Realtors have long been maligned for recycling common terms in our property descriptions. And clearly location IS key (this website is essentially focused on that core ingredient). But the easiest way to spot the flawed listing, in the humble view of this writer, is to utilize possibly the industry’s most ubiquitous cliché, Location, Location, Location, as its main selling point.
Now let me be open enough to admit there will have been numerous times in my own career, where I have used cliched verbiage in property description. My formative years were at the height of the 80’s London property boom. I was a walking cliché, all highlights and double-breasted suits. Salesman’s license was pervasive in the language of the industry; to the extent that it eventually brought about the Property Misdescriptions Act 1991 For a few years we were not allowed to refer to things like “walking distance” or use broad terms like “a few minutes’ drive”. The act was repealed in 2013 but the principles behind it remain in effect, even if for the most part people don’t get worked up about Real Estate agents accentuating the positives of their listings. Nor should they. Few are the clients that would not expect their selling Realtor to do so.
Now, I recognize in critiquing the approach of others, there is potential to sound pious or condescending and I hope to stay the right side of a respectful line. But here is my problem with “Location, Location, Location” over and above the frequency of its appearance. Downtown Bozeman covers approx. 3 square miles. And while, clearly, there are those parts that can be considered varying levels of premium, there is no location inside the boundaries, that could be considered overtly sub-prime.
Moreover, read below the opening lines on some of these listings and you will often establish the location of the property, and the price asked for it, is just your entry point for major expenditure. In a few cases recently, I have seen the quoted price reflects an “As is” transaction. And the “is” is not good. In a couple of instances, the well-worn phrase has been employed ahead of statements like “house is a tear down”, or “structure is unsafe”. As such the “location” is effectively a lot with, in the case of a tear down, the substantial expenditure of demolition, before you even get to re-building! Yet, from my research, pricing would seem to reflect improved land rather than the opposite. Where condition is such that a complete remodel is required, costs can sometimes escalate beyond even that of demolition and re-build.
My concern is less about buyers finding themselves duped by words into buying a property that is worth substantially less than they are paying. Representation, common sense and basic due diligence should provide sufficient indemnity against that. I am, however, uneasy that such listings could have a wider impact on a local market, and by extension, erode the general perception and integrity of those who work in it.
For my part, I will undertake here and now to refrain from usage of the 3 L’s. And to do my bit for the integrity of my profession by never returning to the blond highlights or the Prince of Wales checkered suits.