When searching for a new home or condo to purchase, you’ll surely be scouring the MLS for listings day after day, week after week.
In the listings you’ll find everything from square footage to the number of bedrooms, bathrooms, the city the property is located in, and much more.
Unfortunately, there is also a disclaimer that says you must verify the details yourself, and not rely on what you read in this description.
In other words, the listing agent can throw up information that they believe is accurate, but aren’t really accountable for.
Clearly this can lead to quite a few surprises, with none of them likely good.
The Lofty Two Bedroom
One word real estate agents love to use is “lofty.” Often times this is used to express that there’s not actually a separate bedroom, but rather a loft. So a one-bedroom condo with a loft may be listed as a 2-bedroom condo.
In reality, when you go to check out the property, you’ll be told that it’s a one-bedroom with loft. Of course, this is only if you ask the agent.
If you simply take their word for it, you’ll end up with a one bedroom with loft that may be advertised as something better.
If you ask, they have to tell you what it really is. And the truth may impact the value of the place, so it’s important to ask about and verify all the information you see in the MLS listing.
No Shared Walls
Another one I’ve come across is the infamous “no shared walls.” Any time a real estate agent sees an angle, they will exploit it to no end.
So if they believe a condo has no shared walls, they will boast about it, even if it’s not really true or verified.
I’ve heard of homebuyers purchasing properties based on the assumption that the information in the MLS is correct, only to find out that they’ve been misled.
Later, after the close of escrow, when they go to put in hardwood floors, they’re told that they have a neighbor living below them, and that it’s against the HOA rules to put in hardwood above another living space.
FHA Financing Okay!
Again, real estate agents will throw up any information they think will help sell a property, even if it’s not really true.
This isn’t to say they’re being outright malicious, but if they believe it to be true, for whatever reason, they’ll throw it up there. And they’ll err on the side of making it appear more attractive to a potential buyer.
So an agent may say the property qualifies for all types of financing, including FHA financing, which is harder to get approved for by condo associations these days.
Before you make a bid, make sure you know exactly what type of financing is permitted, otherwise you could just be wasting your time.
Square Footage Lie
Perhaps the most common misinformation in MLS listings is the square footage. At the top of the listing you’ll see the square footage inputted by the agent.
At the bottom of the listing you’ll see the square footage per public record. Often times these two numbers are different, and it’s best to go off the public record for better accuracy.
Either way, you should ask and verify to ensure you get what you intend to pay for. Don’t expect the agents to know the exact numbers.
You’ll just get the “as far as I know” line all day long, so be sure to take any information they give you with a huge grain of salt.
If you’re feeling especially ambitious, you can always bring your own tape measure and collect the numbers yourself.
That’s really the only way to know for sure if what’s advertised is actually correct. You’ll also want to check that any additions or conversions are properly permitted.
As for the other details, don’t be afraid to ask a million questions. Real estate agents get paid a lot of money, so you have a right to ask as many questions as you see fit.
Also do plenty of exploring. Open every door, drawer, window, etc.
Get to know the place as well as possible to reduce unwanted surprises later, once walking away is out of the question.
Read more: Should I go to my home inspection?