Anatomy of a BS real estate ad: eight tricks we all crave | life and style


Jhere are lies, there are damn lies, and then there are real estate ads. If you’ve ever wasted hours of your life clicking on homes for sale or rent (are you human? Of course you did), you’ll know exactly what I mean. That Scandi-chic — and surprisingly affordable — upstate cabin that looked so cute in the photos? It’s actually a crumbling hovel by the side of a highway.

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The difference between what you find advertised online and what you actually see when you visit a place can be extreme. I would know: During my time in New York, I saw windowless rooms (“comfortable!”), fire escapes described as “outdoor spaces,” and one-bedroom apartments magically transformed into apartments. of three bedrooms via removable walls.

So how do real estate agents do it? What are the little tricks of the trade to make money pits look like mansions? In the spirit of public service, I called a Brooklyn-based realtor to find out. “So you wanna know how we make shitty apartments look good?” he said after I gave him my carefully worded spiel. Yes, sir, yes.

The very first photo you see is where all the effort is put into

You already know this, but it’s worth pointing out. The first image you see is the hero shot, the highlight of the house. “We need to make this image clickable,” the broker tells me. “It must be Airbnb’s dream.” How do they do this? Well, sometimes it’s as simple as running out and buying a new sofa: “Trading in that old floppy sofa that’s been hauled to three different apartments for a new one can dramatically increase the selling price.” You have been warned: don’t be fooled by a couch.

Smoke and lots and lots of mirrors

You don’t have to be an interior designer to know that strategically placed mirrors can make a room appear larger than it is. As the real estate agent told me, “If you put a mirror on the wall near a large window, it looks like it’s brighter and has more exposures than it actually has. .” Brokers to like mirrors. It’s not deception, it’s decor.

Illustration: Gizem Winter/The Guardian

More photoshop than the Kardashians

Virtual staging, you may have noticed, is all the rage. You’ll click through 10 photos of a perfect home only to find that all the furniture has been photoshopped and the actual listing needs, to borrow real estate jargon, “a bit of TLC.”

Isn’t virtual staging a bit misleading, I ask my insider? Nah, he said. They don’t lie to you, they just help you see the property’s potential. They are doing you a favor, really. There is, he admits, a point where “helping people imagine the potential of a place” intersects. “I’ve seen people virtually stage an entire backyard that doesn’t exist.” The same is true for rooftop terraces. Does your house have a roof? Congratulations, according to some visionaries of the trade, you automatically have a roof terrace!

Embarrassing horror? There is an application for that !

Sometimes things aren’t just photoshopped into lists, they’re photoshopped. Those ugly window-mounted air conditioners you see in a lot of apartments in New York City? They are one of the most frequent victims. “We often delete them digitally,” the broker tells me. “Our justification is that half the year they are not used. We do not want to draw attention to the fact that the apartment does not have central air conditioning; if we can remove this obstacle from their field of vision, we can get them into the apartment. And if we can get them into the apartment, we can make them fall in love with other things.

Room with a bias: the wonders of a wide-angle lens or a clever shot

Although virtual staging is a relatively new phenomenon, real estate agents have always been good at working magic with a camera. Crash against a wall, take out a wide-angle lens: voila, your room has doubled in size! The right lens and angle can make a storage room look like a master bedroom or turn a kid’s splash pool into a luxury infinity pool. Perspective is really everything.

Sneaky appeals to your inner influencer

You may think you’re a savvy buyer, but the realtor knows you’re not. The broker knows that there’s a good chance you’ll buy a remodeled home for less just because it has an Instagrammable bathtub. One of the telltale signs of a super-cheap renovation, the broker tells me, is putting a large, modern tub inside a glass-walled shower, which is one of the bathroom trends of the moment. If you see this in a booming neighborhood, it’s pretty sure the place had the cheapest upgrade possible. Expect everything to start falling apart as soon as you close.

If you can fit a queen bed in a bedroom, it’s officially a “master bedroom”.

It doesn’t matter to the broker that a bed is literally the only thing that can fit in the room. It is also not important that the bedroom does not have a single closet or a single room for one. Where are you supposed to keep your clothes, you wonder? In the kitchen cupboards? No: there is only one cupboard in the sumptuous American kitchen. (There are some fancy devices, though.)

illustration of a man wallpapering a cracked wall
Illustration: Gizem Winter/The Guardian

Sometimes it’s not what the list shows, it’s what it omits

Like, you know, the fact that the one-bedroom apartment that’s $2,000 a month doesn’t have a toilet. It’s in the community hall. (The clue in the list: “A great building to make new friends!”)

Or that it overlooks a cemetery. (The clue in the list: “Quiet neighbors.”)

Or that he’s backing up on a major trucking road. (The clue in the list: “Easy freeway access.”)

Or that your neighbors are almost certainly hoarders. (The clue in the list: absolutely none.)

The sad truth, however? It’s a seller’s market, so agents don’t even have to try anymore

Have you taken a look at the market lately? Rents have skyrocketed, house prices are out of control, and competition is so fierce that a desperate buyer offered to name her firstborn after the seller (she didn’t get the house).

It used to be that brokers had to work a little to move terrible houses. Now there’s no need to fill bad listings with creative language and Photoshop: they can just sit back and relax while people outbid for a house they haven’t even seen.

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