As a buyer, how do I know the information from the online listing is accurate? If it isn’t, is there anything I can do about it?
Chances are the first time you glimpse your dream home will be while you’re flipping through the real estate section of your local paper or scrolling through online listings. Regardless of how you find it, the listing information and accompanying photos or videos play an important role in landing the property on your ‘short list’ and ultimately helping to determine if it’s a property you want to see.
A typical listing may include a broad range of the property’s attributes, including the number of bedrooms and bathrooms, the sizes of those rooms, the age of the home, the size of the lot, the age of the building’s main components (for example, the roof, furnace and air conditioning, etc.) and other useful information for buyers.
If the seller is working with a real estate professional, then the professional is generally accountable for the accuracy of information contained in the listing and any other information they share with buyers. That means they are expected to take steps to confirm the seller’s claims about renovations, square footage, municipal taxes and any other information that appears in a listing. As a registered real estate professional, they are required to be fair and honest with anyone involved in a transaction and use their best efforts to prevent error.
You may see some listings that note the information provided is “to be verified by the buyer”. It’s important to understand that sentence doesn’t release the listing representative from his or her accountability for accuracy. However, you or your salesperson should be taking an active role in double-checking the information you have about the property.
As a buyer, it’s in your best interest to do your own research before making an offer, or during a conditional period. The best way to verify the seller’s claims on the condition of the home is to have the property inspected by a qualified home inspector, engineer or contractor. Hand them a copy of the listing; it will help them to have some information to work with and they’ll be in a better position to confirm the property’s details are what you expect.
Your real estate professional can also help by including conditions in your offer that allow you to verify what is important to you (for example, that all knob and tube wiring has been removed or that the property is zoned as a multi-unit dwelling, allowing the buyer to install a basement apartment).
The Agreement of Purchase and Sale may also be drafted to allow you to return to the property once or twice before closing; take advantage of these opportunities by dusting off the measuring tape to confirm room sizes and any other details before you move in.
The impact of inaccurate information can be significant depending upon the attribute in question and the importance of that attribute to the buyer. If you find an inaccuracy in the listing after your offer has been accepted, seek the advice of your real estate professional and lawyer. They may be able to work with the seller’s representatives on some price adjustment or other remediation. If not, it may become a matter for the courts. While RECO can’t get involved in civil proceedings, if you have serious concerns about the accuracy of listing information, consider filing a complaint with us. You can find the complaint form here.Joseph Richer is Registrar of the Real Estate Council of Ontario (RECO). He is in charge of the administration and enforcement of all rules that govern real estate professionals in Ontario. You can find more tips at reco.on.ca, follow on Twitter @RECOhelps or on YouTube at http://www.youtube.com/RECOhelps.