The Most Subjective Term in Real Estate?

Ryan Coffey
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Nanaimo is a waterfront town with an elongated shape much of which is built upon hills, ridges and a mountain. This means that we have an awful lot of homes with ocean views in Nanaimo. Today, you can find a house that is listed as having an ocean view as low as $159,900 and then it ranges up into the millions from there. To give you an idea, out of the 878 single family homes (that’s just houses, and not condos or lots or anything else) on the market at the moment, 268 are advertised as having an ocean view.

In our business, us Realtors are bound by a seemingly endless number of principles and laws to make sure we play nice. Two of the biggest ones are fiduciary duty and not misrepresenting the properties we are selling. So, when a half decent Realtor lists a property they will make it look as appealing as possible for the good of their business and their client but there is a line that must not be crossed in terms of how far the polished presentation of the property may go. You see, some of the details in a listing are less open to interpretation, such as the size of the lot or the yearly tax amount. Other details, like ocean view, are more… flexible.

Another title for this post might be ” You Have to See it to Believe it.”

Ask yourself this: What is the definition of ‘ocean view’?

How much actual view ocean is required to make it qualify? Should it be a certain percentage of what is seen from the property? From what part(s) of the property are we considering the view to be from in order to count? What if you can’t see the ocean at all from the inside of the home but have a good view from the balcony or the driveway? Does is count if there are a lot of deciduous trees that block the view of the ocean half the year but let us have an ocean view that is only obstructed by bare branches in the winter months? What about power lines and poles? The variables go on and on.

Generally, most Realtors around Nanaimo will say it has ocean view if you can see the ocean from inside the home but it will vary a little on the Realtor and the clients they are working with. Regardless, and more to my main point, the term is subjective and individual results will vary. Hence, the massive variety of how much value this will add to a property and that’s not even mentioning the myriad of other factors that create value in a home.

There are other things in the listing that are fairly open to interpretation as well, not just because someone wants to sell you something but also because everyone’s definition will vary depending on tastes, personality and personal experience.  Things that Buyers are so often desiring also include a nice area, but if you’re from certain large cities or even most of the world outside Canada, then we only have nice areas. Some people are more sheltered and will tell you about “Scarewood”.  I am also asked about homes that are old or not old. If you are from places with a lot of history like Europe, then old might mean at least a hundred years old. East Asians on the other hand tend to be at the other end of the spectrum.  If you’re from the Canadian countryside, then a big yard might be measured in acres rather than square feet and if you’re from Tokyo having enough space to even grow a single tree feels like a luxury. I could go on, but I don’t wish to labour the point. I would like to add though that I often caution Buyers not to rely of the photos too much. Humans are a rather visual species so it is natural to do so but some Realtors are better than others with a camera and many hire professionals for this part of the work.

None of this is to say that any of the above factors in a listing should be ignored, so much as it should be kept in mind that even when done with integrity, a listing may look better than the home itself. Making the product look good is after all the whole point of advertising and is generally the first step in getting you to buy something. But it does go both ways as the presentation of the listing may not be done well for one reason or another and I have seen (and sold) many homes where the home looked better in person than it did in the listing.

Other details in the listing are less subjective which although alluded to above are varied enough and have adequate depth for another post. Suffice to say that it takes a practiced eye to be able to better see through how the property is presented and into the truth of the listing. Seeing that and being able to guide others through it is one of the main aspects of what I do for a living.


Ryan Coffey