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 to cut 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.
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" when it comes to the house you're considering. (The sellers themselves might not even know what's "under the hood.")
Eclectic, funky, or oozing with character. The real estate world's way of saying "weird."
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 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 and overgrown shrubs. Consider the cost of manicuring the landscape.
Motivated seller. The seller's hair is on fire, because the house hasn't yet sold and they perhaps need to move on and collect the money for the next house. No seller's agent would reveal this unless they wanted to encourage buyers to make an offer, any offer. You'll have leverage in these negotiations.
Step-saving room. So small that in a few steps, you're across it or out the door.
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 and be sure to visit during both day and evening hours, as the character of the neighborhood or availability of parking could change radically.
Water view. This phrase is used even when it's necessary to stand on the roof with binoculars or lean from a balcony to catch a glimpse of the water.
To put the marketing lingo into context, do the following:
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, Ann O'Connell, and Marcia Stewart (Nolo).