One dumb tweet can kill a home deal (© William Andrew/Getty Imagesile spec)

© William Andrew/Getty Images

Pity the poor Tiburon, Calif., homebuyer who shared her real-estate triumph too soon on Facebook. The post went something like: "Found our dream house!" and she named a coveted neighborhood where she'd long been shopping.

"She didn't think anyone but those in her own network, which was quite small, was listening," says Ginger Wilcox, who was her real-estate agent. "Unfortunately, a friend saw the post and shared it with a pal who was looking in the same neighborhood."

The friend of the friend moved quickly. She tracked down the listing and offered more money, snatching the home from under the Facebook poster, who later learned through the grapevine how she'd shot herself in the foot with her post. (Bing: Facebook privacy tips)

The Facebook poster did, eventually, buy another home. This time, she was discreet until the deal was done, Wilcox says.

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Wilcox, head of agent training at real-estate website Trulia, uses the story to warn salespeople to tell their clients not to share deal-killing personal details on Facebook or Twitter.

Social media are embedded in many people's lives. But as of now, most homebuyers, sellers and real-estate agents are using these sites just to comment and report on their experiences and feelings.

More adventurous buyers are crowd-sourcing property searches and asking for help with questions such as, "I'm considering moving to this location. What do you think about it?" Or they are asking for recommendations on sales agents, neighborhoods and school districts; about where to find amenities such as parks, churches, cafes, restaurants and dry cleaners; or information about commutes.

As these new communication outlets expand, however, some buyers, sellers and agents are finding that their forays into social media can inflict harm in a variety of ways.

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"You feel that you are in this trusted network," Wilcox says. "But we don't know what our friends are sharing. Unfortunately, many of these seemingly innocuous updates could cost you as homebuyer or seller thousands of dollars, if not an entire deal."

Unless you adjust the privacy of your Facebook account and ensure that your profile doesn't come up in Facebook search results, strangers could read your posts just by searching for you.

On Twitter, you have a number of choices when it comes to privacy. By default, your tweets will be seen by your followers and anyone else who comes across them in a search, Twitter says. If you want to reach only selected recipients, use Twitter's "direct message" option. Only followers whom you select and to whom you send a message can see these messages. If you don't want your followers sharing or "retweeting" your messages to others, or if you don't want the general public to see your tweets, check "protect my tweets," an option on your account-settings page. Learn more by searching for "privacy" on Twitter.

Wilcox says buyers often tweet something such as, "We're really excited and are writing an offer," attaching photos of the property.

Preserve a little mystery
Success in negotiating, as in love or poker, depends on preserving mystery. Giving the other side insight into your thinking — agents call it your "motivation" — may weaken your position.

For example, a tweet such as this, forwarded to Wilcox from another agent, may make the buyer appear naïve or too eager: "Tomorrow... Oops, today, I'm going to go tour a new neighborhood and look at buying a new house. Excited and freaked out. Am I crazy??"

In Carmen Brodeur's $1 million to $3 million market in Scottsdale and Paradise Valley, Ariz., as everywhere, "so many people are so entwined with Twitter and social media that they find it hard to not disclose every detail of their lives. They just blurt it out," says Brodeur, of The Brodeur Luxury Group at Realty Executive. "I'll see on Facebook or Twitter someone saying, 'I found a house I love. I just put in an offer. Cross your fingers for me. I hope I get it. But I'll do whatever it takes. I'll go another $20,000 higher.'"

She says she warns clients to reveal little about their search, sale or purchase — online or off. This doesn't mean you shouldn't use your network and social tools. But experts advise that you avoid using them impulsively, particularly if you're annoyed or angry.