Is Instagram real estate’s next frontier?

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.

With the right filter, any house photo can be transformed into an object of nostalgic desire.

— Kate Folk


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