Use Your Words Wisely
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
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
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.
Counting Basement Bedrooms
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.
You Won’t Accept Contingent Offers
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).
You Won’t Sell Unless You Find a 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.
Listing Your Appliances as Part of the Deal
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.
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.
Listing Your House “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.
Advertise That You’re a “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.”
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.
Excluding Potential Buyers
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.”
Piling on the “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.”
Forgetting (Good) 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.
Choosing Images that Don’t Match Up
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.
Requesting “Buyers to Verify Permits”
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.
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