Decoder Ring Day

Who writes the fluffy house descriptions?! Out-of-work poets, creative writing students, used-car salesmen? Bottom line: words matter. Real-estate listings, not unlike personal ads, are crafted to minimize blemishes and maximize perceived selling points.

Decoding home marketing-speak can be just as complicated as figuring out what men really mean when they say “I love you” or your girlfriend’s huffy “nothing’s wrong!” A recent Los Angeles Times article gives us a decoder ring for words like motivated, move-in condition, new paint and more.

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We evaluated the meaning of a few keywords from this week’s three least-expensive, new listings (the typos are real as well as the screaming text):

$277,000, one-bed, one-bath, 512-square-foot condo in San Jose:

  • VERY AFFORDABLE = has issues
  • ZERO DOWN = agent used to be a used-car salesman and will throw in free mats
  • EXCELLENT CONDITION = well-maintained
  • AMPLE CLOSET, & STORAGE SPACE = the rest of the unit is so unexceptional and everyone likes big closets
  • LOVELY & TRANQUIL = no neighbors?
  • Three $285,000, two-bed, one-bath, 819-square-foot condos in Oakland:

  • PRICE REDUCTION = desperate … seller overpriced it to start with and eventually had to lower it
  • Beautiful designer colors = Ralph Lauren was my personal designer
  • Granite = modern
  • nw carpts & pnt = we couldn’t find anything better to say … maybe I should have listened to my mother and said nothing at all
  • $290,000, two-bedroom, two-bath, 944-square-foot condo in Antioch:

  • 2 TONE INTERIOR PAINT = nothing special, but doesn’t two-tone sound cool?
  • LAMINATE FLOOR ENTRY = this is a selling point? Is this 1970?
  • UPGRADED CARPET & TILED BATHROOMS = what we had before was BAD, this is a little better
  • Let’s compare this to the most-expensive new listing this week, a $9.998 million, 8,100-square-foot home in Los Gatos:
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  • THIS PRESTIGIOUS ESTATE = bigger than a breadbox and Robin Leach-worthy
  • SITUATED ON MORE THAN 6 ACRES OF MAGNIFICENT KNOLL TOP LAND = you will be king of the hill and your neighbors will look like ants
  • THIS HOME FEATURES A VINTAGE CLAY ROOF, IMPORTED STONE WORK, AND TOP OF THE LINE OLD WORLD FINISHES THROUGHOUT = third-world child labor made this all possible
  • Check out the article for interesting facts such as …

  • Homes where the seller was “motivated” took 15 percent longer to sell
  • Houses listed as “handyman specials” flew off the market in half the average time.
  • Words that denoted “curb appeal” or general attractiveness helped a property sell faster than those that spoke of “value” and “price.”
  • Homes described as “beautiful” moved 15 percent faster and for 5 percent more in price than the benchmark.
  • “Good-value” homes sold for 5 percent less than average.
  • In conclusion, sellers would be best-served by a listing with “just the facts, ma’am.”

    Decoder ring credit: Heather McKinnon, The Seattle Times