In some of these ads if you check closely, there will be a disclosure (i.e phrase such as 4th BR does not contain a closet, or finished basement included in sq ft), but I agree still very misleading.
It happens all over, and it's very frustrating.
I had buyers for a 4 bedroom property that was listed as such. When I went to preview this place it was a duplex with the garage made into "two additional bedrooms" and Unpermitted shoddy work to boot! A real waste of time!
I know what your saying and had similar problems in buying a home in the Metrowest area last fall (2010). Here is my advise:
If you end up bidding on a property with dis-honest advertising, know that you can't believe ANYTHING in the disclosures or ANYTHING the selling agent tells you. Anyone who will lie in the listing info cant be trusted.
The home I bought in the ad stated "recent new 30-year shingles". To me this strongly implies a new roof that I can expect to last decades and to probably have a warranty. At inspection it was pointed out that the "30-year" shingles were actually a 2nd layer over a shot first layer, which of course no roofer will issue any sort of a warranty for. While we re-negotiated over findings in the inspection, I looked closer at the improvements that the seller claimed they had made to the home. Pulled the permits and the dates of the work pre-dated the sellers tenure in the house. The work was all done 2 owners ago. My agent confronted the other agent who claimed no knowledge of the inconsistencies, but after speaking with the seller did evenually fess up. I personally dont believe the selling agent.
Luckily these discoveries occurred prior to P&S agreement and we negotiated an additional 15K off of the price. SO THE BOTTOM LINE IS BE CAREFUL WITH MOVING ON A PROPERTY THAT CONTAINS INACCURATE INFORMATION IN THE LISTING. Seller and selling agent are probably hiding a lot of additional problems.
I understand your frustration as well. I am careful to make sure that what the seller says and public records says match or there is an explanation for the difference. Sometimes public records are not up to date on additions and such and alternatively I have found listings that are misleading as well. MLS allows square footage to be added from finished basement but only if disclosed as such. Obviously we are talking about finished space, not wet basement space. As another agent mentioned below, hopefully you will not let your frustration form an opinion that all Realtors are misleading. There are a lot of great agents out there.
Best to you,
Exit Realty Partners
Thank you for letting us know your concern on this matter, but I hope you don't hold it against us in general since there are a lot of great realtors out there too.
I wish you well on your search and I'd be happy to offer my services to you if needed.