Sellers who don't review their listings for mistakes and omissions by their agents may find that no matter how grand their homes, they may not sell, especially in this day and age when would-be buyers scour the Internet before going to take a look.
If your house is listed on Polar Lane when it is actually on Poplar, no one will find it. And problems can arise if the school district, ZIP Code, number of bedrooms or map coordinates are inaccurate.
"If you are looking for a particular detail, the property is simply not going to come up," says Kimberly Barnett of @properties in Chicago, Ill.
It would be wrong to say listings are riddled with errors. Indeed, many agents say they're surprised there are so few mistakes, especially considering the volume of data they deal with every day.
"I'm amazed at how much information is correct," says Al Fackler of Re/Max Capital City in Boise, Idaho.
Still, with all due respect to the thousands of agents who work diligently to get everything right, there are enough miscues that sellers would be wise to review their listings before their agents enter them into the Multiple Listing Service.
Agent Jim Crawford of Re/Max Greater Atlanta in suburban Roswell, Ga., sees all manner of mistakes.
"It does not matter the shape of the home, the upgrades or the price," Crawford says. "The listing is in limbo if entered incorrectly or with only sparse data."
Some errors are simple typos, as in "Bring us your fuzziest buyers" when the agent surely meant "fussiest," or the house is in "moving" condition when the agent meant "move-in."
But some listing mistakes could prevent you from getting top dollar for your place. Or, worse, you could wind up in court with a disgruntled buyer if the errors aren't discovered before closing.
Take square footage, for example.
"I can't imagine what will happen when the new owner goes to sell the place and the Realtor or an appraiser says the house is actually only 2,400 square feet instead of the 3,200 you thought it was," says Jeff Launiere of Keller Williams Realty in Tampa, Fla.
Many local realty groups try to police sloppy work. Still, errors persist.
"It never ceases to amaze me how many sloppy, lazy and incompetent agents there are," says Neal Adler of Paramount Properties in Studio City. "I just find it unbelievable what a disservice these agents are doing to their sellers."
Pictures are a particular problem area. Adler swears that he once saw a listing with a photo from Google maps. "How lazy is that?" he said.
Eileen Landau of Realty Executives Pro/Team in Naperville, Ill., says the latest twist is "virtual staging," pictures of how the property might look if a decorator went in and spruced it up.
Meanwhile, some photos are of such poor quality as to be all but useless, and sometimes they are completely irrelevant. Althea Garner of Exit Beach Cities Realty in Huntington Beach once came across a picture of Elvis. (To see just how terrible some photos can be, check out the MLS Trash Can photos page on Facebook.)
Garner has seen enough shots of toilets to last her a lifetime. "An aerial view of the bowl does nothing to enhance the salability," she says.
And often there are no photos at all.
More than a few agents also report seeing wrong phone numbers. The number might be off by only one digit, but it's wrong nonetheless.
Ronny Geenen of Southland Properties in Glendora says one in four listings he sees has no information at all, but other agents report too many listings tend to overstate the property's condition and are completely unreliable.
Many agents find the most egregious errors with listings for distressed properties. "Short sale and REO listings tend to be the worst," says Lindy Clarke Hall of H-Town Realty in Houston. "They have the skimpiest info, minimal photos, misleading info and deceit by omission."
Often, short sales are not listed as such because many agents "avoid them like the plague," reports Philip Rosenberg of ValleyWide Property Services in Chandler, Ariz.
Barnett, the @properties agent in downtown Chicago, finds that some of her fellow agents snatch information from other listings in the same condo building without first checking them for accuracy. Often, the information is not accurate, she says, and that leads to all sorts of problems.
Sometimes the listing will say a highly coveted parking space is included when, in fact, it is being sold separately. Other times a buyer will fall in love with a building, only to find out later that the property doesn't accept his dog, a fact that wasn't noted in the listing.
"Some condos have strict weight limits, or prohibit certain breeds, and they absolutely won't budge," Barnett says.
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