8 Red Flags to Look For in a Real Estate Listing

Real estate listings are written to sell houses, period. While most agents maintain an honesty-is-best policy when writing house listings, that won't keep them from highlighting a home's best, and downplaying the worst. If you've ever been taken in by glowing listings filled with euphemisms and white lies, you know you can waste a lot of time viewing the wrong properties. But if you look carefully at house listings, you can decode the most common—and sneaky—descriptors used by agents. Armed with this knowledge, you'll be better able to discern which for-sale houses are worth a visit, and which properties you might want to skip.

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  1. Cozy Charm


    When used in a real estate listing, the words “cozy” or “charming” aren't describing the ambiance of the space so much as the size. Translation: This home is small. Tiny houses are a trend, for sure. But if that’s not what you’re looking for, keep shopping.

    Related: 18 Big Storage Ideas to Steal from Tiny Homes


  2. Vintage Style


    If you see a bathroom or kitchen described as “vintage,” that means they’re old. Like, from the 50’s. If that’s your style, you're in luck. But if not, you'll want to factor in the cost of renovations before deciding if this home is both in your budget and worth a visit.

    Related: 12 Ideas to Steal from Vintage Kitchens


  3. Market Watch


    If it’s “back on the market,” there’s a reason why the original sale fell through. The reason for a botched sale could lie with the previous buyer, but you'll want to do your homework before you give the seller the benefit of the doubt. Keep an eye out for serious maintenance issues that may be disguised by quick surface repairs, and call in a trusted home inspector to help you spot any hidden problems.

    Related: The 12 Fall Home Maintenance Tasks You Can't Ignore


  4. Beware Bespoke


    When a home listing touts its “custom” features, take care. What sounds impressive on paper may look less appealing in person. After all, custom upgrades (like any decor choice) reflect the taste of the previous owner, and may or may not be to your taste.

    Related: 7 Features That Define the New American Home


  5. The New "It" Neighborhood


    You might expect an “up-and-coming” neighborhood to be artsy and hip but that's not always the case. In many listings, the term is used to describe to an area that's in the process of transition. Perhaps the residential block is filled with old or rundown properties, with a few newly renovated homes sprinkled throughout. Before you buy, consider what the neighborhood will look like in the long term and if you want to live in a neighborhood that's still in the process of change.

    Related: 9 Ways Your Neighbors Can Screw Up Your Home Sale


  6. A Little Love


    If a place is advertised as needing TLC then it’s likely a bona fide fixer-upper. That could be good news, if you're on a strict budget and are open to purchasing a time-intensive starter house. Before you make an offer, call on an excellent inspector who can clearly explain the home's pain points. After all, you wouldn't want to get stuck with a money pit.

    Related: 10 Signs That Fixer-Upper Might Be a Money Pit


  7. Character Study


    It may sound charming, but a house that's described as having “lots of character” could look just plain weird in person. Don’t be surprised if you see strange angles, unconventional trim work, and doors that lead to nowhere. Before you go to a showing, do a little more research to see if the home has a local reputation, so you'll be prepared for any oddities you may encounter.

    Related: 12 Things Realtors Look For in Homes of Their Own


  8. Sounds of Silence


    A house located in a “quiet” location may be slightly off the beaten track—or, it may be out-and-out secluded. Take a close look at the map before you head out to the hills to determine the listing's proximity to civilization. You may want the retreat, but ask yourself if you're truly ready for all it entails.

    Related: The Best 10 Plants to Grow for Backyard Privacy


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