HORRY COUNTY, SC (WMBF) - A local homeowner is concerned about safety after she says pictures of the inside of her house are still posted on real estate websites years after closing on it.
“It’s just really hard because security is really rough. You just need to make sure, and we’ve never had a problem in seven years but now we’re worried,” said Cheryl Hogan.
Hogan just recently faced a security breach for the first time, which led her to think of all the ways she can protect her home. She ran a quick Google search on her address and found multiple photos posted on several popular real estate website of the inside of her home taken before the property was purchased.
“Even though it’s the former owners’ furnishings, anybody knows the layout of my house if they really look at it, and with a security breach previously, I’m not happy with that,” said Hogan.
Hogan is concerned these pictures can be a tool criminals can use to break into homes and know the whole layout in advance. She wants to send out a message to other homeowners to check for yourself.
“It’s a security hazard and especially if your house is for sale, you really can’t do anything about that because you’re trying to get the word out,” said Hogan.
Michael King with King One Properties International says this is a common issue homeowners bring to his attention.
“A lot of people don’t realize it. Unfortunately when a home is for sale and it goes online, it’s going to stay online until some action is taken and it’s all removed,” said King.
King says technically, this is legal to do.
“Once things go out there on the internet, they’re out there, and if you don’t push the issue to take it down, then it’s going to always stay up," said King.
The problem is the third-party companies like Zillow, Trulia, and Realtor.com have access to pull information from every localized Multiple Listing Service (MLS) system automatically.
“Sometimes it’s not so much the company’s fault, as it may be another agent that doesn’t update their listings properly, and it’s something here that we try to instill in our agents is to update listings in a timely manner," said Anthony Browning, owner/broker of House Finder Realty.
Real estate professionals say in this case, working together and being persistent is key.
“The internet is a great source of information, but it’s not always accurate, and that’s where we come in,” said Browning.
Hogan is still working to get her photos taken down from third-party sites and wants everyone to be aware of what’s out on the internet.
“I just encourage everybody to go Google their address and figure this out. We need to find a way to stop the major dollar companies from keeping these on,” said Hogan.
Real estate professionals recommend reaching out to the listing agent or the listing broker's office manager for additional assistance when removing photos on third-party sites.