Hunting for real estate can take prospective buyers through a jungle of confusing jargon and misleading euphemisms. But the National Association of Exclusive Buyer Agents has released a report that attempts to decode the lingo and help buyers read between the lines.
This was a very informal survey of our Exclusive Buyer Agent members from around the country. Members were asked to provide any unique or misleading descriptions they had found in listing data and to describe what they actually saw at the property when they arrived...
LISTING DESCRIPTIONS AND AGENT EXPERIENCES
Term used Typical meaning Region of the country As-is This normally means that the seller doesn't want to do any repairs. However, don't assume that if significant defects are identified during a home inspection that you can't negotiate for corrections or compensation. That ability depends on what is in the purchase contract, not what is in the listing description. Most areas Bank addendum overrides local contract This is typically a short sale, (see below) but where the bank is also demanding contract provisions that may be much different from the normal contract in your area. Most areas Bank-owned This means that the home has already gone through a foreclosure type process and the bank that held the mortgage now owns it and is trying to sell it. These homes usually need some repair work and are priced accordingly, but the purchase agreement negotiation can be tricky and frustrating. Most areas Bedroom Can be a small office with or without a portable closet. All bedrooms should have a window to the outside but sometimes that important detail gets missed. Deep South, Upper Midwest Buy this house, we'll buy yours! The listing office will offer you a plan where they will buy your current home if you buy one of their listings. Typically they will only agree to buy it at about 20% less than market value to cover their risk and handling costs. Upper Midwest Cozy home Too small for your big-screen TV. Southeast Cozy bedrooms Room for a twin bed and one very small dresser. Midwest Cozy condo Often means it is so small that it is difficult to turn around in. Northeast Cozy, cute as a button, Larger than it looks! Typically matchbox size. Midwest Damp basement in the spring In one case there was three feet of water, literally rushing through the basement. The listing agent explained to us that this was an unusually wet spring and it would dry out quickly when the warm weather arrived. Northeast Desirable neighborhood Turned out to be located on a busy thoroughfare near a freeway entrance. West Coast Easy access to everywhere Can mean backing up to an expressway. Southeast Finishing touches needed Often means you need to bring your own lighting, hardware, paint, wood trim, and carpet. Midwest Fixer upper This includes homes that haven't been lived in for 20 years. In a "fixer upper" with "great potential," built in the 1700's, the door fell off the hinges when we unlocked it, there was no staircase to the second floor. It was not a pretty sight! Northeast FROG Family Room Over the Garage, also referred to as a "bonus room" in some markets. South and Southwest Galley kitchen Can mean a hallway with cupboards and appliances that two people could not occupy at the same time. Deep South Gorgeous colonial style home with great potential The "potential" referred to the fact that there was a large crack through the middle of the foundation, from the Loma Prieta earthquake. West coast Grandma's house! Can mean it hasn't been updated since she moved in and still smells like her. Midwest Less than a mile from the beach as the seagull flies This meant that to get to the beach by car or foot people need to get onto the highway and head North for more than two miles, and then take the causeway and cross the bridge that takes you to the beach. Southeast Light and bright Everything was white. White ceramic tile for flooring and bright white paint everywhere. It looked like a hospital. Midwest Light, airy basement You could actually see daylight through the cracks in the foundation. Midwest Lots of living space This was true only if you include living in the garage and on the patio or on the decks and in the utility room. Southeast Lots of possibilities Often means it is a real dump. Midwest Lovely wooded back yard Has meant a half acre of grass with four scrawny trees, none of which were over 4" in diameter. Upper Midwest Low maintenance front yard The front yard was paved over with concrete. West coast Mature landscaping There was a 40 year-old cottonwood tree that needed to be cut down before it fell on the house. Midwest Mechanic's dream It is often a real dump, but it typically has a big garage. Midwest Meticulously maintained and cared for Can mean they have never updated the property. Mountain, Northeast Move-in ready Vacant. Midwest Neutral colors or relocation beige Can mean everything is white or light brown, including the tile floors. Southeast Newer furnace and AC In one case they were 25 years old each (and also confirmed by a home inspector). When the listing agent was asked why she was stating they were newer she stated: "Because each one of them had received a new part within the last year." Midwest Period home Could mean a 1700's home in original condition with a summer kitchen in the basement. Northeast Quaint cottage Can mean a wood frame house from the 50's and less that 600 sq. ft. Deep South Recently updated Can mean the seller bought a foreclosure and painted the interior. Southeast Relo addendums This means the seller is taking a job-related relocation and there is a relocation company involved on the seller's side. Often relocation companies will want to negotiate verbally until terms are agreed on and they often will have non-standard provisions in their contracts. Most areas Renovated kitchen Can mean new faucets and new knobs on the old cabinets. Midwest Required seller documentation Often means the seller is in a foreclosure, short sale, or relocation situation and there will be non-standard contract provisions. Retro decor Original avocado paisley vinyl floors. Southeast Seller motivated, bring all offers Often means the seller is motivated enough to add an extra sentence in the listing, but not motivated enough to lower the price to where it needs to be to interest home buyers. Upper Midwest Term used Typical meaning Region of the country Short sale or "subject to short sale" Often means big trouble. The term refers to a situation where the home is worth less than the outstanding loans on the property, and the only way for the seller to sell it is to get the lender to accept less than the full amount owed. (The lender comes up "short") There are some markets where the chance of success buying these is less than 20% and in most markets the timing is often quite drawn out. You need to make sure you have an experienced company representing you on one of these situations. Most areas Short sale has been approved by bank Normally means that the bank has accepted the short sale based on the terms that are offered that moment in the listing. Some of our buying experts recommend only considering a short sale if it is already approved by the bank. Most areas Ski in ski out Can mean 3-4 blocks from the lift or across a paved road from the lift. Mountain Ski slope view When you are on the deck and lean over the railing and look up, you can see part of the slopes. The building actually looked into another building. Mountain Spectacularly built executive home Has meant a home with bathroom tile work so amateurish that it was reminiscent of homes at one-tenth the asking price. Upper Midwest Subject to third party approval Often indicates a short sale (see above) or sometimes indicates a relocation company is involved. In all cases, this means you will be negotiating with two different parties on the seller's side. Expect some additional frustration and delays. Most areas The home has had settlement issues in the past The property may have experienced a sink hole. In some cases whole homes are lost in sinkholes in this area. Southeast This house just had a total facelift! Has meant the seller painted everything, but remember, in some cases paint can't cover an ugly home. Midwest This will go fast Might have been believable in the first 30 days, but one home with this description had been on the market 247 days. Midwest Turnkey Can mean they want to sell the home with the 80's furniture that they don't want to haul away. Mountain Unique design Sometimes means you have to walk through a bedroom to get to a bonus room or to the exterior. This is most likely a defect in the floor plan. Southeast Very bright sunny home Can mean there is not a tree in sight. Southeast Walk to schools, shopping and entertainment Located in the heart of a retail district. Midwest Walking distance to Harvard Square Anything within about two miles. Northeast Water view Sometimes used even when you have to stand on the roof with binoculars and it must be an extremely clear day to see the water. Northeast Water front or lake front The properties are often fronting dried up lake beds and have been dry for years, in some cases decades. Some properties actually back up to drainage retention areas. Many areas Water front Sometimes means a man made pond or lake instead of gulf access. Deep South