BUYING A HOUSE IS MORE THAN JUST SWEET BUTTERED WORDS
How confident are you about every property listing you choose to visit that the house description will be 100% accurate? Probably not that confident and I don’t blame you.
A property listing may be close to accurate but it may also be buttered up just a bit to motivate you to put an offer in on the house. Real Estate trends seem to be important big-ticket accessories for buyers and sellers but even then what is being sold should be what is depicted in the property listing.
Have you really fallen prey to these marketing tactics in the real estate industry? Probably because they’ve been used for years because there’s no standards apart from, “Sell that house” as fast as you can.
Does granite in a bathroom or kitchen turn on your buyers excitement? Make sure the granite counter-top that you may end up owning and paying big bucks for is the real deal! Buyers remorse is a sad place to be especially when you should be excited about your new home purchase.
I read an excellent blog post that every real estate agent and private seller should read- 107 Real Estate Marketing Ideas. What I liked about this post was that it was to the point and crystal clear. You don’t have to sugar-coat to be successful at what you do.
Don’t mimic other agents’ and brokers’ listings simply because their copy seems interesting. Make your listings different from the rest by adding your own original take on the details of each property (while still accurately describing them, of course).
At the beginning of 2016 I wrote a post about why you should never trust a real estate listing which caught the attention of many readers around the web. In that post I touched on missing and inaccurate property listings and today I want to explain just what they are and how to avoid them.
For Sale, For Sale, For Sale
As soon as March rolls around, the snow melts and the birds are chirping the For Sale signs start popping up all over the city as the real estate markets heats up. Buyers and Sellers are fired up and ready to dip their hands into the real estate market to make sure they get the cream of the crop for listings. Whether you hire a real estate agent to sell your property or choose to use a For Sale By Owner (FSBO) option an accurate property listing is an important selling aid.
In fact back in 2008 when my wife and I started our house buying journey we began looking at property listings on the online Multiple Listing Service (MLS) now known as the highly regarded Realtor.ca. Searching online offers one of the greatest options, convenience and your first window into a potential home you may purchase. This is why it is CRITICAL for the property listing to be exciting and catchy but how far is too far before it skews reality?
Back then I was a new resident to Canada so I was just getting started trying to understand real estate language and what it all meant. I was shocked to read some of the property listings because what I had read did not match up with the photos that were presented, even worse when we visited the property.
Mind you it has been in our best interest to always view a home in person if we had any interest. You never know what you will find and that property listing might not be telling you everything you need to know. One of the top reasons I wouldn’t buy a house is because the property listing is incorrect or even worse the selling language is exaggerated usually just to sell the house.
What else are they hiding or covering up with flowery words?
What bothers me about real estate in Canada is that there are no standards about how a property listing should be shared with the public in order to accurately depict what the property has to offer. There are guidelines like anything else but I have yet to see any standardization unless it’s there but not being used.
When we bought our house the property listing said that there was only street parking available. It wasn’t a check box error either, the real estate agent typed that into the property listing. Unsure of why that would be my wife and I decided to take a drive to see the house without letting our real estate agent in on the idea that we may want to view a property listing. Sure enough when we got there the house had a double garage and enough parking for 4 vehicles outside the garage.
That error possibly cost the homeowner multiply offers on the house, especially for the low listing price and sought-after area. Thankfully, we made an offer and it was accepted that same night which was $7000 less than the asking price.
Before our awesome house buying score we viewed over 70 property listings with our real estate agent. I’m pretty sure she went home put her feet up and drank champagne when this was done, signed and house keys delivered. I’m my own house inspector which meant I took lots of time to go over each house we were interested in. It worked out nicely in the end.
What did that property listing say?
Today I want to share with you some of the unusual property listing descriptions I’ve read over the years and how I interpret them. Don’t get me wrong it’s not just real estate agents adding frosting to the property listings as For Sale By Owner sellers do the same thing.
The idea is to fluff up the listing to make it sound as desirable as possible to drive the potential buyer to the house. At this point especially at an open house a seller or real estate agent are able to motivate walk-ins with their property sales pitch.
Related: Are open houses a good idea?
This is a classic case of it’s easier to sell something in person than it is to sell it over the phone or through media because the buyer doesn’t see the actual product in person nor can they touch it. The odds of selling a product where the seller and buyer are present would have a higher success rate in my opinion. I’m just hazarding a guess here but odds are likely that you’d make the sale face to face.
Here’s a non real estate example:
Have you ever had someone call to offer you free steaks? You think steak sounds great by the way they describe it but to get your free steak they will send someone over just to tell you more about the product. Sounds fair doesn’t it? Not unless you have a couple of hours to spend on an in-home selling tactic.
Once inside your home they try to sell you the biggest meat package they’ve got. If you say no, you don’t get your free steak. Ya, that kind of pissed us off too so now we don’t even bother with them. They’ve called twice since. We fell for it. Don’t let that be you unless you really want to hear all about buying a half a cow.
The same goes for a real estate listing…don’t fall for the sweetness of the deal, investigate opportunities.
Marketing your property listing with exaggeration
Let’s talk about property listing language that irks me and should bother you as a home buyer. I don’t know where some of the sellers cook up some of these descriptions but as a buyer you must be careful when you are making one of the biggest purchases of your life.
Recently in the news there was a Calgary homeowner who found out that the house she bought was “Misrepresented” by her real estate agent. That means she bought a smaller house than what she had paid for. Ouch, that sucks.
It turned out the listing realtor had changed the square footage, increasing it by 25 per cent, to 2,580 from 2,094 square feet.
As a homeowner you have the final say which means you have to trust yourself. I know you may be paying your real estate agent to do the work but they make mistakes too- they’re human.
When we were looking into the purchase of the home we live in we had discrepancies with the square footage as well. Reviewing past MLS listings each real estate agent listed the square footage as something different. We finally sorted it out with our real estate agent who investigated for us only to find out the house was bigger than what was listed. Not by much but to a seller that little bit extra may mean more money in their pocket.
Maybe you’ve read a property listing that goes something like this…
The widely used real estate property listing term “Throughout” is a word that describes something that is in every part or during the whole time period. For this instance we are using the former portion of the definition.
So, you read a property listing that says that the house offers hardwood flooring throughout. As a buyer you think that’s great and would expect to have hardwood throughout the house. What do you find when you visit the property listing or check out the listing photos?
If a property listing states that the house has hardwood floors throughout then the house should have hardwood floors in every part of the house. (Go back and read the description of Throughout) Then why do agents and property owners insist on telling us that there’s hardwood floors throughout, yet clearly the photos that they post with the house description completely contradicts the former statement.
Obviously not everyone uses a dictionary and no standards are set. How on earth is any of this selling even legal? Anything else that is sold through advertising is heavily scrutinized but not property listings. There have been many claims over the years that have gotten large companies into trouble but talking total rubbish seems to go hand in hand with selling a house these days.
I could have sworn there were rules on false advertising. When does false become inaccurate though? Is it intentional or is it easier to just copy what other property listings say? My opinion is that it’s easier to just tell it like it is which is what our real estate agent does. No fluffing about with her, thankfully.
There are always going to be those real estate agents who are more worried about the money than their reputation. The funny part is that a reputation will carry you further if it’s a good one, then the money will come. With a private sale or FSBO the seller has nothing to lose though because they aren’t selling real estate for a living. The same types of sales pitches but on two different playing fields.
Here’s another one that is laughable…
The definition of the term “Oasis” usually involves a desert but the other meaning:
A calm, pleasant place in the middle of somewhere busy and unpleasant
This does little to sell a house if you actually know what the word Oasis means. Telling your client or advertising a property listing that states the backyard is an “Oasis” seems a bit strange. So, you’re telling me that the garden is a calm and pleasant place surrounded by somewhere that is busy and unpleasant. Now the garden sounds like it’s the only good thing about the property listing.- Fail
Even worse is a property that is listed as “Professionally Landscaped” until you come to find out that professional was the homeowner who had only a slight idea of what he/she was doing. Workmanship is often obvious so don’t be shy to bend down and take a look.
There was one house description we read which included that the front garden had been professionally landscaped. Okay, let’s have a look then. According to the selling agent landscaped means 6 very small plants and some mulch. That’s getting a little ridiculous.
This next one really gets me fired up especially with the high costs to put in an actual gourmet kitchen
Producing or serving food that is very high quality
Yet there’s hundreds of house sales listed as having a “Gourmet Kitchen” that have little of the standard kitchen items found in a gourmet restaurant kitchen where gourmet food is found. In fact, most of these kitchens wouldn’t impress a single gourmet chef.
May I also suggest that gourmet chefs likely don’t use microwaves either, yet apparently houses with gourmet kitchens usually come with over the stove microwave ovens. Hardly gourmet to me. Maybe the gourmet food comes out of a really expensive, high quality box?
High-end means High-end not in-between
High-end appliances are those made by Meile, Dacor, Thermador, Fisher & Paykel, Bertazzoni, Wolf, Smeg, Liebherr and a few others.
Having a Stainless Steel fridge/freezer and stove does not make your appliances high-end or top of the line quality. Look-a-like quality is where you get what you pay for so don’t fall into the granite and stainless steel trap unless it’s the real deal. I’m quite sure that you wouldn’t be giving away $20,000 – $30,000 worth of gourmet appliances with the house sale, unless you were slightly un-hinged.
Read your property description one more time
There’s also the plain bizarre statements that some real estate agents and FSBO home sellers put out there too. A bit like the “Sun filled Sunroom”. Surely that’s the point of a sunroom, isn’t it? I expect they’d call it something different if were always in the shade. A shady shaderoom. Doesn’t that sound ridiculous? Ya.
Don’t even get me started on the “Professionally Finished” basement. We saw a basement that had been apparently professionally finished when we were viewing property listings. The so-called professional installed the light switch at the top of the stairs and every light, including the laundry room and the spare bedroom which have their own door came on.
Wouldn’t each separate room have a functioning light switch?
Just one more before I end this post with my final thoughts.
“No neighbours overlooking the rear at the back”, now where else would they be unless they can move their house? I guess it’s not worth mentioning unless you get the same information twice in the same sentence.
As a buyer and a seller whether you are paying someone to sell your house or you are doing it on your own it’s beneficial to be transparent with the property listing so you’re not wasting time. The last thing you need is buyers who think they are getting something who visit the property listing only to be disappointed.
Plus, if buyers see something that was misrepresented in a property listing when they visit the house they won’t know if they can trust anything more about the house. This means as a seller, you could lose a quick sale on your house and money. On the other hand some buyers just give in and accept the house as it was depicted in the property listing even if it’s not accurate then have to deal with issues down the road. Money lost.
Sadly, there are no real estate standards that I’m aware of that put the brakes on what can be described as “Gourmet”, “Oasis”, “Breath-Taking”, “One of a kind” and so on.
Question: Have you ever visited a property listing that was misrepresented or exaggerated to turn on the extra-marketing charm? How did that make you feel as a buyer? What about the seller? You’ll be buying your home next so would you rather have a property listing to be standardized and accurate or a potential waste of time?
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Cupcake Photo Credit: Canva.com
Real Estate Photo Credit: Realtor.ca