If you’re looking to invest in properties, one skill you’ll need to hone is reading real estate listings. To the untrained eye, a real estate listing is a skeleton – a bare frame that’s only filled by photos and a tour of the property – but to the experienced reader, property descriptions are a code easily unraveled. What’s more, when you know how to read between the lines of a description, you also know how to write your own high-conversion rental listings.
Save yourself time and money during your next property search by becoming a savvy interpreter of real estate language. To get you started, here are five red flags to watch out for. You’ll be glad you didn’t waste your time visiting that “great starter home” that was the size of a closet.
Where Are The Pictures?
Before you even reach the text of the listing, take a quick look – are there pictures of the property included? At a time when everyone has a relatively high quality camera attached to their cell phone, there’s no excuse for not including images.
When an agent opts to post a listing without photos, their goal is to disguise major flaws that they believe make the home virtually unmarketable. Maybe the siding is crumbling or the walls are cracked and peeling. Unless they’re marketing this as a cheap “tear down” property or something that can be radically “flipped,” don’t bother reading any further if you don’t see pictures.
What’s a Custom Home?
When a listing says that a property is a “custom home,” the untrained reader often understands this to be a good thing. After all, doesn’t the word custom suggest that the home has been upgraded, and connote luxury? While that might be the case with a high-end custom car, describing a property as a custom home generally means that the former owner had unusual and even questionable taste.
Instead of reading “custom,” try inconvenient or inappropriate. The same goes for “one of a kind” or even “unique” homes. Maybe the prior owner installed a shower stall next to the refrigerator or painted a half wall to look like the waves of the ocean. For what it’s worth, even Houston’s famous beer can home, since turned museum, could be called a custom home – but you’re not interested in buying a house covered in flattened aluminum cans.
Did You Screen That Tenant?
Since your real estate hunt is based on the ultimate goal of renting out what you buy to a tenant, seeing a property advertised as “tenant-occupied” can at first seem like a beacon. If the property has already been rented out, you might assume that it’s already well-appointed and maintained by the prior owner, and that you’ll be able to turn around and rent the home out again almost immediately after purchase. Unfortunately, not all owners and property managers are as responsible as you are, and tenant-occupied is often code for “it’s a mess.”
Pictures included of a tenant-occupied property, for example, may be from before the tenant moved in and trashed the place, either because the owner hasn’t been inside recently or they’re hoping to use the power of suggestion to sell the place – it looked this way once, and maybe you can make it look this good again. Maybe so, but it also could be the case that poor upkeep has caused structural damage to the home.
Cozy or Just Too Small?
Unless you’re looking to buy a cabin in the woods, “cozy” isn’t a word you want to see in a property listing. Rather, cozy – sometimes also framed as intimate or modest – is a realtor’s way of saying that it’s a small space, so you better really like the people you live with. If you commonly rent to single people on a budget, cozy homes may work well for you, but don’t fall for the appeal of this word. Instead, remember that you could also describe a studio apartment in New York City as cozy, and everyone knows those apartments are just glorified closets.
Home listings that lean on the word cozy may also include terms like “efficiency kitchen,” also known as a kitchen where you have to sit on top of the sink with your feet in the garbage can when it’s time to eat. For people who never cook this might be okay, but most people prefer a little room to navigate around the knives and flames.
What Makes It Trendy?
An “up-and-coming” or “trendy” neighborhood sounds like the perfect place to buy properties at a reasonable cost, with the goal of pricing them up as the neighborhood gains popularity in the near future, but there’s no way to know how long it will be before this developing area really arrives on the scene. In order to determine whether this is really a tenable location, check out the area for simple amenities, like an independent coffee shop or cute restaurants. These are great indicators that the neighborhood really is developing into a great place.
Alternatively, that up-and-coming neighborhood may be more of an urban renewal project in the works with high levels of street crime or a lot of noise and construction as old buildings come down and new ones go up. Unless you can reliably predict that the construction and chaos will have slowed by the time you’re ready to rent, wait a little longer on those supposedly trendy areas.
Expert Property Insights with Green Residential
With over thirty years of Houston area property management experience, Green Residential is the name to trust when you need real estate expertise. From listings to rentals to finances to maintenance, we provide a full service management experience designed to meet your needs.
Don’t be fooled by real estate jargon – call Green Residential today to talk to our team of professionals. We partner with you every step of the way for property management done right, so don’t delay. The difference will amaze you.