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An Open House Glossary

November, 2005 - Download this article

By Richard Stanley

Other than the automobile, nothing in L.A. interests more people than the seeming universal fascination with real estate—especially the curiosity about other people’s houses. A Realtor’s field of dreams is to hold an open house. Put up some direction signs and flags on a Sunday afternoon, “and they will come”—rain or shine. In the world of real estate, this phenomenon is axiomatic.

Every field of endeavor has its own argot—especially real estate. Realtorspeak is a blend of tech-talk, slang, hype, abbreviation, euphemism, enthusiasm, blind faith, legalese and, yes, truth. So what does it mean when all the houses are “charming”, all the pools are “sparkling” and all the sellers are “motivated”? I humbly offer a few personal interpretations of some  favorite examples of Realtor-speak, albeit with tongue a bit in the cheek.

What they say --- Translation

  • Home – what your agent calls your property when you buy
  • House – what your agent calls your property when you sell
  • Bring your decorator – bring your contractor
  • Bring your contractor – bring your banker
  • It’s a fixer – it REALLY needs work
  • It’s a light fixer – order six full-sized dumpsters—to start
  • Fresh paint and carpet – it was just a fixer yesterday; now it’s a fixer with fresh paint and carpet
  • New beige carpet – it’s a foreclosed property; the owner is a lender
  • Contemporary style – built or remodeled in bad taste AND/OR the
  • agent couldn’t figure out what style the house really is
  • Contempo – a hip or fab “Contemporary” house
  • Sun-drenched garden – all the trees were cut down
  • Cozy – tiny
  • Chic and spacious – the owner blew out all the interior walls; good luck when the Big One hits
  • Stunning – peculiar
  • Lots of potential – it’s a fixer and the seller’s looking for dreamers
  • Exceptional value – the house is big and ugly
  • For sale or lease – the seller knows the sale price is too high
  • Bonus paid to buyer’s agent – the seller knows the sale price is too high
  • Totally/completely remodeled/rebuilt – a paradox, since only a house
  • that was torn down and is new-from-the-ground-up could qualify for this description, i.e., unlikely
  • Owner will carry – the seller knows it won’t appraise at the sale price
  • Restored by award-winning set designers – there’s a show biz strike on
  • Spec house – the house you should have bought three months ago for half the price—now owned by “spec”ulators
  • Flippers – the people who bought the house three months ago to spec
  • Freshly remodeled – it’s a spec house
  • Fluffed – a very quickly done spec house
  • Brand new, palatial masterpiece – a spec house on steroids, a.k.a., a McMansion
  • Guest house – bootleg or “Beachwood” rental
  • Remodeling was done without permit and not to code – the owner found some guys in front of Home Depot to help, and they didn’t speak the same language
  • Remodeling was done without a permit but to code - the owner found some guys in front of Home Depot to help, and they probably spoke the same language
  • Remodeling was done to code and with permit – the owner is smart
  • Cook’s kitchen – this one’s so big, you’ll need to be on roller skates to make dinner
  • Close to transportation – there’s a noisy, busy street or freeway close by
  • Sexy – you’ll definitely need to remodel
  • Some flat garden area – it’s a cliffhanger
  • First time on the market in 50 years – assume you’ll need to update the infrastructure
  • Unbelievable – probably true: not believable
  • To-die-for top floor condo – is the seller looking for a jumper?
  • Drop-dead view – is the view so good, or so bad?
  • Top-of-the-world views – don’t ever run out of milk when you need it—it’ll be a schlep to the market
  • Secluded enclave – your dinner guests will always get lost and be a half hour late
  • Adjacent lot also available – better buy it, too, before a developer does
  • House is deeply set back from street – there’s an easement over the front yard
  • Seller selects services – the seller’s agent is controlling
  • Prestigious area – mid-priced area
  • Perfect condition – come on, whose house is ever “perfect”?
  • Magical – confusing
  • Move-in condition – well, maybe
  • Write any offer – the agent’s listing on the house is expiring

…and my favorite:

  • Rudolph Valentino lived here – not if it was built after 1926, when he died!