Navigate Online Listings Like a Pro

The majority of today’s buyers begin their real estate search online. If you’re new to the home-buying process, it’s important to have an understanding that sellers will generally present their homes in the best possible light. They want buyers to feel like they are getting value for their money. In order to make sure you actually are, check out the tips below before searching for listings online.


Double-check the details

In most California MLS (Multiple Listing Service) platforms, you must limit the description of a home to 1,000 characters or less. Because of this, a skilled realtor chooses the words in an online listing very carefully.

As a potential buyer, pay careful attention to phrases such as “fixer-upper” or “needs TLC”, which almost always mean that you will need to invest quite a bit of time and money into making the home livable.

Words like “cozy” or “cute” may actually indicate “tiny” or “no standing room”, and a home described as “charming” might just be outdated. Blatant call-to-action phrases like “won’t last!” and over-use of CAPS LOCK may indicate an inexperienced seller.

The word “unique” may just be a tactful way of telling you that the house is an eyesore. If “new carpet” is listed as a feature, always ask what’s under it. And suggestions such as “den could be used as bedroom” are over-promising and misleading.

However, “move-in condition” or “remodel” are usually clear indications that the home has actually been renovated recently, while “updated” may just refer to a few coats of paint.


Red flags

Bare-bones description: If the property has brand-new countertops or energy efficient features, you better believe that the seller will make those details front and center on their online listing. A description that seems to be lacking usually indicates that the house is, too. The phrase “if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all” is particularly relevant in cases such as these.

No photos: Another major warning sign is when the seller has only uploaded an exterior photo to the listing. Unless the home isn’t ready to show yet, or the sellers have a ridiculous amount of valuables that they don’t want the public to see, assume they have something to hide.

“Seller anxious” or “seller motivated”: This is a real phrase that real people add to their listings, and it means that you should always ask the listing agent why they are selling. It might mean that the home is in or near foreclosure, market-worn, or that they have not received many offers due to a list price that’s way too high. The listing should be about the house, not the seller’s desperation.

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