Photos, ad text and what you really get

Showing homes to prospective purchasers creates the opportunity to have expectations dashed or maybe get a pleasant surprise. I am talking about the photos that Realtors attach to their listings and the marketing text, as seen on websites, in emailed flyers, glossy magazines and the Sunday paper.

If you are a buyer or a Realtor, or maybe a seller getting a feel for the market by touring open houses, you have had the experience I am referring to.  Are there any ground rules for marketing text and photos for real property for sale? Well, yes, of course. One should expect to see the text refer to factual statements such as bedrooms, bathrooms, garages spaces, floor coverings, heating systems, etc. It would be really maddening to read that a home is a 4 bedroom only to see it and realize the 4th bedroom is the mud room between the back door and the kitchen.

If you have read a few real estate ads, you can kind of guess the real meaning of some code words used in describing a home. Some are obvious: this home is perfect for a handyman. That seems to mean that the buyer had best be handy with tools and have the talent to fix things and repair, repaint, reseal, regrout, reroof, restucco, etc. One of my favorite phrases is when the blurb says that the home has potential. That might be a clue that it needs work.

But what should you do if you read the ad text and look at the photos and don’t see any hint that the home needs serious work or was abandoned and has sat vacant for several years. You might arrive at the home upset that you went there without an honest description of what you were going to see.

Is it wrong to puff up the description to make a house seem much nicer than it actually is?  There are some minor exaggerations, and then there are the bald-faced lies. Buyer beware, indeed.

And what about the photos? Someone will want to present the home in the best light possible; to show the best angles and display the most favorable features. But is it doing the seller a favor if the photos make it look spiffy and clean only to find it a wreck with serious rodent infestation and broken windows?

Who is fooling whom?  Hey, we are all supposed to know better, right? If you see one that says bank owned or says it’s a short sale, should you expect move-in ready? Well, no, but how about informing the buyer’s Realtor and the buyer what the true condition of the home is?

Some are looking for those fixer-uppers; those with potential that are perfect for a handyman. Should there be a field in the data where everyone that sees the home rates it from 1 to 10 with the cumulative average rating updated regularly?

Then, possibly the buyer can say “I just want to see 3s and 4s and 5s” Or another buyer can exclaim they are not interested in anything other than an eight plus…

Thanks for listening. Enjoy your tour.


Photos, ad text and what you really get — 1 Comment

  1. Alan, interesting take on the frequent disconnect between marketing pictures and copy. I do not think buyers can be fooled given the majority are beginning their search online. What is missing is the second check by sellers about how their home is actually being marketed online. The net is bringing transparency to real estate.