Catfish properties are ruining home buyers' searches – an expert gives a tip for avoiding them

Catfish homes are a growing problem – a property expert gives top tips for avoiding them

Tiny vacation cottage in Mendocino, California, United States
(Image credit: Jon Lovette/ Getty)

Have you had the misfortune of wasting your time on a catfish property? Their number is reportedly on the rise, with new research showing that over 70 percent of house hunters encounter them during their search. 

If you are learning how to buy a house for the first time, catfish homes waste your valuable time when searching. We've asked a property expert to give top tips for avoiding being catfished during your home search. 

miniature house for sale Chelsea Flower Show 2009

(Image credit: Ros Drinkwater / Alamy Stock Photo)

What are catfish properties?

But first, what are catfish properties? Surely we've all been there – turned up at a viewing to realize that the home wasn't quite what the realtor or seller had said it was. That's what viewings are for, after all, right?

It turns out that the problem goes deeper than that. Over 70 percent of home hunters report that their experiences of viewing properties amount to being catfished, because the houses are literally nothing like what was advertized online.

Inadequate size is the most common complaint, with many people reporting that the home had turned out to be much smaller than advertized, or that 'cupboard-sized' rooms were passed off as additional bedrooms. 

Homebuyers also routinely found that homes they viewed were dated, or that the area they were in wasn't nearly as nice as promised – or not even in the area that had been advertized. 

Small cottage in Sunset, South Carolina

(Image credit: Ashley Drake/ Getty)

Top tips for avoiding catfish properties

Fortunately, with a bit of know-how and experience, you can avoid wasting your time viewing homes that are not what they appear to be. Adam Kamani, a property expert and CEO of MoveStreets, recommends being healthily skeptical about online photos, and bearing in mind that 'an estate agent is paid to sell and any worthwhile agent will invest in making sure the property photos are top-notch and the description does a great job of selling both a property and the wider area.'

You need to look beyond the photos to understand what you are being sold. Adam says that 'the best way to avoid disappointment is to check out the floor plan first and foremost. This will give you an accurate picture of the true layout and size of a home, but all too often we overlook this when surfing online property listings.'

As for assessing the area the home is in, you can do additional research online, but 'there’s no substitute for personal experience', so if the house itself seems worth checking out, it is worth going just to determine whether the area is right for you.

Anna Cottrell
Anna Cottrell

Anna is Consumer Editor across Future's home brands. She moved to the world of interiors from academic research in the field of English Literature and photography. She is the author of London Writing of the 1930s and has a passion for contemporary home decor and gardening.

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