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Originally published Saturday, October 4, 2008 at 12:00 AM

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Learn the real-estate lingo

A favorite "Simpsons" episode of mine is "Realty Bites," which features Marge as a real-estate agent who is chided by Red Jacket Realty...

The Philadelphia Inquirer

A favorite "Simpsons" episode of mine is "Realty Bites," which features Marge as a real-estate agent who is chided by Red Jacket Realty broker Lionel Hutz for having a "no-pressure approach."

Marge: "Well, like we say: 'The right house for the right person.' "

Hutz: "Listen, it's time I let you in on a little secret, Marge. The right house is the house that's for sale. The right person is anyone."

To drive home his point, Hutz shows her photos of houses for sale.

Marge: "It's awfully small. ... "

Hutz: "I'd say it's awfully — cozy!"

Marge: "That's dilapidated... . "

Hutz: "Rustic!"

Marge: "That house is on fire!"

Hutz: "Motivated seller!"

I was reminded of "Realty Bites" when I received an e-mail from Jon Boyd of the National Association of Exclusive Buyer Agents, forwarding the association's 2008 survey of "homebuying euphemisms and lingo."

Some of these descriptions are common to a single region. Others are found just about everywhere.


• As-is: "This usually means that the seller doesn't want to do any repairs. However, don't assume that if significant defects are identified during a home inspection that you can't negotiate for corrections or compensation. That ability depends on what is in the purchase contract, not what is in the listing description."

• Bank-owned: "This means that the house has gone through a foreclosure-type process and the bank that held the mortgage now owns it and is trying to sell it. These homes usually need repair work and are priced accordingly, but the purchase-agreement negotiation can be tricky and frustrating."

• Damp basement in the spring: "In one case, there was 3 feet of water, literally rushing through the basement. The listing agent explained to us that this was an unusually wet spring, and it would dry out quickly when the warm weather arrived."

• Grandma's house: "Can mean it hasn't been updated since she moved in and still smells like her."

• Lots of possibilities: "Often means it is a real dump."

The group also offers useful advice for evaluating the house in question:

Does the information in the listing (say, "renovated kitchen") actually add any value to the home? Or was the terminology used just to get you inside the home?

Does the listing information distract you from another problem with the home? You might be looking for the "great lake view" described in the listing while missing a major defect.

Is the listing misrepresenting a feature of the house that should be brought up in negotiation?

If the roof was listed as "new" but is actually 20 years old, you can often negotiate around this point.

During the real estate boom of a few years back, too many buyers skimped on the details, forgoing inspections and paying too much. They were left holding the bag.

Be smarter about what you buy.

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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