Thursday, September 4, 2008

Don't Judge A Home By Its Cover Letter

Some of the lingo used in real estate marketing is just that, terms, phrases and euphemisms designed to get you interested. It's up to you to see a property for what it really is.

by Broderick Perkins
© 2008 DeadlineNews.Com

Unauthorized use of this story is a copyright violation -- a federal crime.

Deadline Newsroom - When shopping for a home, don't get tripped up by hackneyed marketing phrases like "gourmet kitchen," "diamond in the rough," "needs tender loving care" and "one of a kind".

Too often, such descriptions are subjective euphemisms artfully crafted to get you interested in a property, rather than objective wordsmithing that may actually turn you off.

There's nothing illegal or unethical about the lingo used in real estate marketing -- unless it is purposely deceptive -- but it is up to buyers to see through the veil of the verbiage that comes with the effort to sell homes.

So says the "2008 Report on Home Buying Euphemisms and Lingo," by the National Association of Exclusive Buyers Agents (NAEBA), a group of real estate agents who only represent buyers. And right now, buyers, facing a credit squeeze and underwriting hurdles that make them want to yell "Uncle!" need all the help they can get.

The report stems from an informal survey of association members asked to provide descriptions they found in listing data along with what they actually, physically found when they arrived at the property.

Says the report: "Please note these are individual cases in our agent's experiences. These descriptions may not apply in every case."

Some examples include:

"As-Is" often means the seller isn't willing to perform any repairs or upgrades, not that you can't negotiate defects or other items found during an inspection. A home inspection will give you the true meaning of "as-is."

"Bedroom" can be a small office with or without a closet. All real bedrooms should have a window to the outside.

"Cozy" could mean it's too small for your big-screen TV.

A "fixer-upper" could be a home in major disrepair, one that hasn't been lived in for a decade, a 100-year old home or all of the above.

"FROG" is a term found in listings from the south and southwest that means a Family Room Over the Garage or a bonus room. Be sure the room, if added on or built-in later, was done so with a proper permit and current building codes.

"Light and bright" could mean everything is clinically white -- tile, paint, even flooring.

"Very bright sunny home," could mean there is no shading from trees.

"Walk to schools, shopping and entertainment," could describe a property in a largely retail or commercial district.

The NAEBA says buyers who are attracted to properties because of marketing language should consider how words are used and determine if they best describe the home or if the language is window dressing.

Here are a few things to think about as you evaluate the home in question, according to the NAEBA.

• Does the information in the listing actually add any value to the home or was the terminology used to just get you into the home?

• Does the listing information distract you from another problem with the home? Enjoying the "great lake view" could cause you to miss window framing that's out of plumb.

• Is the listing misrepresenting a feature of the house that should be brought up in negotiation? For example, if the roof was listed as "like new" but is actually 20 years old, it could be a negotiating point.

• How does this listing compare to your other options in the marketplace? There might be another home just down the street that really does have a brand new kitchen of your dreams instead of the "new kitchen" that merely has new knobs, painting and fixtures.

© 2008 DeadlineNews.Com

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Broderick Perkins, an award-winning consumer journalist of 30 years, is publisher and executive editor of San Jose, CA-based DeadlineNews Group -- DeadlineNews.Com, a real estate news and consulting service and Web site and the new Deadline Newsroom, DeadlineNews.Com's news back shop. In both cases, it's where all the news really hits home.

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