The definition of puffing in real estate, also known as puffering, is an exaggeration of fact bordering on falsehood. You’ve probably heard a real estate agent make outrageous claims about their listing, lauding its outstanding qualities, only to find that the “outstanding” listing is not all that outstanding.
Puffing happens all the time in real estate, and under certain circumstances, it can be criminally punishable, so it’s best to be careful when making claims about your listing or its qualities. Let’s look at a couple of examples of puffing, and when it is and isn’t legal.
Puffing is very common in real estate, as previously stated. Real estate agents will do whatever it takes to sell a listing, and exaggerating a listing’s good qualities is not anywhere near the top of the list of crazy things real estate agents have done to sell a property. Ultimately, exaggerating your listing’s qualities is ok, as long as you don’t make any fraudulent claims about the listing you’re selling. Let’s look at a couple of examples that illustrate the difference between harmless exaggeration and fraudulent claims about a listing’s qualities.
For our first example of puffing in real estate, let’s take the case of a real estate agent named Janet. Janet has a listing that isn’t all that attractive on its own merits; it’s an aging bungalow from the 1980s in a low-income neighborhood, with a patchy lawn and peeling siding. Now, to make this listing seem more marketable, Janet exaggerates her listing’s good qualities.
She doesn’t mention the run-down appearance of the house, nor the poorly groomed lawn. She gushes about how “cozy” and “rustic” the house is when most would find it cramped and aging instead. This is a great example of puffing, and this type is generally perfectly legal. You’re not lying, after all; you’re just exaggerating.
A different, more insidious example of puffing in real estate is that of a realtor we will call Michael. Michael has a listing that wouldn’t be difficult to sell if it weren’t for one crucial detail: the owner wants an exorbitantly high price for the property. In order to sell the property, Michael takes a number of liberties with the facts about the listing.
He exaggerates the crime statistics of the area in which the listing is located so that it seems safer than it is. He lies about the state of repair the house is in, talking about how the plumbing is in excellent condition when in reality there are leaks and hard water sediment buildup. Depending on how severe these lies are, Michael could face fines or even jail time if they are discovered and proven. Ultimately, puffing is permissible only in as much as it does not entail fraud.