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looking at homesEuphemism defined: the act or an example of substituting a mild, indirect, or vague term for one considered harsh, blunt, or offensive.

Real estate agents have the extraordinary ability to put lipstick on a pig. Here's a guide to words and catchphrases you're likely to encounter and what they really mean. Below are just some real estate euphemisms.

1/2 bath: Basically a closet with a toilet hookup.

antique, original, old fashioned: Any listing with these words should be understood to be too new to be a historical monument, but too old to ever be completely clean. Benefits often include high ceilings, crown moldings, and beautiful tile work. Disadvantages include sewer backups, drafty windows, and having to actually replace the fuse, rather than just flip the breaker. The old ice box makes a great pantry, by the way.

artist community, bohemian, funky: No extra charge for the mural in the living room, but please overlook the fact that the building is not up to code.

as the bird flies: you have to navigate a tangled network of streets to get there

brand new, never lived in, state of the art: This is pretty straightforward, but keep in mind that some things will not work as expected with new construction; Sometimes something a little older has the benefit of being battle-tested and having survived an earthquake or two.

breakfast bar: It used to be a wall separating the kitchen from the rest of the place, but someone cut out the top half of the wall and replaced it with a tabletop.

charming: In a word, this translates to inconvenient. This is the coverall word for the toilet-in-the-kitchen, walk-through-someone-else's-back-yard, crawlspace-under-the-stairs kind of place.

community facilities, shared laundry: Don't lose track of time or you'll return to find your wet clothes on the dryer and the dryer in use.

condo conversion: An apartment that has lost one closet to an upright washer/dryer combo.

convenient to, close to, accessible: This translates as "can see from your front porch." Clearly, not so bad if it's a park or the ocean, but less desirable if it's a bus stop, train tracks, or the community hospital.

cottage, starter home: The entry-level property for prospective homeowners. Often used in conjunction with "charming," "fixer upper," and "quaint."

cozy/dollhouse: The house is tiny, cramped and everyone over 6 feet tall will bump their head on the ceiling.

custom, unique, interesting: Sometimes, these words indicate design and convenience that surpasses anything you've imagined for yourself. Other times, they are used for something that is more appropriately described as bizarre.

desirable location, great view, excellent school district: Unless you have 50% of the value of the home in your checking account, don't bother following up on properties that use these phrases in their listings.

development: They could be houses, apartments, or condos, but this term is usually used when said property looks so similar to those around it that you need a GPS receiver and experience with celestial navigation to find your way back out.

easy access to everywhere: backs up to a freeway

efficiency kitchen: Chop, mix, microwave, bake, cook, wash, and store without ever having to move your feet!

exterior fence, secure, urban, security gate: Don't bother getting to know your neighbors.

fixer-upper, handyman's special, handyman's delight, ideal project, DIY, deferred maintenance, great potential, investment opportunity, needs some love/attention/work/TLC: Hopefully it has at least four walls, a roof and a floor, but it's better not to assume.

freeway close: Once you get used to it, the sound of semis whizzing past will put you right to sleep!

grandma's house: hasn't been updated since granny moved in and still smells like her

great view: You might have to crane your neck out the window to see the water.

handyman's special: You'll need to do a gut remodel if you want to make the home livable.

light and bright: everything is painted white. Looks like a hospital.

lightly worn, gently worn, updated, contemporary: The landlord/previous owner is too cheap to replace these things, even though it's time for an upgrade. Of course, you don't really want them to, as it will raise your price 3 times the cost of the upgrades.

loft, mixed use: No walls. Great for artists and relationships where modesty is not an issue.

modest, cozy, intimate, compact, quaint, manageable, cute: very tiny.

partially obstructed view: Provides a great view of the neighbor's trees framed by the city/valley/coastline.

pied-a-terre: Literally, "foot on the ground." Loosely translates to: "if you can afford this place, there's no way that all of your stuff will fit here."

private, secluded, quiet: Commute time is only 20 minutes if you leave before 5am. Any time between 5:00am and 11:00am, plan for two hours to downtown.

redevelopment, revitalization, urban renewal, up and coming: The construction next door doesn't start until 7am, and you'll only have to step over the transients sleeping out front for a few more years.

rentable in-law apartment: This might be a separate room, a half-finished basement, or completely illegal.

retro décor: think avocado

rural: Smells like farm animals. Out in the middle of nowhere.

rustic: These places won't ever need paint--the bark protects the logs just fine from bugs and decay.

screened porch: These are great, since you'll have fewer mosquitoes than without the screens. As an added bonus, the screens blur the view of the cars parked on your neighbor's front lawn.

spacious: Ideal if you already own a Roomba, or if vacuuming is a hobby you've been meaning to try.

tucked away, getaway, hideaway: You should be good with a fishing pole or a rifle, since the nearest grocery store is roughly a 3 hour drive.

turnkey: seller didn't want to haul off the old furniture.

unique design: you have to walk through a bathroom to reach one of the rooms

walking distance: up to two miles

water front: this has been reported to describe properties on long-dried up lake beds and even backing up to retention basins.

Additional Links on Real Estate Euphemisms

The Real Estate Euphemism Pocket Translator – US News
NAEBA (National Association of Exclusive Buyer Agents) report -2008 Report on Home Buying Euphemisms and Lingo (PDF)


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