When Searching for a New Home

Updated on January 17, 2013
C.J. asks from Fort Worth, TX
11 answers

did anything in the listing ever make you feel deceived? I'd like to learn from others.
for example - we are looking for a new home. We want an in-ground pool and when I put that in the criteria sometimes I find it is really a hot tub or an above ground pool. when that happens I feel a little hoodwinked.
Any other creative listing descriptions we should be on the lookout for?

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So What Happened?

Great advice to all. Yes, we have a buyers agent (my friend and licensed RE agent)who will be working on our behalf. I am just poking around on realtor.com and got super frustrated at all the above ground pools/spas since this is one (I said one, not the only) of the reasons we are moving is to acquire this feature.
I love the sq foot info. I will be sure to ask my realtor to check that, too if she doesn't offer it. FYI our real search begins in April, so all this info will be wonderful to have on hand!

Featured Answers



answers from Kansas City on

Be careful with square footage. Some calculate whatever is under the roof (unfinished basement included) or others might include enclosed porches and garages. The square footage listed might not actually be usable space!

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answers from Columbia on

Listings are often written to make flaws sound acceptable.

Charming, dollhouse, cozy...all synonyms for "small." Perfect for the handyman? Delapitated. Close-in or close to shopping? Small lots. Established neighborhood...that can be good OR bad. Sometimes it means "really old houses," and sometimes it means "older NICE houses that aren't too close together in a neighborhood with big trees." New neighborhood...means all the trees are chopped down and half is not done being built yet.

You get used to it. Photos are even more misleading. Often, the house that looks great in the book or online is less than impressive in person...and the houses with just a couple odd-ball photos that you skim over are the ones worth looking at.

A few other tips:

Pay close attention to room sizes. A 10X10' master bedroom? Yikes.

Find out if your county has a GIS/plat map website. You can type in the address and see what the lot looks like...property lines and everything. Google Maps is nice, but you can't see the property lines and measurements.

Find yourself a buyer's agent. They work for you, and you don't have to pay them. Make a list of exactly what you want, and hand it over.

Make note of what you're willing to be flexible on and what you're not.

Keep in mind that some things can be changed, and some can't. Be reasonable. It's not uncommon for someone who is looking for a house to walk in and decide they don't like a great house based on silly things that are easily, cheaply, and quickly changed or updated. Paint can be changed. Flooring can be updated. Light fixtures can be changed. Trim can be painted. Kitchens and bathrooms can even be remodelled (for a price). But the size of the lot isn't going to get any bigger, you can't put in a basement when there isn't one, plaster walls SUCK, and it's a pain in the butt to find a place to put a second bathroom in old, one-bathroom houses.

Pay attention to how long a home has been on the market, and whether or not they've lowered the price recently.

When you find the house you love, take home the listing and search for comparable homes. Look for homes in the area that are the same squarefootage. Then look for homes that are the same price. Same amenities. You can find out if their listing price is fair in this way.

Our house is 3,400sf. It's huge and clean...but needs lots of updating. We got a stellar deal because most people walked in and saw goofy 1978 kitchen and bathrooms...and wouldn't even consider how great the house will be once those are remodelled. We saw (and still see) the potential of a home that we will live in for the rest of our lives. We see all the great projects we can do, because it's huge and we can do anything we want to it.

Bottom line: Don't be too criteria oriented when you're searching online. Put in the basics. Size, location, number of bedrooms and baths, age of home, size of lot. You can put in a pool if the house is the right price.


♥Christy Lee

8 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

when using the search criteria, just because you put in 'in-ground pool', a hit is going to come back with any variation of pool.

just 'has A/C' listed could mean whole house, or just window units.
Central A/C means whole house with a main unit.

'Subpump' means that there is a good possibility of the basement flooding.

You can also tell alot about a house from paying attention to the details. If you see a picture with lots of flowers against the house, know that there is potential for water damage. If there are large trees hanging over the house, you will be clearing gutters regularly. If there is a basement with outside stairs that lead up/out, that is a potential for a flood area.

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answers from Wichita Falls on

This is why you work with a realtor you trust. They will weed out what you don't want and can steer you to some you wouldn't have looked at but do work.
Other look out terms "charming" means small
"good for a handy man" barely still standing, won't pass inspection
"will surprise you" - uhhh, never in good way

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

I felt deceived when I arrived at a home that said it had a basement. (This was back in 1996.) My realtor showed me the listing sheet and it said basement.) Turns out, it was just 5 steps down that led to the family room, utility room, and bathroom. Well... even though I don't consider 3 ft. underground to be considered a basement, I loved the home! We bought the house and have been living in it for 16 years. My 10 year olds use the dormer as a playroom. It is very large and they have a craft/board game table in there, desk, tv and wii and exercise equipment. I would really prefer to have room to store Christmas stuff etc. in a room that you can stand in, but the crawlspace works. So... having it listed unfairly turned out to be a blessing for us because I would have missed out in seeing this "my" home. Moral of the story...... sometimes you don't really "need" what you think you need.

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answers from Miami on

C. Lee has given you great advise. Megan has brought up some good points, but I do want to say that many places have sump pumps in the basements as a matter of course - it's just what all the houses in the area do. I would not assume that a house has water problems just because there is a sump pump in the basement. I've lived in 2 houses with sump pumps and never had the issue with either.

Be careful to look at the list of questions and see what the answers are. If they don't answer a question like "have you had water damage", that's a red flag. Sometimes people have a problem and then they get the work done to fix it. You should ask to see the certificate that shows that there is a warranty on the work.


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answers from Boston on

Real estate practices can vary, state to state. One thing I'd be very cautious about is your real estate agent. Don't get me wrong: working with a good agent is great! Still, in Massachusetts anyway, unless you use a buyer's agent, you need to assume that any agent is working for the seller. No matter how friendly & easy-going they seem, they have a fiduciary responsibility TO THE SELLER -- not to you, the buyer. Make sure you do your own homework. Look at a lot of houses -- it will help you narrow down what you really want and don't want in a house. Talk to people. If possible, once you think you've decided on a home, have someone you trust who knows you well look at it with you. Ask them to look for downsides. Take their reviews into consideration.

When you sign your purchase & sale agreement, make sure the sale is conditional on a successful home inspection. Find a home inspector on your own (ask at the bank where you're getting your mortgage, ask a friend, look around). Don't use a inspector recommended by the listing (or selling) agent.

Ask about the neighbors. Walk around the area. Where's the grocery store? What school will your children attend? Is there a bus stop?

We took a camera with us & took a bunch of pictures. It was the only way we could keep things straight in our head -- especially if we saw more than 2 houses in a day.

It amazes me that people spend less time looking at a house they're going to live in than they do choosing a new suit! Still, it happens all the time. People make a quick 15- 20 minute tour and buy a home, making perhaps the biggest financial commitment of their lives!

Good luck. Have fun -- and I hope you find a lovely pool with a great house to go with it.

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answers from Atlanta on

It depends how it's entered in to the system. Like, I would search for houses with a basement, and I kept getting all these houses with no basement in my search results! I was so frustrated! Then I realized that having no basement could be entered into the system two ways. The realtor could have typed Basement: No or None, and those houses never came up in my search. But a lot of times, the realtor would have inputted Basement: Slab, and the search engine recognized this as a positive response to "Basement." It made searching a lot harder, but no one was trying to fool me. It was just a computer glitch.

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answers from Oklahoma City on

They put it in like that so that general terms like pool take in all sorts of stuff. This way they get more views on their counter for certain properties. It makes it look like they are doing a good job and lots of work for their clients when in fact it is a computer program.

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answers from Minneapolis on

Make sure the house was not smoked in. (unless you are a smoker ;)

The smell never ever goes away no matter what you do. Trust me.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

I am in the real estate industry, and have come to realize that the internet is a tool, but only useful with the resources of a real estate professional. I would suggest that your friend that is licensed, but might not do this as a full time job either defer to or contract with another agent who can vet out these properties better and provide full representation to you in searching for a home.

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