There is an art to writing a compelling property description, the kind agents create to drive traffic to a new listing and hopefully sell it quickly.
What many unsuspecting buyers don’t realize is that certain phrases in those descriptions have hidden meanings.
Consider these examples from properties that recently hit the market:
Rare opportunity! (Variations: Amazing Find! Must See!)
Translation: This is a fixer or teardown. If you are a typical end user who needs a loan to purchase, you probably will be competing against developers making all cash offers. And even if you manage to win the day and go into escrow, you face two additional hurdles: first, your bank may consider the house in such bad condition that it will not offer you the preferred residential interest rate you thought you had locked in (forcing you to consider a hard money or even construction loan at a higher rate); second, if the house fails to appraise at your purchase price (depressingly common in this market, where appraisals are not keeping up with values), then you will be short on what you owe for the house, and will either have to make it up in cash, renegotiate the price or walk away from the deal.
Be the first to live in this newly constructed dream home!
Translation: This is a flip. Check the title records and you will see that this property was bought by a developer not long ago, quickly renovated and put back on the market for maximum profit. More often than not the house has been carefully staged to give it that high-end showplace look, perhaps to distract you from the cheap cabinets, fixtures and flooring.
Beautiful and tranquil canyon setting only minutes from…
Translation: This home, which may have hooked you because of its prestigious street name, is all the way up at the top of that street – not only the least valuable and desirable part but so remote that you may have trouble convincing friends or relatives to visit. Be sure you get a geological report. Also check to make sure there is a sewer system rather than a septic tank. Cell phone reception could be spotty.
So, descriptions may sometimes hide a problem.
But the ones that should concern buyers the most are the private agent remarks that accompany some MLS listings. Take this one, for example:
Broker and broker’s agent(s) do not represent or guarantee accuracy of the square footage, bedroom/bathroom count, lot size or lot dimensions, permitted or unpermitted spaces, or other information concerning the conditions or features of the property. Buyer is advised to independently verify the accuracy of all information through personal inspection and with appropriate professionals and to satisfy themselves and rely only on that. Broker and Broker’s Representative do not make any representations with regard to what can be built on the subject property. Broker and Broker’s Representative do not make any representations with regard to property boundary line.
Calls to mind those ubiquitous pharmaceutical ads on TV, where the soothing voice of the narrator recites a horrifying list of side effects, up to and including death.