Look through the smoke and mirrors to get the best deal
It can be easy to get caught up in all the exciting possibilities when you're looking for a new home. However, as you browse through the available listings, keep an eye out for the following gimmicks to make sure you get the best possible deal.
- The asking price is too low or too high
- The property is intentionally misrepresented in pictures
- The listing uses deceptively positive keywords
- The agents make bold claims that stretch the truth
- They put artificial pressure on you to make an offer
Most of the time, houses listed for asking prices that are unusually low or high for the area are an attempt to manipulate potential buyers. In these cases, the listing agent has told the seller to draw buyers in "to initiate a bidding war" by either asking for a ridiculously low amount or shooting for the stars to take advantage of a good market.
Don't let yourself be manipulated. Know the average prices in your market before you make an offer.
It's a tricky business to judge a house by its photos.
One huge red flag you should look for is the online listing with either no photos at all or stock photos that show a similar property rather than the one actually being sold.
According to Just 4 Mortgages broker Giustin Valnova, pictures that don't show the whole story are another red flag.
"If there's a major problem area of a certain room, the seller may try to cover that up by taking strategic photos that purposely ignore parts of the room," he says. "If photos are very zoomed in on a certain area, or are taken in a way that excludes part of a room, you should start asking why."
If the listing includes a floor plan, you can use it to figure out whether or not this tactic is being used. Check to see if any part of the house is not included in the photos or if only one part of a room is included. In addition, images that have been filtered heavily or badly lit or are out of focus should also be suspect, as this may have been done on purpose to misrepresent or hide what the subject actually looks like.
Most of the time, words like "quaint," "intimate," "cozy," and "efficient" are code for "small."
Similarly, "vintage" houses with lots of "charm" and "character" are likely quite old. "Secluded" and "off the beaten path" often means "isolated," while "custom" and "one-of-a-kind" homes may include eccentricities from the previous owner.
No house is perfect, and no real estate agent will list a property's disadvantages when trying to make a sale. As the buyer, you need to be able to decode the language of the listing to find out the truth.
Listing agents go a long way in their attempts to draw in buyers, sometimes even bending the truth. Although most agents won't actually lie to you, they can make the listing seem better than it is by stretching the facts.
"Some agents will market their listing results as 'sold for over asking price,' when the asking price was artificially low," says Paul Lisanti, an agent for Keller Williams Edge Realty. "Many consumers assume that the asking/listing price was at/around market value when in fact it was considerably lower. This strategy can work for sellers and it can also backfire. If a property is worth $300K and listed at $250K, when it sells for $285K, who is the real winner?"
Listings agents often tell buyers that they already have several offers in hand and the sellers are hoping to close in a matter of days. Sometimes this is true, but sometimes it isn't. Listing agents want to close the deal and get their fee as soon as possible. Don't let them pressure you into making a decision without thinking it through.
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