Foreclosure Real Estate Listings

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Sunday, September 9, 2012

How To Know A Home-Sale Listing Is Deceiving You

CHICAGO (MarketWatch)—Summer’s waning, but for prospective home buyers who have yet to find their dream home, all hope is not lost for this year. It’s entirely possible to move before the holidays.

But you’ll need to be efficient in your search, spending time on only those listings that have the most potential.

It isn’t always easy. A listing won’t tell you everything, and sometimes they can be downright deceiving.

“A lot of stuff on the Internet isn’t available or isn’t as described,” said Marge Bish, of Buyers Advantage Group Realty in Raleigh, N.C. Some listings just scream that they’re too good to be true.

For example, she gets five calls a week inquiring about a 3,400 square foot home that is listed for $64,000. The interior pictures listed with the home look nothing like the reality, Bish said. Her opinion: The house is in such disrepair it needs to be torn down.

“Now, when people call, I say ‘Are you a contractor? If you’re not, you don’t want to know anything about this house,’” she said.

While a good real-estate agent should be able to help you come up with a short list of properties to see, based on your requirements and their general knowledge of the housing inventory, a prospective buyer can also do some sleuthing to determine whether a listing is worthy of a closer look.

Real Estate Listing In Lake Stevens, Wa - 3 Bedroom, 3 Bath Home Listed At Just $339,950
Real Estate Listing In Lake Stevens, Wa - 3 Bedroom, 3 Bath Home Listed At Just $339,950! (Photo credit: AntonStetner)
Below are several tips from real-estate agents across the country.

Beware Of Missing Photos
If there’s a glaring omission in the photos that are supplied in the listing, it’s possible that the seller is hiding something that’s less than ideal.

“Let’s say the listing has no pictures of the kitchen in it—usually a sign that the kitchen is not great. Same goes for the backyard, or any other feature you would expect to see pictures of,” said Bill Golden, with Re/Max Metro Atlanta Cityside.

Now, that’s not to say the lack of good photos always means trouble, said Rachel Elaine Swann, of Hill & Co. Real Estate in San Francisco. Sometimes they’re good properties with poor marketing—and when the masses overlook these properties, those who take the time to see them could have a better opportunity to get a bargain, she said.

Don’t Fall For Doctored Photos
“If a buyer sees an image that has distorted proportions, a fisheye look, or if it just appears way too good to be true, the [home] probably looks better in photos than it really is in person,” said Jason Haber, chief executive of Rubicon Property in Manhattan.

Also, be aware that sometimes when a home is staged it will be furnished sparsely and with furniture scaled to a very small size, in an effort to make the place look larger than it actually is, said Michael Byrd, broker of SLO HomeStore in Grover Beach, Calif.

And sometimes, listing agents use the powers of Photoshop too liberally. For example, Bob Miles, of Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate Gary Greene, in the Houston area, said that large power lines were edited out of the listing photos for one home—and power lines can be a deal-breaker for some prospective home buyers.

“That’s deceptive. You don’t have to shoot with the power lines front and center, but it’s good to have an indication that they are there,” he said.

His recommendation is for buyers to use Google street view maps for an unbiased look at the home’s surroundings—or drive by the home—before scheduling the showing.

Descriptions Can Be Deceiving
Some agents have a habit of using adjectives like “amazing” or “beautiful” to describe rooms or features without explaining exactly what makes these spaces so special. Others use descriptors like “cozy” for smaller homes or “vintage” for outdated ones.

“I would not advise people taking too seriously the description of the house,” said Bill Raveis, chief executive of William Raveis Real Estate, a real-estate firm based in the Northeast. Look at the basics, he said, including how many bedrooms and bathrooms there are and the price per square foot, but “don’t read the description and believe it.”

On the other hand, descriptors such as “contractor’s special” or “fixer” are a cue that some work is going to be needed to get this home in good shape. A follow-up call from you or your agent could determine how much work may be needed.

Remember That Short Sales Take Time
If you’d like to move soon, be aware that short sales still take a good amount of time to complete.

Short sales have been the bane of everyone’s existence,” Bish said. While the process to complete a short sale has gotten a little better, it still can be very lengthy, she said.

Meanwhile, many foreclosures are in bad shape and need work before they’re livable, and that may rule them out for those looking for a move-in ready property, she said.

But sometimes a listing won’t reveal if a home is a foreclosure or short sale, Bish said. A follow-up call from you or your agent might be required to tell if the property is distressed.

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