5 Totally Legit Reasons Someone is Taking Photos of Your House or Neighborhood

Almost every day on neighborhood social networks like Nextdoor, you’ll find posts about a seemingly suspicious person taking photos in your neighborhood.

Understandably, it can be alarming to see someone with a camera or cellphone photographing your street, or even your house. In reality, though, there are several totally legitimate reasons why someone might be photographing your neighborhood. Many are mundane.

Here are a few reasons why this might be happening.

Of course, if you ever feel unsafe, call the authorities in your area. But if you’re merely curious why someone is taking photos of your house, there are often very normal reasons.

1. Real Estate Appraisal and Marketing

One of the most common reasons someone might be photographing houses in your neighborhood is real estate appraisal or marketing. Real estate professionals, including agents, appraisers, and photographers, frequently take photos of homes and surrounding neighborhoods.

These photos may be used to determine a home’s value, especially if the property is being prepared for sale or refinancing. Additionally, real estate agents will often photograph homes in the area to create compelling listings or to show prospective buyers the character of the neighborhood.

Real estate agents often don’t wear identifying clothing. And agents might give the task of photographing nearby houses to a junior staff member or intern. Thus, the person taking photos might not look official in any way, yet they could still be doing this for the mundane purpose of helping create a real estate listing.

2. City Planning or Engineering Purposes

Construction workers with hard hats and high visibility vests, July 25, 2017.

City planners, architects, and engineers often photograph neighborhoods for various planning and development projects. They might be capturing images for a new road construction project, city mapping, or zoning changes.

The images can provide valuable insights about the existing infrastructure, parking availability, or the general aesthetics of a neighborhood. It’s a common practice for urban planning and development to use photography to help visualize and plan future projects.

What to Look For

Often, these officials will wear a high visibility vest or other identifying uniform. That’s not always the case, though. Many cities hire contractors to perform site surveys and assessments. These contracts might be wearing plain clothing and driving an everyday vehicle, rather than an official city truck.

If you see someone photographing consistent things, like all the cracks in your neighborhood’s sidewalks or all the utility poles, it’s likely someone taking photos for planning purposes.

3. Insurance Claims

Insurance adjusters or claim investigators also frequently take photographs in neighborhoods. They may be investigating a claim related to property damage or assessing the condition of a property to adjust insurance premiums.

For instance, if a neighbor has reported storm damage, the insurance adjuster may photograph not only the specific property but also surrounding homes or landmarks for context. Similarly, insurance companies can conduct routine property inspections to ensure the property matches the details provided in the insurance policy.

Often, insurance companies use satellite imagery or aerial photography to check properties. But in some cases–especially if your neighborhood has a lot of tree cover–they might send an agent or photographer out on foot or in a car to take photos.

4. Professional or Amateur Photography

A photographer takes pictures using a DSLR camera in the Silicon Valley, San Jose, California, December 14, 2019.

Photographers, both professional and hobbyists, might take photos in your neighborhood for artistic, personal, or commercial reasons. Your neighborhood could have a unique architectural style, a beautifully landscaped park, or just a perfect sunset view that attracts photographers.

Remember, people are often drawn to capturing images of everyday life, and a tranquil residential street can make a compelling subject. As long as they are not violating privacy laws or causing a nuisance, photographers have every right to take pictures from public spaces.

When Does Amateur or Pro Photography Cross the Line?

When does photographing a neighborhood cross the line from hobby to nuisance? Here are a few things to note:

  • If the person enters private property, such as stepping onto your lawn to photograph your house, they might be violating the law.
  • If they violate your privacy–such as taking photos over your fence or in your window with a long lens–that might also be unlawful.
  • If they use a drone or other aerial vehicle to take photos, local ordinances and Federal law may prohibit this.

5. Delivery or Ride-Share Services

A delivery worker for the Amazon Fresh grocery delivery service, his face obscured in shadow, delivers a parcel of groceries to a suburban home in San Ramon, California (fisheye view), July 26, 2017. Amazon has increasingly developed its own workforce of delivery staff rather than relying on commercial carriers like UPS and USPS.

With the rise of delivery and ride-share services, it’s become more common for drivers to photograph homes or addresses. Companies like Amazon often require their delivery personnel to photograph the packages they deliver as a proof of delivery.

Similarly, ride-share services might take photographs for various reasons, such as verifying the pickup or drop-off location. This is typically done to prevent any misunderstandings or disputes about service delivery.

These drivers are often independent contractors. Most are not required to wear identifying uniforms.


While it’s always important to maintain vigilance and security in your neighborhood, there are many perfectly legitimate reasons why someone might be taking photos in your area. Unless they are being intrusive or disrespectful, there’s usually no cause for alarm.

If you feel unsafe, you should always call your local authorities. Most police agencies have a non-emergency dispatch number you can call if you notice something suspicious.

Still, in most cases, the person taking photos in your neighborhood may be doing so for completely normal and innocent reasons. Keep those in mind if you notice this behavior.

Did this article help clear things up? Consider sharing it with a neighbor the next time you see a post about a suspicious person taking photos.

Thomas Smith

Thomas Smith is a food and travel photographer and writer based in the San Francisco Bay Area. His photographic work routinely appears in publications including Food and Wine, Conde Nast Traveler, and the New York Times and his writing appears in IEEE Spectrum, SFGate, the Bold Italic and more. Smith holds a degree in Cognitive Science (Neuroscience) and Anthropology from the Johns Hopkins University.

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