Sellers Beware! Five White Lies That Could Hurt Your Chances of Selling Your Home

We’ve all come to accept—and perhaps even expect—some of the “enhanced language” that sellers often use in real estate listings.

You know the ones we’re talking about: “Cozy” can be code for small, “charming” likely means old, “efficient” often stands in for small, and “unique” might suggest it’s hard to sell.

Yes, some sellers use language to smooth over a home’s rough spots. But when homeowners veer into actual untruths, it’s a problem.

It’s one thing to hide clutter and spruce up the living room furniture to prepare the home to sell, but it’s another thing entirely when sellers outright fib to potential buyers. Read on to get the lowdown on how white lies can torpedo a sale.

Fudging the truth or telling a lie?

So what’s the difference between fluffing your home’s resume and a bona fide lie?

Any little lie that misrepresents the condition of the home, neighborhood safety, or the selling timeline can have serious consequences. Buyers are looking for honesty and transparency, so it’s best to avoid any attempt to manipulate or deceive them.

And depending on the severity of the lie, buyers could even seek legal action against the seller; suing for misrepresentation and even breach of contract.

To help you stay out of hot water (and sell your home), we’ve rounded up the top five white lies homeowners might be tempted to tell.

1. The house hasn’t been on the market that long

Sellers implying their home has just hit the market (when it’s really been on for a while) is probably one of the most common untruths told during the selling process.

Sellers tell this not-so-white lie hoping buyers won’t think something is wrong with the house if it’s been on the market for a while. Or sometimes, sellers want to create a sense of urgency so a buyer will make an offer on the home.  But the truth will always come out, and buyers don’t like to be deceived. 

So seller’s be careful — it’s pretty easy for a buyer’s agent to look at your property’s history on the multiple listing service in order to determine the listing date. And if the home has been removed and relisted, this will also be there.

2. We ‘just’ installed the HVAC/roof/plumbing

Another typical white lie sellers tell is about recent upgrades that were actually made years prior.

But any fudging a seller does about the HVAC, roof, or plumbing will eventually come out during the home inspection or when the agent does research on the home’s permit history (always make sure your agent does their due diligence on the property you are seeking to purchase). It’s not a good idea to not disclose everything you know about your home, because it can potentially lead to a buyer walking away from the deal if they discover the issue later on.

3. This is a great neighborhood

A seller might be tempted to tell a white lie about the amenities in an area or how safe the neighborhood is. But neighborhood safety is another one of the easiest things potential buyers can find out on their own.

Buyers can research online and find out the local crime rate to determine the safety of a neighborhood. And they can also visit the local police department and request public records like police reports for the area.

While it’s important to highlight positive attributes of your area, exaggerating or fabricating details can misrepresent what a potential buyer is getting into, and cause them to walk away. 

4. The neighbors are all wonderful

A seller fibbing about their next-door neighbors might seem like a tiny white lie. But, again, when the truth comes out, it can spell bad news.

For example, an agent might suggest a potential buyer drive by a house they were interested in at night. The seller had said the neighborhood was quiet, but there was a loud party raging next door to the house for sale. The buyer may end up looking for another property based on their observations.  Don’t lie about the neighbors!

5. We’ve never had a mold problem

State laws vary on whether sellers must disclose the presence of water damage or mold.

Yet, since mold can lead to serious health issues, the ethical thing for all sellers to do is be upfront about it—even if there is no legal requirement to do so.

Failing to do so could open the seller to potential liability lawsuits. Even after closing, if evidence of mold is found to have been covered up rather than remediated, the seller could be on the hook for the cost of the repairs.  

All in all, while you might want to “pretty” up the language you use to describe your home, it’s in a sellers’ best interest to be honest about issues that could present a problem down the line.

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