Catfished – lure (someone) into a relationship by means of a fictional online persona.

Cribfished – to lure (buyers) into a house by means of a too-good-to-be-true listing.

While finding your next relationship online is convenient, the cost of this convenience comes in the risk of deception. Do you really know who you are talking to? Catfishing is the art of creating a false profile on social media using phony photos to make their victim believe that they are who they say they are online.

While the experience of finding a date has changed with the times, so too has finding a house. Today I’m talking swiping right on a new house.

I want to introduce you to what I call, being Cribfished: The deceptive art of luring home buyers to visit a listing and even encouraging them to make an offer on a home that is not necessarily what it’s presented as online. Swap partners for properties, and ladies and gentlemen, we’ve got a fake-news, buyer-beware situation.

Here are three warning signs I’ve gathered to help you know if this house may be Cribfishing. Read on to discover the crucial red flags to watch out for and avoid heartbreak in homebuying:

Over 90% of home buyers are looking online to find their next house. recently underwent some changes to their page design to show larger, more upfront photo galleries. Give the people what they want! But it’s 2020, the year of perfect vision (20-20, get it?) So while going digital to pre-screen your new pad is a good idea, don’t fall hard for a flattering photo.

Listing photos can make or break a house sale. As a Realtor, it’s also one of my biggest hurdles (managing buyers expectations). Home sale photography can range from the mockable blurry cell phone pics of the Realtor’s reflection in the bathroom mirror, to a 50-count photo collection so carefully crafted, you feel like you’re buying a lifestyle, not just a house.

There is big business in the field of professional home photography. Although it’s not yet the standard, it may be soon. Sellers are coming to expect a beautifully presented listing if they’re going to pay a commission to a Listing Agent instead of trying to sell solo. But bad listing photos  do exist en masse, so the well photographed homes stand out from the crowd and makes buyers sit up in their seat.

Red flag #1 – All of their photos are professional.

Nothing says downloaded from stock photography more than a dating profile of only pro-pics. And while professional home photography isn’t a red flag per-se, it’s falling in love with the photos, not what’s inside that becomes problematic.

Take a look at the photos – are they focusing on the stuff, rather than the substance? What’s truly on display here? Because if it’s awesome artwork, fancy furnishings, or lovely linens, chances are those don’t come with the house. Are they a complement to the quality features, or are they the lipstick on the pig? Are the shots exclusively of room details, instead of the whole room? Maybe the room is so tiny they couldn’t get a shot from the narrow doorway. Listing photos sell the sizzle, not the steak, so be careful. Look closer. Look through the photo set carefully. Homes that have 360 virtual tours are a great way to gauge room sizes, but the often-overlooked room dimensions are right there too if you scroll down. Look past the visual of the furnishings but pay attention to their scale. A beautifully dressed double bed in the master may distract you from realizing there is no way your king-sized bedroom set is fitting in there. Home Stagers know using tiny sofas instantly make a living room larger. Plus they’re easier to move in and out and around the room, but they’re usually God-awful in the comfort department, and I can almost guarantee your sofa is more sizable (and more comfy).

Why is this important? I’ve fielded many phone calls from excited buyers saying they’ve found “THE ONE” online. I’ve even had buyers want to offer on a house sight-unseen to grab it before it’s gone, and 100% of the time, it’s because of pretty photos. Magazine quality photos. This results in me booking an immediate showing and talking my excited buyers through only for them to be met with immediate disappointment. Downfalls like small rooms, short basements, bad layouts, or funky flaws are obviously not going to be put in the pretty photos.

Summary – Listing photos are people pleasers by-design. They are carefully crafted to make you want to visit the house. It’s not deceitful, it’s business. It’s how it’s done, just don’t think your mind is made up from a photo. Look at the pics critically. Fresh flowers and a luxe lifestyle laid out for you to love may not be reflective of how you really live. Scroll down to the building features and room list and sizes. They’ll tell you just as much as the photos, if not more. There’s little room for embellishment there.

Thanks for reading the first warning signs to watch out for. For more info. on staying smart when buying a house, hit me up. I’m your girl! Watch for Part II – Don’t get Cribfished Online: Swiping Right & Avoiding Heartbreak in Homebuying coming soon to

Realtor. Wife. Mom. Jessica Hill is a Real Estate Salesperson with Bowes & Cocks Ltd. Brokerge in Peterborough, Ontario. She loves working in home buying, especially first time buying with young couples just starting out. Jessica helps buyers break in to a challenging market with a sound first investment. She consults on home renovation projects to build equity for clients of all income levels. She attended Culinary School before becoming a full-time Realtor and loves to bake and create scratch recipes. She lives in Peterborough County with her (Realtor) Husband and two cute kiddos. Jessica splits any spare time between her kitchen and out discovering the beautiful landscape of the Kawarthas with her family by fishing, canoeing and camping. 

For more interesting anecdotes on being a Realtor Wife & Mom, follow Jessica Hill on Facebook, Instagram. If home decor is your jam, follow The Parkhill Team on Pinterest. Jessica loves creating dream boards for her clients based on their new houses and their aesthetic.


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