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9 of the Most Overused Phrases in Real Estate Listings

Oct 26, 2020 by Barbara Zito
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It takes a good deal of advertising and promotion to sell a home -- and with it comes a boatload of cliched expressions, especially where real estate listings are concerned. While seasoned house hunters know the lingo and how to interpret what real estate agents are really saying, it can cause some confusion and consternation with first-time homebuyers. From tongue-in-cheek expressions to outright exaggerations and hyperboles, here are nine of the most used -- and misused -- sayings in real estate parlance.

1. 'Move-in ready' or 'turnkey'

What the agent means: Nothing needs to be done to this home to make it liveable.
What the buyer thinks: The home has been upgraded, and everything is in perfect condition.

Admittedly, this is a tricky one. "Move-in ready" or "turnkey" are very subjective. It could mean everything's in working order. But that doesn't mean any part of the home is brand-new or even fairly new. However, many homeowners associate this term with luxuriously upgraded homes -- and they might be disappointed to find out otherwise.

2. 'Mint condition' or 'like new'

What the agent/seller means: Everything is in excellent condition.
What the buyer thinks: Everything is in good condition but certainly not new.

A 1970s kitchen with avocado green appliances can certainly be in "mint condition" if the space has hardly been used. But buyers don't want old stuff, no matter how well the oven still works. And "like new" is the equivalent of a preowned car -- it's new to you, but it's still got some mileage on it. Still, unless the real estate agent is overstating the condition of the house, a well-maintained property will still capture the interest of homebuyers.

3. 'Starter home'

What the agent means: A small home that's a stepping stone to a larger home, perhaps before a couple starts a family.
What the buyer thinks: A small home that might eventually be outgrown.

It's better to not make any assumptions about homeowners and their aspirations/abilities to grow a family. And don't discount the single homebuyer who simply wants more space or homeowners looking to downsize or live more simply and affordably. "Starter home" is one phrase you might consider retiring from your repertoire.

4. 'Cozy' or 'cute'

What the agent means: This house is small.
What the buyer thinks: This house is way too small.

"Cozy" is a good adjective for blankets and couches, but it can backfire for homes. While the word does evoke a warm feeling, it usually means small rooms -- no open floor plan here -- and likely even smaller closets.

5. 'Will not last'

What the agent means: This house is too wonderful to last long on the market.
What the buyer thinks: OK, but it's already been on the market for over a month.

If ever there were a "jinx" phrase in real estate, it's this. While some homes sell faster than it takes to put the listing up, it's difficult to pinpoint the timeline of a sale. If a house doesn't last long on the market, it's because it's everything the buyer is looking for. Yes, timing is everything to make a sale -- but not because you've expressed urgency in a listing.

6. 'Serious buyers only'

What the agent means: Stay away, lookie-loos.
What the buyer thinks: No thanks; too much pressure.

While lookie-loos are the bane of a real estate agent's existence, this phrase can intimidate first-time buyers. It's good practice for a "serious" buyer to qualify for a mortgage first as a homebuyer, but this makes it seem like a buyer must be ready to make an offer as soon as possible.

7. 'Needs TLC'

What the agent means: This house needs a lot of work.
What the buyer thinks: This house needs a ton of work -- and may be bought for a steal.

House flippers will salivate over a listing that says "needs TLC" or "handyman's special," but those looking for a move-in ready home will likely move right along to the next listing -- unless the price is right.

8. 'Must-see' or 'must see to appreciate'

What the agent means: The pictures don't do it justice.
What the buyer thinks: This house is so small that even a wide-angle lens can't help it.

Some houses simply aren't ready for their closeup, whether they're too small or not in good cosmetic shape. If a house has good bones, as they say in the biz, virtual staging can certainly help spruce up those pictures for the listing.

9. 'Close to everything'

What the agent means: It's close to many things like shopping, schools, and transportation.
What the buyer thinks: It's in the heart of town.

There's a reason "location, location, location" is the king of the real estate cliches. But what does this really mean in a listing? Is it close to highways for travel? Public transportation for commuters? Shopping, restaurants, and nightlife for fun? It's unclear, but at least buyers will know the property is not in a remote, desolate location.

The bottom line

If you're "guilty" of using any of these phrases in your listings, how are they working for you? If you're selling homes quickly, there's no need to mess with your listing style. But if you're garnering interest in your properties but no offers, you may want to review your listing verbiage to see if you're overpromising on properties.

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