

Speaking of agents, what kind of reaction have you had from them? 
It’s been an almost universally positive reaction, and a very large number of the blog’s followers work in U.S. real estate. My intention isn’t to ridicule or pass judgment on any individual, I’m just flagging something most people have seen themselves already. And they seem to enjoy my earnest attempts at an explanation.
How do you verify the photos are real listings?
As almost all the photos I receive are from real estate websites, it’s a simple job to get the link and check the website. Occasionally the agent has taken the photo down before I get to it — evidently some of them have  quality control processes, which doesn’t seem fair.
Please tell us none of the photos are from New York.
At a guess, maybe 50% of the photos I receive are from the U.S., of which many are from New York.  Generally speaking, the more fast-paced the market, the more awful the photographs. So cities with a high churn rate such as London and New York provide most of the best pictures. The rest of the contributions come from the U.K., France, Spain, Greece, Italy, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Brazil, Japan, South Korea, even Kazakhstan. 
 Your personal favorite from the book? 
The domestic horse (see below). No question. Agent takes photograph of a horse in a house. Agent uses photo to publicize house. World asks why. Animals do tend to add an extra level of ridiculousness to real estate agent photographs. Whether it’s a dog, a cat, a lizard or a chicken, I’m often left wondering if they’re in on the joke. 
Are there certain trends by country when it comes to bad photos?
Yes. France seems to provide a lot of photographs in which toilets appear in inappropriate rooms, such as the kitchen. Let’s run through that again: a toilet, in the kitchen. Toilets should always, always have a room all of their own. They’re like teenagers in that respect. However, apart from the occasional regional variation, the quality of photographic ineptitude seems to be universal. 

Design trend alert: kitchens are increasingly being built to  accommodate those of us with particularly fast metabolisms.

What do you think agents see as the selling point of those  photos with  a toilet near a fridge and stove?
I think it’s what an IT engineer would call processing speed.
And  how exactly does a garbage strewn room attract buyers? 
When rooms are so full of junk that you can’t even see the floor, I suspect it’s a clumsy attempt to divert attention from a particularly hideous carpet, or some plastic flooring from the 1980s. In some ways it shows admirable ingenuity.

 This property will be available as soon as the current tenants are done  tidying up, which should be some time before the 2024 Olympics.

Images of a broken chair outdoors seem to be a theme. You call it The Garden Chair of Solitude.
I think real estate agents should be praised for creating a new artistic genre, which conveys such isolation and despair that even the greatest poets would struggle to put it into words. Also they look kinda funny.

Yup, that's a Garden Chair of Solitude.

Why do you think we love bad listing photos?
It’s a unifying celebration of ineptitude. Every page of the book or post on the blog is a tribute to that moment when vaulting ambition meets poor judgment and a lack of ability, and produces something terrible. 
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