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A real estate company has been caught uploading the unedited version of a photo advertising a Queensland home, prompting questions about where the line is drawn for false advertising in the housing market.

Agents have long been cutting, blurring and airbrushing out undesirable traits in home listings, but without the original copies, it can be difficult to tell exactly how much artificial sprucing a property has had.

While there is no suggestion of illegal behaviour, LJ Hooker Southport this week pulled back the curtain on one common change when it accidentally uploaded both the edited and unedited images of a back garden.

The pictures of the three-bed, two-bath Kumbari Ave home, which sold for $808,000 in December, showed two near-identical images of its sprawling garden with “room for a pool”.

In one, the lawn was displayed in all its natural glory, with the yellow grass typical of any Aussie backyard in summertime. In the second, the grass had been digitally altered to a bright, lush green, subtly concealing some of its drier dirt patches.

Many on social media said the photoshop fail was “one of the better ones” — citing more extreme examples like a fresh tin roof, new landscaping or entirely different floor coverings.

An LJ Hooker spokesperson maintained that their edit fell within the legal guidelines, saying: “LJ Hooker follows all legislative requirements when representing listings to ensure accurate representation of key features.” The unedited picture was taken down shortly after’s inquiry.

Still, the mishap prompted many to ask, where is the housing market’s boundary between false advertising and fair play?

The industry rule of thumb is that, if something isn’t permanent, it can be photoshopped out, according to Real Estate Institute of Queensland CEO Antonia Mercorella.

“We often ask, if you were to purchase that house, would it be possible to have that undesirable attribute removed, and how much would it cost,” Ms Mercorella told

“We all understand that, in advertising, if we make a representation that isn’t accurate then that is potentially a breach of law. We can make that misrepresentation through photographs, and the same consumer laws apply.

“It’s not just undesirable characteristics. It could also be things that you’re adding to images that aren’t an accurate representation.”

Smaller digital alterations, Ms Mercorella said, present a legal grey area.