Reading Between the Lines: What Real Estate Listings Really Mean


When you read real estate listings, you know that realtors use colorful language to describe the properties. However, don’t get sucked in by the buzz words. Learn how to read between the lines and decipher what real estate listings really mean by reading this article!

Nowadays, 90% of buyers search for homes online. In the past, buyers were reliant on real estate agents to find out what homes were for sale. Now, potential buyers can be notified of a new listing just as quickly as their agent.

Agents know that buyers are scouring the internet for homes so they often provide creative real estate listing descriptions to attract buyers.

But how can you tell the difference between a dud and a hidden gem when looking at home listings?

Read on and we’ll translate the most common buzzwords for real estate so that you know whether to run towards or away from that listing.

Living Room

Reading Between the Lines on Home Listings

Of course, the best way to judge a home is to go see it in person. But before you book the appointment, you should have a good idea of what to expect. You can avoid unexpected surprises by learning how to read between the lines of online listings.

By reading carefully and looking for the key buzzwords for real estate listings, you can also avoid passing on a home because the agent failed to take good photos.

One of the best ways to interpret real estate listings is to look at the pictures and see what is there and what is not.

Examine the Photos for Clues

We all know that a picture is worth a thousand words. Why then, do some listings have one measly picture or 10 shots of the same room?

Listings are required to show display the exterior of the home as the first photo. The best way to show a home online is to display 2 photos of the home’s exterior and then walk the buyer through the interior of the home.


No Basement or Bedroom Pics

Let’s say a home listing states that a property has 5 bedrooms and a large rec room but shows only 2 bedrooms and no basement pics. Either the rec room has something the agent doesn’t want you to see, or the agent was too lazy or cheap to get for more photos.

However, just because all the bedrooms aren’t shown does not mean this is a cause for alarm. Most bedrooms aren’t that exciting so some agents opt to skip showing each one.

Lots of Exterior Photos

If a home you see online has mostly photos of the backyard, side and front views of the house, chances are the exterior is the best feature of this property. Be prepared to be underwhelmed with the interior.

Also, if the main (required) exterior photo is vertical when all other photos are horizontal or is taken at a strange angle, be wary. Chances are that the listing agent is trying to hide something next to the home. Go on Google maps and type in the address to see what is there for yourself.

Keep in mind that the exterior might be worth the price such as in lakefront real estate listings.

Just One Photo

The Listing has just 1 Photo

This is so annoying, but it happens. Perhaps the property is a short sale which means the net proceeds from selling the property will fall short of the debts secured by liens against it.

Or, maybe the house is best torn down and using the land to build something new. You might get lucky and the house is decent and just has a crappy listing agent. Don’t rule out a home based on lack of photos alone, look at the descriptions.

Interpreting Real Estate Listings Descriptions

After you’ve had a good look at the photos and have seen what is showing and what is missing, it’s time to interpret the property’s description.

There are common creative real estate listing descriptions that should ring an alarm bell when you come across them.

Needs TLC

This is agent speak for major renovations needed. Prepare yourself for Formica counters, original toilets and wallpaper from the 60s.

Beware of homes that need TLC unless you are buying with the intention to gut a home.

Keep an eye out for the words original details and original condition. Original details are desirable. These include vaulted ceilings, hardwood floors and so on.

Original condition, on the other hand, means that the original owners and everyone since then have not lifted a finger to make any improvements to the house.

Spectacular View

Spectacular View!

When home listings talk about the view they are not referring to the house. Like with the exterior photos trick, agents sometimes have to find the property’s one redeeming quality and flaunt it.

Maybe the house is in a great neighborhood or overlooks a lake, park, ravine or the top of the city.

The inside may be dated, awkward or shabby. Don’t necessarily rule this property out because of this buzzword, but be prepared.

Recently Updated

This is one of the most popular phrases in listings. Unfortunately, doesn’t really tell you anything. It could refer to a new kitchen faucet on old countertops or a complete reno.

Remember that not all renovations are equal. Sometimes people get in over their heads and then cut corners and costs to complete the project. Or they run out of time and do shoddy work.

Go see the home but be on the lookout for rushed or slapped-together renovations.

Are you planning to do some home improvements before you sell? Check out the 4 best value home improvements you can make.

Hidden Gem

Hidden Gem (or Hidden Potential)

Yes, some homes are hidden gems, but they may not be the right fit for you. If you are comfortable putting in a little (or a lot) of effort into a space, a less expensive home in a good area might be perfect for you.

If you are thinking about appreciation and good schools for the kids and getting the most bang for your buck, a house with hidden potential could be just right. Usually, these homes are outdated, awkward or require some creative solutions to maximize the layout.

It’s probably worth a look in person. For these properties, you are looking at the potential, not the face value.

Size doesn’t Lie

When considering properties and you are not sure how accurate the home listings descriptions are, remember size doesn’t lie.

The square footage will be accurate even if the word “spacious” is not. Go ahead and get out your tape measurer to get an idea of the size of each room.

For Rent

Final Thoughts

At the end of the day, real estate agents are in the business of selling houses. They may exaggerate or use overly optimistic words to describe the property. You can save yourself a lot of time by not going to see duds if you learn how to read between the lines of listings.

Are you planning to sell before you buy? Read how to prepare your home for a sale.

The Realty Digital Marketing Professional Community is an online community of real estate agents, realtors, brokers, investors and other real estate professionals with a focus on digital marketing in the real estate industry. Membership is open to anyone so join us today for access to the latest digital marketing strategies, network with other industry professionals and get a competitive advantage.

Leave a Reply

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This