Red Flags to Look Out for in Home Listings
Learn How to Identify Red Flags in Home Listings

If you’ve taken your new home search online or in-print, you’ve probably already scanned through countless home listings, photos and descriptions. Home listings are strategically written and designed to make every home sound perfect and desirable. This can easily make you believe you’ve found your dream home only to find out it’s in the wrong neighborhood or needs tons of work.

Before scheduling a showing or getting excited about a potential property, it’s important to learn about several red flags in home listings that can hint toward potential downfalls. Being able to identify these red flags can save you and your real estate agent time and disappointment. Before you read another home listing, review the information below so you can learn how to scan through home descriptions accurately and identify key signs that the house isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

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No Photos or Only Location Photos

If you find a listing with no photos of the home, be wary. This could mean one of three things:

  • It’s a new listing and the real estate agent hasn’t had a chance to obtain photos for the home yet.
  • The home is in less than desirable condition and the agent is trying to hide this.
  • The homeowner is hard to contact or work with, which could make the buying process stressful and delayed.

If the listing only has photos of the neighborhood, including the community sign or the downtown area, you should also read the description cautiously. When creating the listing, the real estate agent may be highlighting the community because he or she is attempting to take the focus off the home. This could mean the home is:

  • Unattractive.
  • Needs extensive work.
  • Isn’t located on a desirable street within the neighborhood.

Also, if you’re interested in a home that is walking or biking distance to a specific downtown area, don’t be fooled by photos included of the city. Photos of the closest city may be included to simply entice a potential buyer, but the actual downtown area may be a 15 to 45-minute drive from the home’s location.

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“Fixer Upper” or “TLC Needed”

If phrases that sound like the names of home renovation television shows are included in the home’s listing description, proceed with caution. You should only continue investigating this home if you’re ready to put in sweat, time and money for renovations. If a real estate agent thinks he or she must include wording like “fixer upper” or “TLC needed” into a listing, it means the home needs serious repair.

While you may be willing to put the work, time and money into the repairs needed for a home, you should also consider a few other factors. If you are attempting to qualify for an FHA loan for the property, the bank may not approve the home if it does not meet inspection standards. You may also need to borrow more money than the price of the home to pay for the repairs. You should speak with your loan officer to ensure you qualify for this additional loan money before getting too excited about the home. It is also important to keep in mind that if the home needs extensive repairs, it will be uninhabitable for a certain period of time. Ensure you are prepared for this situation and can either stay in your current residence or are comfortable staying with friends or family to avoid additional living expenses during renovations.

“Cozy” or “Charming”

While cozy and charming may seem like great ways to describe a home, these terms should be loosely interpreted when included in a home listing description. To real estate agents who are creating a home listing, the term “cozy” usually means tiny. To investigate further, you should check the home’s facts in the listing, including its:

  • Square footage.
  • Number of bedrooms.
  • Number of bathrooms.

Cozy homes are usually bungalows, studios or small homes with less square footage. If you’re looking for a home with ample space or multiple bathrooms, one that is described as “cozy” probably won’t be right for you.

“Charming” is another term to look out for in a home listing because it can mean the home has no modern updates or is extremely old. While homes that are described as charming are usually unique and have character, this term may also indicate the home needs updates, renovations and work. This term can also mean the home has some quirky characteristics, such as a small strangely-shaped bathroom or washer and dryer connections in the kitchen.

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A “Quiet” or “Up-and-Coming” Neighborhood

Since location is an important part of choosing your next home, be careful of how the neighborhood or community is described in the listing. If you’re unfamiliar with the home’s location, a term like “up-and-coming” should be considered a red flag. This often means the neighborhood wasn’t considered desirable and is just now starting to be revamped. The rehabilitation of an undesirable neighborhood is often slow-going and it can take years for the area to become the community that you are hoping to live in. If you’re truly interested in a home located in an up-and-coming neighborhood, take the time to visit the community and see if you feel comfortable with its progress.

If you’re focused on living in an urban area or want to be in walking distance of shops and restaurants, a “quiet” neighborhood may not be beneficial for you. This term often means the community is far from the hustle and bustle of any city. If you have children and are hoping to move to a neighborhood that is home to other families with children, you probably should also steer clear of listings that contain the word “quiet.” This usually describes a neighborhood that is isolated and doesn’t include a lot of interaction between neighbors. If a quiet neighborhood is something that appeals to you, take a moment to visit before you take action on the home. Your vision of “quiet” and the real estate agent’s vision of “quiet” may be different.

Home listings are helpful ways to learn more about available homes in the location you desire. However, real estate agents often use creative language to make their home listings sound more appealing to all buyers. If you pay attention to these red flags and do your research on each potential home, you can save yourself time and effort. Keep these buzzwords in mind the next time you browse online or pick up a real estate magazine and you can easily weed out all the homes that don’t meet your qualifications.

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