Reading Real Estate Listings: What Are They Really Saying?

June 5, 2018

Have you ever read a description of a home listing that sounded more amazing than grandma’s homemade sugar cookies, but the reality fell flat? Real estate agents become skilled at crafting descriptions that make a real estate listing sound amazing. Unfortunately, that isn’t always the case. Reading real estate listings can therefore be a tricky thing.

Who wants to waste their time looking at real estate that doesn’t truly match their needs? In 2017, about 5.51 million pre-existing homes sold along with over 600,000 new construction homes. There is a lot of inventory on the market to search through.

Fortunately, by looking at a number of factors, you can narrow down which listings are accurate and which stretch the truth beyond believability, saving yourself and your real estate agent time.


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1. Look for Buzzwords

There are certain phrases that sound quite cliché and they’re used to describe millions of homes listed every year. These are used to make a real estate listing sound more enticing than it actually is. For example, “cozy” is almost always a code for “small.” If a neighborhood is less than desirable, the description might read “up-and-coming.” Check out the area carefully and read crime maps around the home to see what the neighborhood is really like. Reading real estate listings alone is probably going to create a misleading perception of the home.

2. Study the Photographs

Even more than just the words used in the listing, watch the photographs included with the property. Photos from a fish-eye view or a strange angle indicate the image was taken to hide flaws. While a photograph gives you a basic idea of the property, understand that they can also hide a lot of the issues you’ll encounter around the home and neighboring houses.

3. Finding Fixer-Uppers

On the other hand, if you want to take on a project, then there are certain words you can look for that indicate a property needs a bit of work. Words such as “original condition,” “needs TLC” or “has potential” are all indicators that the property is not in the best condition. Pay attention to comparable properties in the area that have already been rehabilitated and compare the price to see if they are asking for an amount that’s fair.

4. Avoiding Luxury

Unless you’re in the market for a top priced home, then you may want to avoid certain descriptions. The very use of these words make a house sell for more. For example, the word “granite” in a real estate listing makes those homes sell for as much as four percent more than homes without that description. Remember, you can always install granite at a later date.

5. Filling in the Blanks

There are also those home descriptions that are so limited they don’t tell you much about the property at all. Maybe it’s a foreclosure situation, where a faceless corporation is the one selling the home. Whatever the reason, it’s hard to ascertain what the home is like without details. You can pull up Google Earth to help you see the property from an aerial view, but in these situations you may simply need to drive by the property to see if it’s for you.

Reading Real Estate Listings Like a Pro

Buying a home is a big decision, and you should stay well informed before diving in. Watch out for code words, pay attention to photos and do research on the neighborhood around the property. As long as you do your homework, you’ll find the home of your dreams.

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