Some thoughts on house listings.

trilobiteAugust 26, 2012

I am an avid reader of home listings. We kind of want to move, but not immediately, so I'm doing a lot of browsing. I have the following observations.

For the love of Pete, have good pictures! There is literally no reason these days to have photos that are out of focus, look like they were taken by a hermit in a dark cave or otherwise look terrible. And yet I STILL see awful pictures, listing after listing.

If your house is older and you don't include pictures of some key part of the house (kitchen, bathroom), I will assume the worst. At least say something in the description to reassure me that the kitchen may be dated, but is not the horror of avocado green and wall to wall carpet I'm imagining if you don't have a picture.

Don't include pictures of local attractions. I realize the house is in a very pretty region with lovely near-bye parks, etc., but if that's five of your pictures, I assume the actual house is terrible.

I've noticed a recent trend including vignettes. Really, why? I don't need to see what the current owner has on their shelves. If you're trying to show me that the home has charming built-ins, pull the focus back so that's the clear focal point of the picture.

I would love it if more listings said something about the floor plan. I want to know how the rooms fit together. Where are the dining/living/kitchen in relation to each other? If there's an addition that was built at a different time, tell me how it integrates with the rest of the house.

If there have been minimal updates with a much older house, say something sensible about what HAS been updated. No really, I saw a listing for an eighteenth century house that said "all original, no updates". Does that mean there's no plumbing or heating?

In conclusion, I think all regulars on this forum know this stuff, but it is truly frightening how many people out there in the wide world apparently don't.

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To add to that, if there are seven pictures of the exterior of the house and only two or three of the interior, I'm assuming the rest of the interior isn't fit to be seen.

I warned some friends about their pictures. Nothing horrendous, but there were clean dishes in the dish rack, a sweatshirt tossed on a chair in the bedroom, some magazines just tossed on the living room coffee table.

They had no idea the pictures were up! Their agent had told them pictures would be taken soon, but didn't give them a date or time. The agent just went to the house, let herself in and took the pictures, without giving them any time to prep.

Then they had a huge fight to make her come back and take new photos and put them on-line.

And yeah, I wish someone could figure out a way to do floor plans.

    Bookmark   August 26, 2012 at 11:36AM
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Funny you mention floor plans :-)

I'm learning how to use a drafting app to create floor plans for our house. Figure if all of the big dogs trot them out for their models, so can I.

Have to agree on craptacular "photo shoots". Is it because REAs have discounted their percentages so much they no longer can afford to offer professional services like photographers & stagers? Is it an out-of-pocket expense Sellers don't want to incur? Is it because it's a Buyers market & Sellers have become despondent?

Camlan, I'd be very unhappy with that REA, too. They are usually pros at Marketing. Sounds as if you friend's REA slept through that class. Then again... Given we're discussing poor photography (& staging)...

Trilobite, yes, every time I see multiple pix of a community clubhouse, pool, happy joggers & dog walkers with limited pix of the actual property, I imagine all kinds of things. Harvest gold or stainless steel appliances, tri-colour orange shag carpeting, maroon brocade flocked wall paper, white foil kitchen cupboards, particleboard wainscot & chair rail, and all sorts of unmentionable horrors ;-) (empty rooms which echo like an endless cavern as you frantically search for the "great room" sans floor plans.)

    Bookmark   August 26, 2012 at 3:35PM
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What amuses me most are photos of a bed (not a bedroom), a table and chairs (not a dining room), and a sofa (not a living room).
Yeah, you have furniture.
Who'd of thought?

    Bookmark   August 26, 2012 at 8:48PM
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I have often wondered about floor plans myself.

Is there a downside to providing "too much" information?

Is there a legal issue if the floor plan was not exactly to scale or contained an error?

    Bookmark   August 27, 2012 at 7:35AM
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On the other hand, I also dislike the professional pictures that are taken with a camera lens that makes the room look twice the size that it actually is. It's like "come on - who do you think I am?"

    Bookmark   August 27, 2012 at 9:42AM
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We were given a packet of things from the original construction of our last house including a basic floor plan with no dimensions. The house was most likely originally a spec house and not custom. The plans were left in the house at closing and wasn't something we were shown before purchase.

I'm not a lawyer. I'd think if there was an error in the plans or something not to scale, the buyer would be expected to do due diligence to see that the floor plan met with expectations. For instance, houses are often listed above actual size. It would be up to the buyer to have the house measured to see what the atual square footage was before purchase.

    Bookmark   August 27, 2012 at 10:50AM
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Floor Plans are common in British listings.

There is almost always a link to a pdf file.

No idea why they don't do it here.

We had the real estate and photos online first.

They copied us then went one better.

Come on Realtors, Add floor plans!


    Bookmark   August 27, 2012 at 2:26PM
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Isn't it in a Buyer's best interest to take measurements of rooms, even with builder's plans in hand? My original blueprints even have slight variation in room dimensions compared to actual build. The kitchen is drawn as 12'x12'; it's actually, physically, built at 12' 1-1/2"x 13'. ;-)

Am I drawing the kitchen at 12' 1-1/2" x 13'? No. I'm drawing it at 12'x12'. And! I'm drawing the linen closet we added at a round number of 36"wx24"d although it's a little larger in width. It comes out in the wash...

Honest question: How do Sellers misrepresent the square footage? Do they calculate total heat/cooled area rather than room area? Do they present rooms larger than actual? Please understand, I'm genuinely interested in this. Maybe I need to understand "Why" someone would misrepresent this, as it's easy enough to rebutt...and lose a sale.

    Bookmark   August 27, 2012 at 2:45PM
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Our previous neighbors lied about the square footage. They listed the square footage as being the same as ours, yet their house is a mid size model, and ours is the largest in our development. This house has sold a few times, but it has been described with a few hundred extra square feet for the last few times it sold and no one has complained.

    Bookmark   August 27, 2012 at 4:58PM
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Where I am the square footage is from county records, I don't think people always intentionally mean to mislead sellers, they just have no idea. Our house had the basement listed as 1100' but turned out to be about 30' square, so 900'. I think the country records have it down as 1100, which I guess it would be if they dug out the crawl space which was an option, so it was probably a clerical error by the builder years ago.

I also think closets, storage and any area that is finished is considered in the sq footage.

    Bookmark   August 27, 2012 at 6:46PM
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Floor plans are great to have even if the dimensions aren't exact. Our previous home was in a master planned community that had about 25-30 different models overall. The realtor had copies of all and included them with the brochures. She also had a professional photographer take the pictures and virtual tour but included some of the amenities (pools, clubhouse, golf course, etc.) too.

It bugs me when a house is listed in winter with bare trees, dead grass, and lack of greenery/color and the pictures aren't updated when the season changes and the house looks much better. With so many people looking online first pictures and virtual tours are very helpful.

    Bookmark   August 27, 2012 at 7:10PM
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What exactly is SQFT?

I thought it is calculated based on outside measurements instead of adding each room's dimension together.

Otherwise, if two houses have same outside measurements, one has 7 rooms, the other one has 3 rooms, the 7-room house will have less sqft than the 3-room one because it has more partition walls.

Is it correct?

    Bookmark   August 27, 2012 at 9:18PM
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No... Heated Living Area is always measured from the outside of a house. No need to measure individual rooms. After getting these measurements, I go back and subtract out any areas that need be... like the garage, the two story foyer and great room, the bonus room that has jack walls less than 5 feet, or any unfinished space.
Most sellers I deal with do not have floor plans in order to post.
I use virtual tours along with a list of what rooms are on what level.

    Bookmark   August 28, 2012 at 7:11AM
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Ncrealestateguy, thank you so much for the input, it is informative and helpful.

    Bookmark   August 28, 2012 at 10:05AM
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I know there is an identical house across the street from us that is listed at over 150 sq ft bigger on the tax records. I notice that with other houses too, the some floor plans are listed with a number of square feet.

    Bookmark   August 28, 2012 at 12:45PM
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I am another who looks at real estate listings nearly every day. If there is no photo of the bathrooms and the kitchen, I assume the worst. I like the listings where the photos sort of take you through the house in a logical way, starting at the outside of the house and going in. When it's well done, you can pretty much tell what the floor plan is.

The close-ups of furniture are weird to me, too, but I appreciate it when there is a close-up of the flooring. "A" close-up. Not 5.

We are probably halfway to getting our house ready to go on the market--just had new kitchen faucets and light fixtures replaced yesterday, along with an updated chandelier in the dining room and also a surprisingly cool $29 lowe's fixture in a bedroom. We also had one of the guys go under the crawlspace to check for problems and spray for mold from a fridge leak last fall. He actually said he didn't see any but I figured just in case... He said our crawl space looks much better than the average. I should have them take a photo for the listing, it would make about as much sense as half the photos I've been seeing lately when I am on the "looking" end of the transaction.

If I could just snap my fingers and have painting fairies come overnight and also a pressure washing fairy, I'd be all set. And a fairy with a truck and some burly fairy friends to move out excess stuff.

I do have a flooring fairy coming soon to replace the kitchen floor. The new flooring has been sitting in the kitchen for a couple of weeks now, so I'm sure it's good and acclimated, right? Right!

Sorry for the ramble. But some of you chronics on here are probably happy for it. This forum has had a bit of a dry spell here lately. If it doesn't clear up soon I may be forced to POST ANOTHER THREAD.

    Bookmark   August 28, 2012 at 1:38PM
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I wonder whether there is a correlation between lousy photos and poor grammar in listings.

    Bookmark   August 29, 2012 at 8:38AM
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Circus Peanut

I don't get the ones with detritus strewn around. You were in such a hurry to list the house you couldn't clear your orange juice glass off the breakfast table for the photo?

Of course, that's nothing compared to the upended underwear (!!) on the floor of one of the bedrooms I viewed in a house for sale. I'd never seen my REA burst out giggling uncontrollably before, it was worth the price of admission.

    Bookmark   August 29, 2012 at 8:54AM
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NC Guy, thank you for that info. I vaguely remembered the Fla REA talking about Mom's screen porch not counting in the square-footage, although completely finished as a room, it didn't have separate ducting for heat/cool.

When dealing with multi-level properties, even virtual tours and well organised pix can get confusing. A well written description goes a long way in communicating. (Some of the copy is entertaining to read...especially transliterated into English. Not as good as Beef Steve or Clap Chowder tho...more stories I could tell about typos & transliterations...)

Floor plans do have their place, especially when a Buyer has looked at 10 houses a day for five days straight with reviews of a least two or three. And worse, has to describe to a waiting loved one how each prospective property is laid out. (Can you tell I've lived through this scenario *wink*)

CircusPeanut, those "tabloid" moments in pix & real life are priceless... I saw a property yesterday, new listing, with beer bottles, crisps & dip, and trash dumped all over the kitchen floor. Looked like "Animal House".

Thinking of "Animal House", is it becoming customary for dogs, cats & rats & elephants to be staged as accessories? Every time I see a dog or cat in pix I immediately think, "OMG which one of my bad boys is going to go into that house and hike a leg?!?" does...and may rule out a potential. Not being snarky LOL

    Bookmark   August 29, 2012 at 8:36PM
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BarbC wrote:
"Is there a legal issue if the floor plan was not exactly to scale or contained an error?"

I bet there would be. And is one reason I do not do them. I do measure my own listings. We agents need to advertise the sq. ftg. of a home w/in +/- 5% of the actual sq. ftg.

    Bookmark   September 1, 2012 at 9:44PM
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NCREGuy, "no good deed goes unpunished" ;-) Tis a sad day when we have to be paranoid over legal ramifications of something for illustrative purposes.

I used the blueprints and physically measured the house while doing this mock-up. It was surprising how "off" BP-to-Actual really was. Now my measurements were done with steel tape and probably not as accurate as laser, either. We'll be using this "for illustrative purposes only" to show floor layout and flow. Our REA will add boilerplate in the ad copy.

Sorry for being semi/off-topic ;-)

As we're relocating, it's interesting looking at listings here & there. Rural property is a different critter LOL and I see more pix of the pasturage, barn, out-buildings, etc than the interior of the house. Usually house interiors are very dark, as in electricity was turned off dark, and the photographer used basic camera flash. Maybe there's a card table in the middle of a room with some REA's laptop & Big Gulp adorning it.

My favourite was interior & exterior (landscaped) shots of an outhouse (working...) beautifully staged with folded-corner pink toilet paper, basket of bow tied white dinner napkins, and gallon jug of Orange Goop. Yes, the property was listed as "sportsman paradise" so we knew it would be more rustic. Got me to wondering if there was a "working inhouse" in house. The ad copy showed "deep well with water rights on property" so we're pondering whether there's any house plumbing (or electricity for that matter).

Sometimes I wonder if I've seen too many Parade of Homes and Gallery of Homes and have set my expectations too high :-)

Here is a link that might be useful:

    Bookmark   September 2, 2012 at 9:35AM
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When an agent post something in the MLS, it is no longer considered for illustrative purposes only. It is considered to be a material fact.

    Bookmark   September 2, 2012 at 10:50AM
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NCREGuy, thank you for that clarification! That is very good to know. Got to learn something new this morning =). No wonder why REAs' Stateside don't post floor plans online.

    Bookmark   September 2, 2012 at 11:42AM
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Would it be acceptable to post a floor plan without measurements, just to show the layout of the rooms? Most listings tell the square footage of the house so I wouldn't need that info on the floor plans.

    Bookmark   September 2, 2012 at 6:14PM
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>When an agent post something in the MLS, it is no longer considered for illustrative purposes only

That's interesting, because I've seen several listings for here with room dimensions included and they are invariably way off. The only available floor plan for this development is a pre-construction one and they evidently thankfully rethought a few things, like the steep stairs and huge laundry room. (Would love a huge laundry room, but it's right off the dining room, which is too small even with the small laundry hall we wound up with instead of what's on the plan.)

    Bookmark   September 2, 2012 at 6:51PM
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I think people also ought to clear their house of things that may be controversial - such as lots of animal heads. Apologies to hunters, but you may be losing a lot of potential buyers if you keep those in your house when showing it. This photo was from a real listing.

    Bookmark   September 10, 2012 at 8:05AM
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In Texas an appraisal does the exterior sq ft but also measures using interior room sizes and other spaces
Homeowners have been known to make additions w/o getting appropriate permits...they advertise the home at larger sq ft size to get the higher price but the new owner may have to jump through hoops if the taxing authority which follows RE/MLS data asks questions about the size discrepancy between old/new versions of sq ft

Agree that proper photos are key to generating or killing interest from shoppers looking on line
We are going to put our rental home on market and will talk to two RE recommended by friend of ours and one recommended by agent we used to buy our current home--she is now retired...this agent has long professional history (read her web page) but her office is not really close to where our house not sure she is really familiar with our specific neighborhood and would have buyers who are interested in living there...

Our friend's recommendation is more local and seems to handle the price range for our neighborhood...
The 4 homes for sale in our neighborhood all have different RE offices so there is no "go to" agency for this area...

What are the questions to ask when you interview an agent to list/sell your home?
Some homes in our neighborhood have sold within couple of months and some have lingered...partly because they are larger and more expensive than average...people who can afford them will often be looking in different local area...
Partly because updating was minimal or floorplan was off-putting...
So delay in selling can't necessarily be based solely on age/location of neighborhood itself...

    Bookmark   September 10, 2012 at 10:11AM
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