Whether you are buying or selling a house with a real estate agent or for sale by owner (FSBO) NEVER trust a real estate listing.
I’ve invested in real estate since I was 21 years old when I bought my first house and a second at age 24. I’m not in the game of real estate to become a monster property millionaire but what I do know is that not all real estate listings are created equal.
Finding the best real estate agent that will work for you isn’t an easy task but when you do remember that none of us are perfect and mistakes can happen. As a homeowner or buyer beware of any errors that could cost you thousands of dollars over the long haul once you move into your new home or sell your house.
The last thing you want is your house sitting on the market for months because of en error no one is catching but potential buyers. If you want to add value to your house either you lower the price to gain attention or you add renovation/unique home perks to your real estate listing that will interest buyers. Your real estate listing must be honest, detailed and accurate.
When my wife and I began our house search back in 2008 we started flipping through the online multiple listing service (MLS) to see what homes were for sale in our city. Needless to say we began looking for a house when the markets were crashing and houses were popping up with for sale signs everywhere. We had the pick of the crop.
We started our real estate listing search process on our own without an agent because at the time we were contemplating purchasing a well-known For Sale By Owner (FSBO) business which we later declined. What we noticed while searching online and reading real estate listings in the newspaper was that they were not created equally. It seems like there is some sort of standardization but it’s not always followed to a T.
We wondered if homeowners were in a rush to sell so they overlooked the importance of a meticulous real estate listing, maybe they didn’t care or they trusted their agent too much. You are paying them big bucks after all, so why should you have to review your house listing? Because you risk your home not selling as fast as you’d like it to, that’s why.
In the UK real estate listings are called “Property Particulars” and the homeowner is asked to review the final product before it gets sent to print or put online. An excellent real estate agent (known as: estate agent in the UK) will always review with you anything that has to do with your house before moving forward.
That wasn’t the case with my wife back when she sold her first Canadian home in 2005 before heading back to school and marrying me. Her real estate agent went ahead and posted photos with her dog running around an empty living room and the real estate listing was vague. My wife never gave much thought to it until years later as her knowledge of buying and selling grew. She still has a copy of the listing with photos which I had a look at. Shocking really.
Thankfully she was moving into a rental because it took almost 1 year to sell the over-priced house in an up and coming neighbourhood which should never have happened. She 100% listened to her agent who clearly didn’t have her best interests in mind but being young sometimes you trust too much.
Today this house has doubled in price and that buyer still lives in the home they snagged for a great deal because the house was on the market too long and it needed to sell. Some days she tells me she wishes she kept it and rented out rooms. These are things that don’t always cross your mind when you have too much on it.
Related: Buy or sell your house first?
If you’ve already purchased a home but need to sell your first home it’s SO critical that you stay on top of the entire selling process which means, review EVERYTHING!
Oops that’s on contract- Full disclosure
Just recently friends of ours almost got suckered into buying a house with a water tank rental that was NOT disclosed properly. It wasn’t until the home buyer went through for a second inspection after they bought the house that it was noticed that the water heater was on a contract. With-in hours after pulling the name off the tank and searching online she was able to find out that the tank would have cost her thousands of dollars because of that outrageous water heater contract.
You know those door to door salespeople? Well they managed to weasel their way into the sellers lives but they somehow forgot to disclose all the information on the tank. It wasn’t a rental from somewhere like Reliance… it was a contract with a third-party company that was difficult to source any information on.
In the end it was sorted even after the homeowner tried scare tactics saying they would sue the buyer if they didn’t take the house. That didn’t quite work. They loved the house just not the devious way they went about trying to pull the wool over their eyes with an absurd contract. The costs were split among everyone but this should NEVER have happened, especially when you are paying a real estate agent to investigate everything.
Now they purchased and installed a water heater that they own without having to worry about paying 20 times the amount the tank is worth. It was a bit of a nightmare especially for a first time home buyer to go through.
My advice is to always- Be Aware.
There are many reasons why someone won’t buy your house for sale but the number one reason is that the real estate listing is inaccurate, photos are crap or distorted or the agent/homeowner (FSBO) is never available for open houses so they send in a replacement who doesn’t care as much about the home sale.
This is another experience my wife had because her real estate agents was always too busy. He sent in a replacement agent who just sat on a chair the entire open house. She knows because she pretended to be a potential buyer who walked away because she was not motivated at all to buy. A house won’t sell itself even if it looks like a dream home.
The end result is always… go see the house for yourself. If your gut is telling you something is wrong, investigate it. If something is unclear ask and don’t stop until you get the answers you want.
After about a month of painful house hunting for our first home together we decided to hire a real estate agent that we knew and were friends with. This worked out great for us because we trusted her to help us find a luxury home in our budget. When I say luxury I mean something with a roof, 4 walls and somewhere cozy to sleep and cook meals. Anything had to be better than the one room cave we were living in for years so we could save up for a down-payment.
We had a home checklist (coming to the blog soon in the free tools section) of items we wanted as part of our new home purchase but realized that since we were first time home buyers as husband and wife practically starting out again in the world that we’d settle for a now home that we could renovate.
Buying a brand new home was never an option as every real estate listing looks the same and there is nothing unique about those homes. You know the houses they call “Cookie Cutter Homes”, we didn’t want one. I’m really not sure who these people are that say yes to buying the same home that 100 other people have in the same neighbourhood finds appealing. Just like the saying goes, “There’s always going to be a buyer”.
Everyday my wife and I would send our agent a few real estate listings that we thought were suitable but weren’t too sure about. She would send us just as many for us to check and reply back if we wanted to schedule a visit. There were always unanswered questions in the real estate listing which meant we either skipped that house or we pursued it in hopes of checking the place out and possibly finding there was an error.
Even asking our agent to find answers to questions started to get bothersome for us and we often wondered if some of these agents and FSBO sellers really knew how to market a property listing presentation effectively.
Some people will warn you to stay away from new real estate agents and others claim that FSBO is the best way to buy and sell a home. If you think about it FSBO homeowner is likely not an experienced agent which means if they can do it so can an inexperienced agent. At least the agent has testing under their belt where a FSBO reviews paperwork and presentations to help them to become ready to sell their own home. Either way works for us but when we sell our home we will likely be FSBO sellers because we are confident in the systems available.
There are always going to be sloppy real estate agents out there that can really mess up the ability for you to buy or sell a house. How? The real estate listing sucks! You heard me, it’s sucks. Best of it is the listing should be the EASIEST part of the home selling process.
The real estate listing is the key to successfully buying and selling any home. If for some reason that real estate listing isn’t painting the BEST picture of the house, you the homeowner risk missing potential buyers for your home like my wife likely did.
Most often it’s a case of fill in the blanks on the paperwork or the computer by completing research on the property and adding some high-quality photos. As long as the seller or real estate agent has all the important information this should be a breeze.
Trying to purposely distort the home listing to make a quick sale to pocket commission is only going to back-fire in the long-run for both an agent and FSBO. I’ve seen and heard of homeowners and agents who try to hide critical issues in a home because they know they are costly to fix and time-consuming so they pretend like it’s not there. Well, it is and it should be dealt with and no band-aid is acceptable.
Selling the house is the harder part because if your real estate agent or FSBO is not a “salesperson” you risk your house sitting on the market longer than it needs to. Let’s not sugar-coat the situation here because we all know that this is a money-making business just as is any career. The case of FSBO even more so because they have much more to lose in my opinion because it’s often a one-time deal for them. For agents their business is like building an email list where referrals mean everything to their success.
What are some things you need to look for when reading real estate listings?
Realty Photography and Video Tours
Taking real estate photos sounds like an easy task but trust me when I say that there are people who have no creative side or ability to take a photo that accurately depicts the scene they are hoping to characterize or sell in this case. Even the use of a video tour can be messed up if the photographs aren’t properly taken.
Real estate images are the first thing that a potential home buyer will be looking at so if your real estate agent has distorted them, left out important photos or has added irrelevant photos this could be a problem. No one cares what your couch looks like because it’s not going to be there if you buy the house. Catch my drift.
Some people stage a home and hope that sells it but as a buyer you need to look beyond the staging because you don’t know what lies hidden all around. Some homeowners will even use rental staging of their house if it is vacant just to make it look like someone lives in it so no one low-balls the price.
You may even come across this when there is a divorce happening and part of the house is left empty as one spouse has moved out and took their belongings and furniture. Nine times out of ten potential buyers look at a house photo and decide on the spot whether to read the real estate listing or pass it by.
Missing/Inaccurate Real estate listing information
Whether you are buying or selling a house ALWAYS review the real estate listing for accuracy, everything from room size to the fine details of the home.
An example of this would be over-promising what a house has to offer. Don’t try and glam up a house saying it has a “Gourmet Kitchen” or “Chef’s Kitchen” when all it has is a standard cookie-cutter kitchen. There is always going to be a price to pay for luxury in a kitchen. Make sure you are paying for what you get and not just something that “looks” like it’s promising. I don’t know many chefs who have a microwave over an electric stove, let alone even own a microwave.
Be honest with the real estate listing otherwise you risk disappointing prospective buyers. As a homeowner you should not allow yourself or a real estate agent to beautify using words that don’t reflect your property. Don’t be shy to investigate every room fully including the outside of the home. Hire the proper people to come in and do an inspection. It may cost you more money to hire tradesmen or women but at least you know you’ve got a professional trades-person.
Please, please always source your own contractors.
We know someone who listed their home and said that they recently had the roof replaced but failed to mention they only had half of it done because THEY felt that the back of the house looked fine. Why bother replacing it if they were years left on it? What? My wife and I said, “Who replaces half a roof?” but the reality is that some people will do just about anything to be cheap when repairing a house to get it ready for sale.
Don’t buy someone else’s junk or patch-work.
My wife found a potential house for us on the MLS and decided to read the real estate listing to learn more. It was then that she found out that the house only had “street parking” which seemed odd since it had a 2-car garage. Instead of ditching the real estate listing she decided to double-check with our agent who set up an appointment for us to see the house.
Keep in mind not everyone is like my wife. Most people will just move on to the next house.
Sure enough when we get to the house there was parking for 4 cars on the property and street parking if needed. The agent made an error on the real estate listing where potential buyers who may have liked the photos of the home turned their nose to it because of the parking issue. No one wants to buy a house where they can’t park on the property and only in the garage. At least we didn’t want to.
Other problems with the house that weren’t mentioned was that the homeowner smoked in the house and that there was a past issue with mice in the house. As soon as we walked in the house smelled horrible and the walls were yellow. The carpets had burn holes in them. Best of it is the homeowner put padding underneath all the furniture to make it look like the carpet had a shampoo. What a crock that was.
When inspecting the basement we noticed that the mice had been in the house so this helped us to get a better deal on the house. We wanted to buy the least expensive house in an expensive neighbourhood that we loved and this was it. The only problem was the price because we found issues that we weren’t made aware of. The good part was that I was able to deal with the issues on my own without having to hire contractors. It also helps to have tradespeople in the family.
Smoking in a house may lower the value of your home as will any other issues with mold, rodents, asbestos and botched renovation jobs. In the end we managed to get a super deal on the house and with-in hours we were homeowners.
It’s taken some elbow grease but our house is sparkly and has been a non-smoking home since we purchased it. The best part was that the lower price attributed to us paying our mortgage with-in 5 years of purchase. Had we of paid full asking price for the home we’d likely would have had another year or two of payments before we would have been able to burn our mortgage papers.
Over the years we’ve seen the value of our home skyrocket for our neighbourhood yet we still have renovations to get done. When valuing our home for our net worth calculations we really haven’t increased it much just in case there is a real estate correction. This way we aren’t walking away with a sad face because of higher than normal pricing expectations.
Guard your money
I’m not here to say who is better at selling a house but what I can tell you is that if you are busting your butt to save money to buy or sell your house make sure that your bases are covered. Don’t trust everyone to do a perfect job even if you are paying them. I’m sure you’ve made mistakes before, don’t let a real estate listing error or conflict cost you money that you hadn’t planned on spending.
Question: When you were looking to buy/sell a house did you run into any issues with the real estate listing that you would like to share in the comments below? What was the outcome?
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