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NEIGHBORHOOD OF THE WEEK: Don’t be April Fooled by these listing phrases

by TYLER WILSON/Special to The Press
| April 3, 2022 1:00 AM

Look at enough real estate listings and you notice certain familiar phrases and language patterns. Most take a “nuts and bolts” approach, providing helpful details and showcasing unique features with sparse language.

Occasionally, a listing will get a little too fanciful. When you describe something with so many superlatives, readers may feel some skepticism about the property. Other times, the listings can be full of vague descriptions, and, combined with just a few images, makes a listing seem like it’s hiding something bad.

As we enter spring and more listings hit the market, watch out for tricksters who exaggerate the good stuff and withhold negative attributes. Study the available photos, schedule an in-person tour and inquire about the details that matter. See below for some potential “fools” to watch in listings.

Hone in on details about “updated” and “renovated” homes

A newly remodeled home, no matter the age, typically looks appealing in those photographs and even in person. However, it’s important to know the extent of the update. Are we talking about a fresh paint job and some new kitchen countertops? That’s certainly nice, but if it’s an older home, you’ll also want to know the status of the furnace and age of the roof, among other things. Pay attention to structural issues that need to be addressed beyond those pretty new details.

This leads to a major general (salute!) recommendation — No matter how it’s described or how nice it looks, a proper home inspection should be an essential part of the buying process.

It can be tempting to offer some incentives to your offer if you are competing with other buyers, including offers without certain contingencies designed to protect people from risky investments. Unless you know how to identify certain issues yourself or have made an extensive budget for future renovation, it’s important for a professional to inspect those “good bones.”

“Spacious” might be average. “Comfy” might be small.

Intentionally or not, many agents like to use the word “spacious” in listings, though we all obviously have a different opinion of what “spacious” means. I have four kids, so “spacious” for me should translate to “freaking humongous.” It rarely does in my experience.

The word appears in descriptions of family rooms, master bedrooms and garages. Garage descriptions are all over the place, by the way. You get these “two-car garages" that wouldn’t fit the typical Idahoan’s idea of a vehicle, as well as these “extra large two-car garages,” which, to me anyway, looks to mean just “two-car garage.”

On the opposite end of the spectrum though not as common is “comfy,” which tends to be a nice way of saying small.

Pictures can be deceiving

The angle of an image can alter the entire perception of a given space. You can make a tiny kitchen look huge with the right angle, for example.

One of the biggest fibs across listings relates to the number of bedrooms, with many listings claiming that a closet-less and/or window-less space counts as a bedroom. Nope. Call that sucker an office or an “extra storage” space, but don’t try and tell me I’m fitting a queen-size bed and a dresser in there.

Staging can also result in misleading pictures. As happy as I am in my current home, we saw firsthand how a setup of “smaller furniture” can make a room look bigger. For example, the kitchen table in the pictures looked like a normal, round table. In real life, you could barely seat two people at it.

“Quiet” and other descriptions of the neighborhood

Look, I’m not calling anyone a liar, but I’ll be the judge of what I consider to be “quiet.” Why are you bringing this up in the first place? Aren’t most suburban neighborhoods designed to be “quiet?” If you’re saying this, consider the reason why. Is it worth saying “quiet” because it’s close to the freeway? Are you trying to tell me that those train tracks behind the backyard only occasionally welcome trains?

It’s fairly easy to check out a neighborhood, night and day. Drive by the place a few times and don’t take anyone’s word for it. You’ll be the one living there, not the selling agent, and definitely not the people trying to leave.

Beware definitive timelines on construction

If the pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that you should expect the unexpected. Even before the challenges of COVID, many factors can delay a construction project. A new home might be “on-schedule” 99 percent of the time and still come in late because of one seemingly small issue. So if you’re buying something new, leave yourself a little wiggle room when it comes to the move-in date.

• • •

Let us know about more story ideas, standout neighborhoods and developments that we may feature in an upcoming Neighborhood of the Week. Contact Tyler Wilson at twilson@cdapress.com.

Real Estate Agents, take advantage of Neighborhood of the Week by sending in your suggestions for featured areas, including sites outside the normal confines of Coeur d’Alene, Post Falls and Hayden.

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