It’s a well-known fact of the online dating world: no one ever looks like they did in the photos. And, all too often, what people have to say for themselves isn’t true, either. For example, that self-employed “independent craftsman” might just be whittling figurines in his mother’s basement and selling them on eBay.
What’s true for people is just as true for houses. Sellers and agents alike will often try to catch the eyes of potential buyers—and deflect attention away from unpleasant property features—by using carefully crafty real estate listings full of sneaky marketing language.
Buying a house is such a complicated process that it’s best to beware—you don’t want to exhaust yourself with unnecessary trips, or disappoint yourself with showings which aren’t what they claimed to be. Unpack the lingo with this handy guide of common real estate euphemisms and their true meanings.
“Recent owner updates” “Recently renovated” “Updated”
It’s rare to see a real estate listing that doesn’t mention one of these phrases. After all, homes which have been prepared for market sell much more quickly, and for much higher prices, than those that are left as-is. However, be aware that “updates” can mean anything as small as a fresh coat of paint and a new shower head. Be sure to ask the seller’s agent exactly which “updates” are recent, and exactly when they were made.
“Great investment property” “Take as-is” “Make it your own” “Needs TLC” “Has potential” “Fixer-upper” “Opportunity”
All of these terms mean the same thing: the house is in need of serious repairs. And if the seller isn’t willing to make those repairs, it might mean that they’re more expensive than the house itself. A fixer-upper isn’t always bad news; it might mean that you can negotiate a lower price, and you may be able to increase the home’s market value over time. However, the property might also be a bottomless money pit—something that demands more time, money, and energy than you’re able to give it.
To avoid taking on a risky investment, hire a professional home inspector to help you determine the full extent of the damage. An experienced home inspector will also be able to offer an educated opinion on whether or not the home can be affordably fixed.
“Classic” “Traditional” “Vintage” “Vintage Details” “Retro” “Mature landscaping”
In other words, old. If you see this wording, it is likely that some or all of the property will be original and not restored. If you’re a vintage-lover, this might be a plus for you—where else can you find turn-of-the-century tiles these days? All the same, consider how the home’s age has affected the plumbing, wiring, and other important, less-visible features. Bear in mind that “mature” trees, while majestic, will also require more pruning, and may be a poor choice if you don’t have the time to keep up with them.
“Cozy” “Adorable” “Cute” “Charming”
In other words, small. Look closely at the dimensions of the rooms to decide if this “cozy” real estate listing is worth your time. If no dimensions are mentioned, take it as a warning sign.
“Unique” “One-of-a-Kind” “Quirky”
People, clothing, and hats should be described as quirky; homes should not. A “unique” real estate listing usually spells trouble, as houses which deviate from the norm typically aren’t a good thing. The phrase might be referring to something downright strange, like an odd kitchen/bathroom combo—and you can be sure that whatever it is won’t be in the listing photos.
“Convenient Location” “Walk to School” “Close to Shopping” “Luxury”
These are pretty standard real estate descriptors, but sometimes they are indicators that the property will be expensive. Houses that are close to schools have a higher market value than those that aren’t, meaning that if a house is near a school, you will have to pay for it whether you have children or not. The same can be said for shopping centers, parks, and popular attractions.
“Up-and-coming neighborhood” “Emerging location” “Exclusive Location”
On the other hand, descriptors such as these might mean that the property is isolated and/or located in a neighborhood that is still being developed. However, this is not always necessarily a bad thing. You might enjoy the initial peace and silence, and the excitement of being the first in a new neighborhood as others move in to join you.
This phrase doesn’t always mean that you’ll be looking at genuine lakefront property. It might be the case that you have to stand on a roof with binoculars in order to catch a glimpse of water.
“Contact for photos”
No matter what a property truly looks like, a lack of listing photos indicates that the seller isn’t working with a professional to sell the home. When you consider how complex and lengthy the home-buying process is, you’ll agree that a seller who can’t be bothered to list photos isn’t someone you want to be working with, anyway.