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Monday, December 22, 2014
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Published: Monday, 5/6/2013

Agents’ ‘fluffy language’ might obscure house’s flaws

BANKRATE.COM

It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of buying a home, but beware of the misleading or dishonest things real estate agents say to make a sale.

In the competitive world of residential real estate, facts often are spun to generate interest. Insiders call it “puffing.” Agents can be held responsible for telling outright lies, but there is plenty of leeway to stretch the truth.

Why say a house is small or cramped when you can describe it as cozy? If it has worn carpet and a leaking roof, a creative agent may describe it as “rustic” or “quaint.”

Rhonda Duffy, an agent with Duffy Realty in Atlanta, says using “fluffy language” to describe a home is common. “No seller wants us to say, ‘This is the ugliest house you’ve ever seen, but I am sure it will suit somebody.’ ”

When an agent tells you a home is in excellent condition, be cautious. The term is used so often that it has little real meaning.

Agents have plenty of horror stories about competitors who lured them and their clients to undesirable homes with grandiose descriptions. Kristie Weiss, a real estate agent in State College, Pa., recently visited a perfect-looking home only to find that a plumbing problem was sending water from the kitchen sink into the basement.

“It may look pristine,” Ms. Weiss says. “The floors are gorgeous, and there are brand-new countertops and cabinets, but it needs a new heating system [or] it needs a new roof.”

She recommends having a professional inspection before making an offer on any home, regardless of the appearance or an agent’s glowing description.

One phrase to watch out for is “a kitchen with everything within reach,” she adds. That’s agent-speak for really, really small.

You’d think something as easy to define as a two-car garage would be tough to exaggerate. Yet it’s common for agents to attempt to pass off a large one-car garage as adequate for two vehicles.

Ms. Weiss says the use of sport utility vehicles makes it important to make sure there’s enough space for your cars.

“A good buyer’s agent should say, ‘Pull your cars in the garage, let’s make sure they fit.’ ”



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