Home Buying Tips: 6 Phrases That Make a Real Estate Listing Scary

Posted by Staff Reporter (media@realtytoday.com) on Oct 28, 2015 07:25 AM EDT
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WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 23: A 'Reduced' sign sits in the front yard of a house for sale June 23, 2015 in Northeast Washington, DC. Purchases of new homes in the U.S. rose in May to the highest level in seven years, signaling that the industry may be gaining momentum heading toward the second half of the year. (Photo : Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

Homebuyers can often be easily lured by real estate listings written in the most flowery words. But beware, behind even the most positive words and phrases, nightmares may be lurking -- like expensive renovations and land problems.

Here are seven phrases that could mean a scary home listing:

1. "Needs a little TLC"

When you see this phrase, watch out. "TLC," short for "Tender Loving Care," means work. Work means time and money. And most often than not, "a little" could actually mean a lot. The same can be true for words like "fixerupper" and "needs a little improvement."

According to Househunt Network, you can ask the owners exactly what needs to be done before buying the house. Or, if you want to save yourself from the hassles of major renovation, skip this ad and continue browsing.

2. "As is"

Opposite of "needs a little TLC," reading the phrase "as is" on a listing can be just as scary. This could mean a house needs a lot of fixing but sellers do not want to shoulder repair expenses.

"They feel they're putting their best price out there, and they don't want to get stuck with a buyer nickel-and-diming them for every repair," realtor Deb Tomaro told CBS News.

Tomaro suggests making an inspection prior to purchasing the property and negotiating with the seller to deduct expenses from the selling price.

3. "Cash transactions only"

For Jon Boyd, real estate agent and former president of the National Association of Exclusive Buyers Agents, this phrase should be a red flag for every home buyer. "Cash only" means the home could have serious problems but the seller does not want to be disturbed.

"That's one of the most useful real estate lingo things [to watch for]," Boyd said. "This means there could be an issue with the house that may make it difficult to qualify for a traditional mortgage."

4. "Vacant home"

Ask how long the house has been vacant. There must be a serious reason why the property is abandoned.

In addition, an unoccupied home may have developed problems over time without the seller knowing it. During your walk through, make sure to check all the utilities if they are functioning correctly.

5. "Tenant-occupied property"

In contrast, a tenant-occupied house could mean good news, as some maintain the houses as if their own. Others, however, leave them in a bad condition, making the homeowner solely responsible for the damages. Take this listing of a Columbus, Georgia home posted on Zillow. The photos show the house needs a major cleaning job.

6. "All work has been done for you"

While this may sound as good news, the hidden meaning reads, "previously a fixerupper." This means an investor may have bought the house, flipped it, and is trying to resell at a profit.

"They make cosmetic changes as quickly and cheaply as possible," real estate Elizabeth Weintraub told CBS News. "All they have to do is put in stainless steel appliances and granite countertops, and someone is going to want to buy it."

Behind the shiny new facade, serious defects like plumbing damage, molds, or electrical problems could be hiding.

Synonyms of this phrase include "total remodel," "completely rehabbed" and "freshly painted."

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