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How To Read A Real Estate Listing

How To Read A Real Estate Listing

Two years ago, I bought a house. The search had taken two years prior to that. During that time, I was surprised to realize there were so many writing majors in the real estate business.... and the positive thinkers! Boy! Can't teach THAT in school. You'd read a listing and talk to the agent, and then go see the house... and wonder if you were actually at the right address. 

The house I ended up buying, after all this, was sold as-is: a foreclosure with sabotaged plumbing (backed up into the basement, so the red shag carpeting & pad squished underfoot), damaged electrical system, and a nice stockpile of fingernail clippings in a bathroom drawer. 

Home ownership is incredibly hard, deeply rewarding, and absolutely not for everyone. Should you decide to go this route, here's a list of terms you may encounter in reading listings or talking to agents. (Also, I recommend getting married first, because it can be a real struggle dealing with everything on your own. No regrets, for the record, but if you have the option, it would be wise.)

private setting = they won’t find your body for weeks, if they ever find it at all. local handmade products include moonshine and Schedule II drugs

rural = your neighbors may not have all of their teeth

pastoral = at some point in history, cows took a dump on what is now your front lawn. or perhaps your toothless neighbor’s dog still takes dumps on your front lawn. either way, it qualifies.

"nestled" and/or "hillside" = you will fall out of your bed and roll down the 14% grade.

charming = mold*

delightful = mold*

as-is = mold*

pristine = $$$$


diamond in the rough = GIANT HOLE IN ROOF, also may not have appliances*

cute, cottage, cozy = not enough room to turn around in

authentic = dirt basement*

period features = will need new plumbing, flooring, electric, roof, heat and windows*

may not qualify for conventional financing = potentially all of the above*

cash sale only = no banking institution in their right mind would finance this

owner is motivated = owner generally still lives there with their strong feelings about money

by appointment only = people still live there and it’s going to be hella awkward when you walk in and their agent forgot to call them and they are sitting on their couch in their pajamas watching cartoons*

short sale = long struggle

dirt driveway = better buy a 4x4* or some mules

gardens, or "landscape potential" = you know where you are? you're in the jungle, baby. you're gonna diiiiiie. also watch out for varmints.

views = windows are painted shut or otherwise nonfunctional.

near town, access to town/village = on a major trucking route and/or flyover pattern

newly renovated = there was a GIANT HOLE IN ROOF* and we gave up and fixed it.

open floor plan = had to take some walls down after the copper piping got stolen, and it looks so nice we thought we'd leave it

just like Grandma’s = mice, rats, bats, cockroaches, other wildlife or their droppings

only recently vacated = they left ALL OF THEIR STUFF*

foreclosure = frequently trashed and sabotaged on the way out*

near the water = the water is probably inside too, and in the spring, there's a neat moat effect in the driveway!

half bath = broom closet with mini-toilet*

new appliances/paint/floors/carpeting = we chose the cheapest option available, and then had it installed/applied by illiterate elves, to save money*. please don't look under the fresh carpet. you won't like what you find.

Now, here's some phrases you might hear from a bad realtor:

I forgot my flashlight again = I don’t want to go into that basement with you to inspect furnaces and foundations*

I thought you wouldn’t like this one you’re emailing me about = I didn’t want to show this house to you

This isn’t what you’re looking for = This will be a difficult sale and I won't get a large commission

You're not going to find what you're looking for = I don't want to look for what you're looking for

Made it as far as the closing? Congratulations!

sign this = just initial where it says about your firstborn

this won’t take long = hope you peed before you got here*

This is no big deal = there are traps in the fine print, have fun finding them*

We’re taking care of it = you’d better take care of it*

back taxes  = [deafening silence, wind swirling, tumbleweeds]

Oh, you don’t need to do that! = We’re gonna call you 3 days before closing and ask why you didn’t do it and demand you do it right now*

Closing date = a fun time for all! Easy to move around on the calendar!*

Post-closing bonus round:

Congratulations on your new home! = We’re going to contact you after the closing with paperwork we forgot, and ask you to back-date it so that it looks like we didn’t forget *

* = actually happened to me, except the elves, which were an artistic embellishment.

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