House Hunting During the Coronavirus? Avoid These Real Estate Listing Red Flags

By: Natalie Lewin

House Hunting During the Coronavirus? Avoid These Real Estate Listing Red Flags

Tags: real estate, toronto, coronavirus

House-hunting in the midst of the coronavirus has made it challenging for realtors (no longer able to hold open houses) to show buyers the homes they are interested in. Instead, many agents are turning to technology—virtual tours, 3-D Tours, detailed online listings, etc.—to help clients get a feel for the home. While many online listings include gorgeous high-resolution images and a full run-through of the home’s amenities and surrounding neighbourhood, others make it hard to discern what’s really being offered. 

With sellers highly motivated to seal the deal in today’s market, buyers should take extra care to scrutinize each listing that catches their attention. Read on to recognize the most common signs of trouble in real estate listings before proceeding with an offer.

1. The Price it Too Good to Be True 

If a home with a low selling price has you jumping for joy in front of your computer screen, don’t be surprised if your agent isn’t as quick to share your enthusiasm. A professional realtor knows how to spot a glaring red flag, and a home well below market value is a good indication that there’s a costly problem with the property. Be sure to get your realtor to look into how long the sellers have lived in the home and what their motivations are for listing the property. Best-case scenario is that the homeowners are extra motivated to sell for cheap because of a job relocation, divorce, or financial reasons. 

2. A ‘Quiet’ or ‘Secluded’ Neighborhood 

While living on quiet street is often a desirable selling point, a deserted neighbourhood with lawns populated with for-sale signs may be a sign that you are entering into a poor investment. Unstable neighbourhoods with many rental properties or empty houses may affect the property value of your home. You also want to be wary of listings that use the term ‘secluded’ which could mean a 45 minute drive just to get a carton of milk. Be sure to check your amenities before you commit and talk to a real estate professional to find out whether the location of your house is a worthwhile investment. 

3. The Listing Doesn’t Include Many Photos

If a listing doesn’t include high-resolution of the home it could either mean the place is a complete disaster or the seller isn’t motivated enough to take the time to add pictures. Either way, it’s time to scroll along. If the listing contains images, look carefully. Has the image been stretched to make the house appear larger or lightened to appear brighter? Are the curtains drawn? If so, it may be to cover an unsightly view. Pay attention to whether certain rooms of the house are left out in the listing or if the majority of photos are of the land and/or community rather than images of the house interior. 

4. Overly Flowery Language 

If a real estate listing reads like a good fiction novel, it’s likely your purchase won’t end in a ‘happily ever after.’ A home that lacks positive features may have a listing filled with fluffy terms such as ‘vintage,’ ‘unique,’ or ‘charming’ (possibly code for ‘this home needs a lot of work.’) A listing that mentions the home has been recently ‘updated’ could either mean the home underwent serious renovations or the owners just slapped on a fresh coat of paint. Make sure you ask about what the specific updates were and ask for permits too. Home buyers should investigate whether renovations were professional or makeshift repairs, especially in the realm of plumbing, carpentry, or electrical work. Flipped homes are also a cause for concern as they are notorious for DIY repairs done on the fly and low-budget installations which could result in additional costs for homeowners down the road.

If you're hoping to purchase a home in Toronto during the pandemic, now is the time! Take advantage of this window of low interest rates and motivated sellers and call me today. I'll help you detect potential issues before investing, answer questions, and walk you through each stage of the online transaction! Call 416 903 7653 or email