Much like an online dating site, properties can be deceiving to potential buyers, representing a false sense of appearance, age, and even a false sense of existence. Many real estate agents employ online tactics to glorify a property in order to rev up customer demand.

But the grass isn’t always greener on the other side of your computer screen…

  1. The good, old switcheroo

Have you ever sifted through the pages of listings, only to find that the property you pursued has actually been sold? You’re not the only one.

According to a 2012 study by consulting firm WAV Group, more than 1/3 of home listings that are listed as “active” on real estate sites Trulia and Zillow are actually not available for sale anymore.

In some cases, their outdated posts are either due to lack of updates, or real estate agents imputing incorrect information; however, in most cases, agents deliberately leave up listings after they’ve been sold, with the intentions of creating future leads.

The ploy is simple—“bait and switch”. This tactic is put into effect to persuade buyers to purchase the substitute goods in order to avoid disappointment. The potential buyer who is interested in a property will contact the listing agent regarding the listing he/she just saw, and the agent will tell them that the home has been sold, but that there are other properties available that have similar features (and sometimes, even a higher margin). 

  1.  Bedrooms are in the eye of the beholder

 …Unfortunately not in the hands of the buyer.

Anywhere from “fully redone basements” that were revealed to be only partially finished, to “eat-in kitchens” that were actually standing-room only, online housing listings paint a picture bearing little to no resemblance to their true state.

Listings tend to over-embellish as a means to enhance buyer interest in a property. Some listings drastically increase the square footage, while other studio apartments claim to be a true one-bedroom. We’ve all heard the infamous “just a couple stairs” only to be dragged up to a sixth-floor walk-up.

Yet once an appraiser determines the homes’ value, he most likely won’t count a windowless room as a bedroom, which would in turn decrease the home’s value or worse—disrupt the sale completely.   

  1. Age is just a number

A property’s online listing time can impact the way that a buyer goes about making a purchase. Buyers are more likely to make a low-blow offer on a property that has been on the market for months, as opposed to an aggressive offer from a new for-sale.

With this in mind, real estate sites tend to take advantage and pump up demand with an “age-defying tactic”. By removing a property that’s been listed online for months, and relisting it months later as a newly for-sale property, a false sense of urgency is implemented, tricking the buyer into putting a full-price offer on it.

Such schemes can have huge repercussions for buyers who were falsely misled.

As a real estate professional, where do you feel the line should be drawn?