Trina Sandhu, along with her husband, growing family and French bulldog, had long been house-hunting in Toronto when she stumbled on a listing for a near-perfect space: a large, bright, century-old home with three spacious bedrooms, four bathrooms and a cozy basement with walkout to a large yard. “In the pictures, it looked like a beautiful fully renovated house,” she says. They immediately booked a showing.
In real life, the hardwood floors were so worn they needed to be ripped up and replaced, rough ceilings were faded and stained, and a seemingly open kitchen was actually a galley (in unusable condition no less). “We came to the conclusion that the whole place was a teardown,” says Sandhu, who left disappointed and didn’t make a bid.
Wide discrepancies between advertising and reality in the real estate world are so ubiquitous that they’ve become normalized for sellers and expected by buyers—to a point. As the market climbed over the past couple of decades, and as newer technology allows it, cosmetic tweaks and touch-ups have given way to wide-angle lenses and virtual staging that some feel is akin to distortion or even deception. Now, perhaps out of desperation as markets cool, sellers of imperfect homes resort to the same tactics lest their listing be overlooked entirely. It’s not unheard of for a six-foot basement ceiling to appear soaring and a postage-stamp backyard to appear an oversized lot. Photographs are sharpened, brightened and edited—even if buyers like Sandhu can’t quite put their ﬁnger on how. “It’s all somehow smoothed out so the house didn’t look so old and broken down,” she says. “I’m totally certain the photographs have been photoshopped.”
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