Ah, real estate code words.
If you’ve ever looked for an apartment, you’ve probably learned the hard way that “in the sky” means an apartment up so many stairs that you feel like you’re training for a marathon. Meanwhile, “gracious layout” means the place has a foyer or entry hall that’s big enough to dwarf an umbrella stand, but too small to place your desk. When it comes to houses, “convenient to everything” means it is right near a busy, noisy street, while “serene oasis” means you can’t find the main road. (Thinking about buying a house? Learn what questions to ask before committing to a mortgage.)
Why the Fancy Wording?
Some words are there for a reason; agents don’t want to anger a seller by using the word “small” in an ad, but they don’t want to waste buyers’ time, either. So we have “charming” (which usually translates to “small, with architectural detail”) and “cozy” (which usually translates to “small, without architectural detail.”)
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Some words, however, are there just because they’re trendy. In a slow market, one agent might put “motivated seller” in a listing, and then all the other agents in an area use the phrase, whether their sellers are motivated or not.
As a buyer, if you’re reading an ad and you come across something that looks like real-estate speak but you can’t figure it out, call the listing agent. He or she should be able to explain whether “unique” means odd décor (which you can remove or change) or an odd layout (which maybe you can’t).
“Beautiful” vs. “Fantastic”
You want to be precise with your language. If you were describing a purse, “beautiful” and “fantastic” would both mean the same thing: it’s a great bag! When you’re describing a property, though, they are very different. A 2000 study by Canadian economist Paul Anglin found that listings using the word “beautiful,” sold 15% faster and at a 5% higher price than listings that didn’t. The 2005 book “Freakonomics,” however, found that listings using the word “fantastic” ended up with lower sales prices. (If you're selling your house, read this to learn the best time to put your house on the market.)
Be as Specific as Possible
The other word that Anglin found to be very effective was “landscaping,” which gave listings a 6% higher price. Freakonomics, for its part, found that “maple” and “Corian” were very effective terms. Do you see the theme here?
If you’re selling, you want to describe the benefits of your house in a very specific way. If your bathroom has marble in it, say “marble.” If your hardwood floors are country pine, say “country pine floors.” The idea is to give the buyer as complete a picture of your home as possible, even before they see the pictures. And that’s not a trick of language, that’s good selling.