Real estate agents have discovered that using words such as "family", "comfort", "safe" and "sunny" in a house advertisement elicits a positive response from prospective buyers. On the other hand, according to Home sales need a 'sunny' side, certain other words - "basement", "motivated seller" and "cute and charming" (which is evidently code for "small rooms") - are likely to repel buyers.
I had some fun interpreting that peculiar language known as "real estate speak" for the book I co-authored: Buying Your First Home: An Essential Kiwi Guide. (No, this is not a shameless advertisement - all sold out, sorry.)
I was especially struck by the way the most humdrum feature can be gussied up to sound far more covetable than it actually is. In a little two-column box with the headings "What the advertisement says" and "What it usually means" I decoded ten popular real estate clichés:
• "Gourmet kitchen" means "Has granite bench"
• "Entertainer's kitchen" means "Has European appliances and granite bench"
• "Hidden" means "Has hedge or tall fence"
• "Urban oasis" means "Has a palm in backyard"
• "Perfect for summer entertaining" means "Has deck"
• "Great indoor/outdoor flow" means "Has doors leading to deck"
• "Wake up and smell the coffee" means "There's a cafe reasonably handy"
• "Grab your towel and head for the beach" means "Three or four blocks from the water"
• "Gorgeous golf retreat" means "A golf course is not a million miles away"
• "Indulge yourself" means "This house is not cheap."
At about the same time, the folks at Unconditional were thinking along similar lines. They listed a few pearls of real estate wisdom borrowed from a book called It's Not Rocket Science and Other Irritating Modern Clichés.
These are the four I wish I'd thought of myself:
• "Convenient for local schools" means "Convenient for several thousand local schoolchildren passing through your front garden; their parents parking their SUVs across your lawn and half a ton of sweet wrappers stuffed through your letterbox every morning and afternoon."
• "Original features" means "The place hasn't had any work done on it since 1974."
• "Up-and-coming area" means "If you move into this area you will be a bit like a pioneer staking your claim in a wild, lawless territory."
• "Vibrant area" means "Probably vibrating with the sound of 500-watt loudspeaker systems, the rumble of riot-squad trucks and sub-machine-gun fire."
One phrase beloved of real estate agents continues to confound me. I can't figure out if "deceptively large" means a house is large but seems small or small but seems large. But my favourite cliché is one that has been around for donkey's years: "des res with all mod cons" is short for "desirable residence with all modern conveniences". Spoken in your very best Kath-&-Kim-inspired voice, it's certified real-estate-cliché gold.
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