A Sydney real estate agency has come under fire for what appear to be heavily doctored images to advertise a house currently for sale.
House hunters were horrified when they attended the open house for 31A Penshurst Avenue, Penshurst, on the weekend to find a huge water tower looming over the property.
It’s a dubious “feature” certainly not visible in the glossy sale photos available online and it left Molly Smith and her husband speechless.
“We've been looking for a place for almost a year now and have encountered all manner of tactics that real estate agents and auctioneers use in order to manipulate people into spending exorbitant amounts of money on properties,” she told aww.com.au.
“Everyone does something - but usually it's tidying up the place or hiring stunt furniture or getting it landscaped at the last minute. I feel like this is really underhanded deceptive behaviour and I don't think it reflects well on the business.
“They may not have taken the photos but it's pretty easy to see that it absolutely does not reflect the state of the property and the estate agents are bound by the rules of Fair Trading to not act in a false or misleading manner. Overall, I felt swindled.”
Real estate agent Jackie Li from Ray White Rockdale says he inherited the images from another agency and doesn’t think they are deceptive or misleading.
“The photos were taken by a previous agent and given to us by the owner, who didn’t want to pay for new images to be taken,” he said.
“The address is available and most people will search for the property on Google maps, where the water tower is very obvious. We are not trying to trick anyone or hide anything. Anyone who rings up, I tell them about it straight away.”
NSW Fair Trading sees it differently, stating the images appear to be a clear breach of the law.
"Under the Property, Stock and Business Agents Act 2002 it is an offence to publish, or allow to be published, any information in relation to the sale or lease of any property that is materially false, misleading or deceptive," a NSW Fair Trading spokesperson said.
"Digital enhancement of advertising material may constitute such an offence where the enhancements are not disclosed or create a deception for buyers.
"Consumers concerned that advertising material is misleading or deceptive can lodge a complaint at www.fairtrading.nsw.gov.au."
UPDATE: In response to the story, Ray White Australia has denied digitally altering the images in any way, claiming the photographer merely made the most of his angles to obscure the tower from view.
To prove this, an agent went to the property last night to take the below image using a Go-Pro.
"It would appear from our own investigations that the photos have not been Photoshopped and are instead simply taken from an angle from which the house obscures the water tank," a Ray White Australia spokeswoman said.
But several readers were quick to point out some discrepancies between the images that cast doubt on the "no Photoshop" claim.
"The go pro image has been taken from a completely different angle, right in front of the house instead of near the street," one reader said. "And it's obvious a fish eye effect has been used. The house and garden path appear curved in the above image, while they are not in the original advertising pic.
"You can also see the water tower through the perspex roof in the above image, and it's not visible at all in the original picture and neither are the power lines which have been airbrushed out of the campaign image.
"This picture does show how angles can be used, but I don't believe some Photoshopping wasn't used too."