Decoding Home Sale Marketing Lingo

Be aware of misleading home sale marketing lingo and do your own research.

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Homebuyers are bombarded with all sorts of marketing lingo. Often, sellers and their agents use artfully crafted phrases to catch your eye, lure you into the home, and perhaps deflect attention from the true nature of the property.

When searching for a home, you might save yourself some unnecessary trips or disappointments if you learn tocut through the marketing language and see the home for what it really is. This is easier if you know ahead of time what some phrases might actually mean, and what steps to take to find out the true nature and condition of the home.

Common Lingo in Home Marketing

Casting home features in a positive light is not illegal or unethical -- as long as it is not purposely deceptive. Here are some common euphemisms used in home marketing and how to determine their true meaning.

As-is. This might mean the seller isn't willing to perform repairs or upgrades, but you might still be able to negotiate a price reduction based on defects or other items found during an inspection. A home inspection will give you the true meaning of "as-is."

Fixer-upper. This could be a home in major disrepair, one that hasn't been lived in for a decade, a 100-year old house, or all of the above. A home inspection can reveal what needs fixing up.

Cozy bedrooms. This often means there is room only for a twin bed and a very small dresser. Bring a tape measure.

FROG. This term, found in listings from the south and southwest, means a Family Room Over the Garage or a bonus room. Be sure the room, if added on or built later, was done so with a proper permit and current building codes.

Easy access to everywhere. This might mean the property backs up to an expressway. Check a map.

Galley kitchen. This often signifies a hallway with cupboards and appliances so narrow that two people would have trouble passing each other in it. 

Light and bright. This might mean everything is clinically white -- tile, paint, even flooring. Be prepared to add redecorating costs to the purchase price.

Mature landscaping. This house might come with 50-year-old trees in need of pruning. Consider the cost of manicuring the landscape.

Very bright sunny home. This might mean there is no shading from trees. Visit the home to check the landscaping.

Walk to schools, shopping, and entertainment. This is sometimes used to describe a property in a largely retail or commercial district. Check a satellite map for building types.

Water view. This phrase is used even when it's necessary to stand on the roof with binoculars or lean from a balcony to see the water.

Put Marketing Language Into Context

Buyers who are attracted to properties because of marketing language should determine if the words actually describe the home or are just window dressing. To put the marketing lingo into context, do the following:

  • Determine if property descriptions are indicators of actual added value or just terminology used to get you into the home.
  • Don't let listing information distract you from another problem in the home. For example, while you are looking at that "great lake view," don't miss window framing that is out of plumb.
  • If the listing misrepresents a feature of the home, consider using it as a point of negotiation. For example, if a roof is described as "like new" but an inspection determines it's actually 15 or 20 years old, ask for a commensurate price reduction.
  • Compare homes. One "new kitchen" could include a remodel job with new appliances, while another might only have new cabinet facings, painting, and fixtures.

To learn more about the ins and outs of buying a home, get Nolo's Essential Guide to Buying Your First Home , by Ilona Bray, Alayna Schroeder, and Marcia Stewart (Nolo).

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