Real Estate Terms and Language

Monday, April 4, 2016

Real estate terms could become a language all its own. With all the terminology and lengthy phrases, it actually pays to have some knowledge of the real estate dictionary.

There are basically two types of real estate terminology. One has to do with creative adjectives employed in property adverts and which may be heard coming from the mouths of some agents.

These sales words will not always add much to your understanding of a hot property unless you actually apply some creative interpretation to match their artistic wordplay. Given this it’s probably best to avoid listings using the phrase ‘renovators delight for sale’.

Reputable agents will tell you everything you need to know and will answer every question you have honestly and fairly. There are few industries where the glossary of terms has become so fraught, as in real estate.

The other type centres on architecture terms.These terms are less acrobatic – while not always completely inflexible – and can actually describe a home's features and design very well.

Both are actually useful in giving you a sense of the property on offer, both before you actually get to see it and after.

So, to those weird and wacky sales real estate terms first.


Buying the lingo – what does it all mean?

The best way to approach these verbal leg breaks is to use your own imagination. Take the much overused “renovators delight”. Ok, we all know what that is supposed to mean and what it really means. But, the trick is to put yourself in the salespersons shoes and do a little mental role play about what the vendor or agent is really trying to do.

Generally, they can be attempting to gloss over, or divert from, a problem with the property. The focal point in the term, supposed to be a positive aspect, therefore can be assumed to be an actual weakness.

Here's a few more examples:

  • 'Modern' the taps are square, and the walls are white or grey. It probably has an open plan living space
  • 'Cosy rural retreat' it could potentially be far from some amenities
  • 'Reduced price' owners are looking to get out now
  • 'Good starter home' this one won’t be big, and you might outgrow it in a few years, but could be a great way to get into the market.
  • 'Garden views' you can see your own garden


Of course, some of these translations are exaggerated. But, they're not that far from some of the terminology you see in the dictionary of real estate terms.

The use of such terms, is that they unwittingly identify where the property is likely to be found wanting. That gives you a sense of where to look and what for, and perhaps a bargaining chip at the negotiating table.

With some of this kind of forewarning, you might be able to ask some pertinent questions and reveal some faults in the place. Having a good architectural lexicon will also help in asking the right posers and to know what the answers mean.


Building your architectural vocabulary – making sense

Architectural styles is a good place to start. Knowing your bungalow (a style from between the wars notable for having its front porch held up by columns)  from your beach-house (generally a pavilion style dwelling with as much wall space devoted to glass as possible) your Federation (a vast genre of styles built in Australia between 1890 and 1915) to the Filigree (a mid-nineteenth century structure focussing on intricate wrought iron features).

While you won't need to take a PhD in Architecture, the benefits of knowing what the place is, and being able to picture it in your mind, is invaluable. It's worth becoming familiar with the styles in your intended area at the very least.

Knowing your styles, and a bit of their history, will also give some clues to possible problems.

For instance, dwellings built in the 1950's and 60's, the post-war period, were often hastily constructed using poor materials. The shortage of certain resources, including tradesmen, and ready government money seeking to prime the post-war economy basically endowed Australia with neighbourhoods full of ugly, shoddy, jerry-built nightmares.

The widespread use of certain building materials during the post-war years, such as asbestos, leaves a legacy today that virtually guarantees any owner of a home from this period having to deal with a safety hazard, and significant added safety costs, every time they want to renovate.

That's the kind of information any prospective home buyer really should have. Knowing that the property was originally built in, say, 1956, should offer a red alert and prompt a series of telling questions of the agent.


Pictures tell a thousand words, but words are worth a thousand bucks

Someone smart once said that information is power. The fact is, in most business transactions, information is also money. The one who knows the most or knows what to know the best, will usually have the upper hand in any buy-sell negotiation.

In real estate, the vendor and the agent start out with more information, simply because they know the property better. But, an interested buyer can learn the lingo, the jargon and at least know what answers are needed to go any further in the negotiation. As a buyer, the information struggle can be tipped your way with a solid understanding and some pointed questions on the real estate terms. 


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