31 January 2013
Tips from a Realtor on looking at an MLS listing
There is a lot of information in an MLS listing and here I will explore major points covered in a listing on this main (general) page as well as on the other tabs. However, the main thing I want you as a reader or Buyer to take away from this post is that there is no substitute for going to see the property in person. Listings are a form of ad after all and some Realtors are better than others at presenting the positives in a property without crossing into dishonest territory.
Photos: I glance at these first to get an idea of what style of home it is and the age. It’s important to try not to put too much emphasis on the photos as the property may look better or worse or just different in person than it does in the listing. Why? Well there are many reasons. Some Realtors use professional photographers (I do) and some don’t, some are great with cameras and some aren’t, sometimes the weather on the day the photos were taken was really flattering or the flowers were in full bloom or maybe it was stormy and everything was brown outside the home because it was winter when it was listed, or maybe there were messy tenants who didn’t care enough to clean up for the photos. None of these things mentioned are the property per se but there are some details that are part of the property that might not show up well in a photo. Maybe the view is 180 degrees of amazing and simply can’t be fit into the kinds of photos we use on the on the MLS.
Having expectations based upon photos is one reason why you may end up looking at a place or not and it often leads you to properties that are photogenic and well photographed. I have found some good deals for people by specifically ignoring the photos and looking at the other info plus my experience and market knowledge. When I look at the listing I tend to lean more towards the measurements and numbers as they are more objective. That said, with a sharp eye you might be able to glean a few details about the age and condition but even as someone who looks at these images every day I remain somewhat agnostic until I actually see the place.
Location: I’ve written about the adage “Location, location, location.” here in my Myths of Real Estate section as I think that people tend to overemphasize its importance. But don’t get me wrong, it is quite an important factor. It will affect everything from commute time, how far amenities and work are, how noisy the place is, how safe you feel there, the view and so on. The overall neighbourhood or street is the first thing I notice and then I want to see where it is within that neighbourhood. Then the details start to stick out. I know for example that most people will pay more for being near the end of a dead end street than they will for being near a busy road, if it’s close to a nice park or amenities this is a factor. It might be quite rural so the Buyer should think about what kind of water and septic system the property is on. As a Realtor, I generally know roughly when a given area was developed because I have been in places around there before. this might be another clue as to the age of the home if it’s not known and it might even give me an idea of the contstruction style. If it’s a condo I may be quite familiar with that building and it’s own strata culture. But again, this too is better understood in person.
The street view on google maps is a great tool for Buyers as is the city map from The City of Nanaimo or the Regional District of Nanaimo map for the more rural areas. There is plenty to see on these sites. Lot boundaries are a favourite thing for people to look up there.
Measurements and other numbers: When I’m sizing up a listing, these plus location are my first go to. Size of interior and lot, age (if known), bedrooms, bathrooms, taxes, monthly fees if it’s a strata and of course price. These are measurements and are therefore less subject to interpretation. You won’t be able to guess how your furniture is going to fit by looking at the room size measurements though as they are entered into the system as if the rooms were square but in reality they rarely are. I would wait until you are relatively serious about a specific place before you start thinking about those kind of details and you can do it in person to be sure things fit.
As for the description of the property on the main page it’s hit and miss. Sometimes there’s good info in there that you can’t figure out from the rest of the listing and sometimes there isn’t. If the other details grab my eye (as in, seems likely to grab my client’s eye), then I start sifting through this info for such details as well as others that are scattered throughout the listing. In the end, each Buyer will emphasize slightly different things in their search and a big part of what I’m doing as a Realtor is trying to see through their eyes in terms of tastes, needs and budget while also using the tools of my knowledge and experience.
This is not all the info of course. Once a Buyer has looked at enough properties to narrow things down we start digging up more info via PDS and title search.
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