15 Things Not to Say in Your Real Estate Listing

Say the wrong in your real estate listing and potential buyers won't even bother checking out your house.

By Glenda Taylor and Andreana Lefton | Updated Jul 31, 2023 06:32 PM

Use Your Words Wisely

real estate listing tips

If you're putting your house on the market, you're probably anxious to sell it quickly and move on—but you also want to get the best possible price. Today’s real estate listing venues, many of which are online, provide sellers with a great platform for showcasing their homes. Sellers can even offer details about the things that make their home special, going far beyond standard data like the age of the house and its location. Err on the side of caution, however. Setting unreasonable terms or misrepresenting your property can anger or discourage potential buyers, possibly even causing a buyer to walk away from a contract. If you want the sale of your home to go smoothly, here are 15 things you shouldn't say in a real estate listing.


Your Asking Price Is Firm

Real Estate Listing Firm Asking Price

Some sellers don’t like haggling, so they publish their bottom-dollar price and then plan on refusing to budge. While that might work in a super-hot housing market, stating that you won’t negotiate on your asking price will deter many potential buyers from bothering to look at your house. In a typical real estate deal, after the initial offer and subsequent counteroffers, the final agreed-upon sales price is often 5 to 6 percent below the original asking price. To increase the odds that you will end up at the price you want, have your house professionally appraised, and then set your asking price slightly higher to give some room for negotiation.

Related: 8 Times to Accept a Lowball Offer


Overestimating Living Space

Real Estate Listing Living Space

This is an easy one to get wrong if you have a home with a sloped ceiling in a finished attic or loft. According to Fannie Mae and the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) you should count the floor area only where the ceiling is 5 feet high or higher. In other words, don't include any square footage beneath the low edges of sloped attic rooms as “living space” on your real estate listing.

Related: The Best Things You Can Do for the Value of Your Home


Counting Basement Bedrooms

Real Estate Listing Basement Bedroom

You probably know you shouldn’t include basement square footage when you're calculating your house’s total living space, but you may not know that you also shouldn’t include basement bedrooms in the total either. If you want to let sellers know about extra space—for example, if you have three bedrooms upstairs and two in the basement—list your house as having “3+ bedrooms,” and then in the full description of the property, explain that the additional bedrooms are in the basement.

Related: 8 Red Flags to Look For in a Real Estate Listing


You Won’t Accept Contingent Offers

Real Estate Listing Contingent Offer

A contingent offer is an offer made by someone who wants to buy your house but may require additional time to arrange financing, or may need to sell an existing home before closing on yours. While you may grimace at contingent offers, don’t exclude them right off the bat. Instead, if you like the other terms a buyer is offering, accept the offer but insist on a first right of refusal. That way, although your house is under contract, you can continue to show it to other prospective buyers. If you get a better offer, the first buyer must find a way to remove the contingency and purchase your house within a set time (usually two to four days).

Related: 10 Things You Never Knew Your Real Estate Agent Can Do for You


You Won’t Sell Unless You Find a New Home

Real Estate Listing Buying New Home

If you really want to sell your house, don’t tell potential buyers that you won’t sell until you find a new home that you like. We get it—no one wants to move out of a house until they know they have a new one to move into, but buyers don’t like making offers on homes they might not ultimately be permitted to buy. Instead, ask for an extended closing period, such as 60 to 90 days, instead of the traditional 30 days. If you find a new home, you can close earlier; if not, you'll have bought yourself a little more time to house shop.

Related: 12 Reasons a Realtor Might Not Want to Work with You


Listing Your Appliances as Part of the Deal

Real Estate Listing Appliances Included

Moving large appliances like refrigerators and ranges is a pain in the neck, so many sellers prefer to leave their appliances and buy new ones for their new home. That's fine, just don’t list them as “going with the house.” If you do, the appliances, just like the rest of your house, will be subject to inspection, and if one of them doesn’t make the grade, the buyer could be able to back out of the contract. If a buyer asks whether the appliances are available, you can say you’ll leave them but won’t guarantee them—and put this in a written addendum to the contract. As an alternative, you can sell the appliances yourself before you leave.

Related: Buyers Pay More for Homes with These 12 Features


Listing Incorrect Information

Real Estate Listing Incorrect Information

Don’t fudge on your house’s material facts. Buyers rely on the information in your listing, and if you misstate the age of the house, exaggerate the size of the lot, or even falsely characterize the neighborhood as “safe” when it’s actually prone to frequent burglaries, you could lose a potential buyer. At worst, you could be facing a lawsuit for misrepresentation. Be honest and double-check your listing for typos: A buyer who thinks you have 20 acres won’t be happy to discover you have just 2.

Related: 11 Lies You Can't Tell When Selling Your Home


Listing Your House “As Is”

Real Estate Listing As Is

When potential buyers see “as is” in a real estate listing, they picture a dilapidated home with a sinking foundation and a leaky roof. If your home could use some repairs but you’re not inclined to tackle the projects yourself, don’t draw attention to the problems by saying “as is.” Instead, list your home’s strong points, then detail its defects in a separate disclosure form that potential buyers will see when they make an offer.

Related: 10 Reasons Why I Should Have Never Bought That Fixer-Upper!


Advertise That You’re a “Motivated Seller”

Real Estate Listing Motivated Seller

At least, don't start out by stating that you're a "motivated seller." The term smells of desperation and could encourage prospective buyers to make lowball offers because they think you'll have to take the deal. Rather, describe your house to the best of your ability and don’t overprice it. Odds are, if the housing market is stable in your community and houses similar to yours are selling well, you could get a decent offer in the first few weeks that could net you thousands of dollars more than if you had claimed up front that you were “motivated.”

Related: These 9 Websites Make Buying or Selling Your Home Easier


Employing Euphemisms

real estate listing terms

Word choice speaks volumes about your home’s condition, especially when you use euphemisms. Terms like “nice,” “potential,” “bargain,” and “opportunity,” all send warning signals that your dwelling is, in fact, less than ideal. Even descriptors like “cozy,” “custom-built,” and “vintage” could be code for small rooms and dated interiors.

Related: 19 Red Flags to Watch Out For When Buying a Home


Excluding Potential Buyers

real estate listing inclusive language

By choosing neutral and inclusive language, you can ensure that no potential buyer is excluded. Expressions like “family home” or “great for newlyweds” are no longer recommended, due to so many different living situations. Gender-specific terms can also deter potential buyers, so nix phrases like “his-and-hers closets” and “bachelor pad.”

Related: 10 Questions to Always Ask at an Open House


Piling on the “Fluff”

real estate listing fluff

While you may be tempted to boost enthusiasm for your property with exclamation points and flowering prose, beware! Real estate listings should be written cleanly and professionally. Certain adjectives have been correlated with lower home sale prices. The top fluff to eliminate? “Spacious,” “fantastic,” “charming,” and “great neighborhood.”

Related: Real Estate Regret: 13 Simple Ways to Avoid It


Forgetting (Good) Photos

real estate listing photos

One of the cardinal sins of house listings is not including photos—or using poorly lit, unprofessional snapshots. This goes for rental properties, too. Your listing description could be 100% perfect, but without good images you send a clear signal: We’re not house-proud. Hiring a professional photographer is a surefire way to show off the best of your space. If you choose to take pictures on your own, make sure you clean the house and let in natural light.

Related: 11 Awful Real Estate Photos—And How to Make Yours Great


Choosing Images that Don’t Match Up

real estate listing accuracy

Potential buyers will sense a scam if a listing’s text and photos don’t match up. If you describe your backyard as an “English garden,” be sure to include photos showing off this piece of paradise. The same goes for interior rooms and any features you particularly wish to highlight. Always back up your claims with photographic evidence.

Related: Buyer Beware: 9 Real Estate Scams to Watch Out For


Requesting “Buyers to Verify Permits”

real estate listing documents

Yes, you want to be honest. But don’t scare off potential buyers with the phrase “buyers to verify permits.” This could spell out a legal headache or additional costs for new owners. For example, a buyer may need to pay additional licensing costs for home additions or other renovations – beyond the listed price.

Related: The Most Expensive Mistakes a Home Buyer Can Make


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