Woman at kitchen table taking notes while on laptop looking at real estate listings.

How To Read A Real Estate Listing

Carey Chesney6-minute read
PUBLISHED: February 22, 2022 | UPDATED: January 30, 2023

Searching for your next home is one of the most exciting endeavors you can undertake. Imagining you and your family in your dream home, thinking about your “must haves” and perusing online for that next abode is fun!

Shopping for homes online has never been easier, with a plethora of websites telling you everything you need to know about a house to decide whether you want to see it in person. Beautiful pictures, glowing descriptions and the ability to pinpoint the location on the map are just a few of the features these sites offer.

However, you may find yourself seeing some confusing terminology when reviewing online real estate listings. Fear not! Here, you will learn exactly how to read a real estate listing to ensure your home search starts off on the right foot.

Real Estate Listing Terminology Explained

Let the jargon cease! You shouldn’t have to be a real estate agent or broker to understand what you’re reading when you review a listing. Read on below and get in the know.


When you see “FP” in a listing (usually with a number in front of it) this is referring to the number of fireplaces in the home. If the home does have an “FP” be sure to check the Seller’s Disclosure documents to see if it’s operational or needs repair.


One of the most common questions home shoppers have is “What does MLS stand for in real estate?” MLS stands for multiple listing service, which is the online site where all real estate listings in your area are stored. You might also hear the term “MLS listing.” This website is accessed by real estate agents and brokers only, but they can send you a link to an MLS listing to review. The MLS is also the web platform that feeds listing information to the consumer sites you use to search for houses.


STO has nothing to do with the stove in the house, contrary to popular misconceptions. It actually refers to the number of stories in the home. This can be tricky for quad and tri-level homes that essentially have half stories in them, so be sure to check out the floor plans as well.


YB is referring to the year the home was built. Pay close attention to this. Older homes will require more maintenance after you move in. Ask your inspector or real estate agent what other issues may be associated with the specific year a house was built. For example, homes built in the ’60s or ’70s sometimes have sewer lines made of a cardboard-like material called Orangeburg, which is not good.


APX SF is referring to the square footage inside the property. Beyond the number of bedrooms and bathrooms, square footage is the most important information people look for in a home listing.


APX LSZ is referring to the square footage of the lot. This is also usually displayed in acres.


Zone is referring to the zoning the county assigned to the property. This dictates what you can and can’t do on a property. For example, if a parcel of land is zoned residential, you can’t build a commercial building like an office on it.

Sale Type

Sale type is referring to the type of sale the real estate listing is (conventional, foreclosure, probate, etc.) Ask your real estate agent what the sale type means for the home buying process in your specific state. 

Conventional Sale

A conventional sale is when a property is owned and has no mortgage left. This means the seller has paid off the entirety of the loan they used to buy the house, or they bought the house with cash.

Land Lease

A land lease is when a homeowner pays rent for the land. This is common in mobile home parks, where residents are charged lot fees.


LP refers to the list price of the property. This is the price the seller is asking for the house. Depending on the real estate market, you may need to pay more or less than this to get the home.


OLP refers to the original list price of the property. This is the amount the seller was asking for when they first put the home up for sale. Oftentimes the LP will be lower than the OLP if the house has been sitting on the market for a while and the seller is using a price reduction to generate more buyer interest.


DOM refers to the number of days the property has been on the market. Keep a close eye on this. If the house hasn’t been on the market long, it could still be a highly sought-after property. If it has been on the market for a long time, that means there aren’t many interested buyers and you may be able to make an offer below list price.


REO (Real Estate Owned Property) refers to properties that are owned by a lender because of a failed foreclosure sale. When someone doesn't pay their mortgage, sometimes the lender has to take the property through foreclosure. The bank then sells the home to recoup the money owed on the loan.


TIC stands for tenancy in common which refers to joint ownership of a property in different ratios. When different people own different amounts of interest in a property, a bit more paperwork needs to be done to get you to the closing table.


HOA refers to the homeowners association which is a private organization that covers maintenance on and around the property. Pay attention to the monthly or yearly fees with homes that are in an HOA.

What To Look For When Reading A Real Estate Listing

Now that you know all the acronyms and other real estate terms, here are some helpful hints for getting the most out of real estate listings. These tips will also help you understand what to look for when buying a house.

The Number And Quality Of Photos

The more photos a listing has, the better. You can’t see every nook and cranny like you would on an in-person tour, but you should be able to see most of the space. There should be photos showing every room in the home so possible buyers like you can assess every photo to see the home in its entirety.

Conversely, if there aren’t many photos, that's a red flag. For example, some properties that are dilapidated will only have one photo of the outside. As you may have guessed, this is because they don’t want you to see what’s behind the front door.

The quality of photos is important to pay attention to as well. Professional photographs allow potential buyers to see the home in its best light. Skilled photographers understand the angles and other photographic aspects that will help you be able to get a real sense of the space.

Description Of The Surrounding Area

Pay attention to what the written description says (and what it doesn’t say). For example, details about the surrounding area can often be left out if the neighborhood is run-down or not as nice.

Any good real estate agent will tell you that location is everything. It’s important to know if the house is close to entertainment, dining, schools, public transit, and other factors important to your daily life.

If the listing description is lacking key details, reach out to your real estate agent or REALTOR® for more information.

Previous History

The previous history of a home can shed a lot of light on the financial history of the home as well as any major renovations and repairs that have been done. This is more important for older homes instead of new homes that have just been built.

Financial Details

All of the financial details surrounding the sale of the home should be visible to the possible buyer, including the sales price, taxes, and mortgage.

To ensure you are fully informed, be sure to ask questions to your real estate agent or REALTOR® regarding any of the financial details before buying a home.

Contact Information

You should always look for contact information in order to directly reach out to the individual who will know the most information about the property you are interested in. This can include the owner (if for sale by owner), the listing agent, or your buyer’s agent.

The Bottom Line: Pay Attention To Every Detail When Reading A Real Estate Listing

When you’re house hunting, information is power. Understanding the key terms used on a home listing will help you make sure you are in the know. Paying close attention to each detail and asking questions when something is missing is the best way to make sure you find your dream home.

Carey Chesney

Carey Chesney brings a wealth of residential and commercial real estate experience to readers as a Realtor® and as a former Marketing Executive in the fields of Health Care, Finance and Wellness. Carey is based in Ann Arbor and attended the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where he majored in English, and Eastern Michigan University, where he recieved his Masters in Integrated Marketing & Communications.