How to read an MLS listing


In 1984, Madonna said we were living in a material world!  We're now well into the 21st century and it's definitely a digital world that defines our lives!

We shop for everything from groceries to houses online and this has made the local Real Estate team need to re-think how properties are listed and sold!

Today, more than half of prospective home buyers look online well before reaching out to a Real Estate professional to search for properties.  The online (MLS) listing is the first impression they get and it has to make a positive one or they are on to the next one.

So... how do you determine the good, the bad and the ugly from a property listing?  Here are some things to watch out for:


If a property listing doesn't have any interior pictures of the home, that's usually a sign that they don't want you to see the condition of the house.  Don't be distracted with pictures of local parks or air views of the neighbourhood, if they're not showing you close ups of the home or property, there's usually a problem.

If there are pictures of the interior of the home, pay close attention to whether they have been taken with a "fish eye lens", a common practice to make a room or area look larger.  It will often distort the picture and tends to misrepresent how generous a space really is.

Don't get overly impressed with a well-staged home, try to look beyond furniture and trappings to the bones of the home and visualize if the rooms, layouts and sizes will work for the needs of you and your family.  On the flip side, don't get immediately turned off a cluttered home either.  The same principle applies, the furniture and decorations aren't staying so try and look beyond the temporary conditions.

Property Overview

The middle section of the MLS listing gives an overview of the property such as the type of home (one storey, two storey, etc.), the neighbourhood it is located in, and the number of rooms.  This is a quick way to see if the home meets your family's requirement for bedrooms, bathrooms and living areas.

When looking at townhomes or condos, pay particular attention to how title is held.  Whether a property is freehold (no common fees or amenities) or strata (run by a condo board that handles certain maintenance requirements but also includes a fee) will affect your monthly payments as well as the time required to upkeep the home.

You can often research a local subdivision online to get a feel for what kind of neighbourhood it is and how the residents interact with each other and feel about their community.


This is where the Realtor tries to sell you on the property in 100 words or less!  While a reputable agent will keep their information factual, creative use of adjectives can mislead a potential buyer or throw red flags up on potential concerns.

Indicators that there may be issues with the home and you might be getting into considerable time and money making repairs or updating would be the use of words like:


  • fixer-upper
  • handy-man special
  • "as is"
  • needs TLC
  • great "project" home

Other red flags that could cause issues with financing would be the use of phrases such as:

  • income potential
  • short term rental capability
  • hobby farm
  • great space for your "animals"
  • would be perfect for an Air B&B

Property Details

This is where you can drill down into details like the number and sizes of rooms, what appliances or fixtures are being included in the sale and the size of the property.

Take time to consider things like parking considerations, is there a garage and how big is the driveway?  Is there an extra bedroom in the basement for the in-laws to stay in when they come to visit, is the laundry on the main floor?  This is where you really need to know what your needs are and match the property to your checklist.

One word of caution with facts and figures on the MLS listing is that they are not always accurate.  Often, room dimensions, square footage or property taxes figures are not correct and can mislead a potential buyer.   Most listings include a disclaimer stating “All information displayed is believed to be accurate but is not guaranteed and should be independently verified.” which protects the listing agent from potential errors.

While a good Realtor will make the effort to ensure their listing is as accurate and detailed as possible, as a potential buyer, you need to be aware that there is room for incorrect or missing information in a listing.