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"Agent Speak": Deciphering Real Estate Agent's Babble

By Hank Miller | February 19, 2013

“Words have meaning” is a popular adage; many real estate agents would do well to adhere to it. As the spring real estate markets begin to stir, the “spinmeisters” are sharpening their skills. But who are the “spinmeisters”?

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Well they are that certain breed of real estate agent who prefers to tell you how spectacular their listings are; not nice, we’re talking spectacular, immaculate, amazing….and perhaps the best one – “to die for”. Really? To die for?

We’re talking about what's known in the trade as “real estate agent speak", or "Realtor speak” and how agents spin their listings.

There remains a rousing debate around agent “puffery” and embellishment; is it legal and ethical according to agent conduct standards? Where does subjectivity end and lying begin? Agents and Realtors are expected to abide by a strict ethical standard; yet many listings routinely misrepresent properties, frequently with errors of fact. These same agents and Realtors promote themselves as professionals with a fiduciary duty to be honest, ethical and accurate in their dealings with the public. Is this apparent double standard one of the reasons real estate agents are held in such low public esteem?

So as the spring market opens, home buyers would do very well to keep everything that they read in context.  Puffery and exaggeration are the norm of course, so keep this “cheat sheet” handy as you peruse listings, it will help you decipher the agent babble.

Convenient to airport / train / highway – the house is adjacent to them or under the flight path; you’ll get used to the windows rattling; think of the noise as white noise; many buyers love planes, trains and automobiles

Walk to shopping / restaurants / entertainment – hop your fence into their parking lots; you can charge good money for over flow parking; no DUI concerns for the owner of this home

Occasional views of mountains / water / city - like when the leaves are off; trees are removed; twice a month when the smog blows out; with a telescope; from the roof

Unobstructed water views – until they build next door; since the water is now in your yard; until the next storm when the view will be from the water; as long as you don’t mind the flood insurance premium

Private natural back yard – because it’s a ravine; borders a detention pond; is a garbage dump

Updated – painted…a room…10 years ago; with scratch and dent items; by the husband that took the 2 hour tile class at Home Depot; with outdated material; define updated?

Updated/renovated/remodeled kitchen and baths – see “updated”; new cabinet pulls; replaced a broken appliance; new faucet or shower head

New, like new – not new, usually a few years old

Brand new / just installed – usually less than a year or two old

Pristine, immaculate, to die for - used

Cute, cozy, quaint, comfortable – small and cramped

Eclectic, edgy, rustic – think from bar décor to college dorm

Excellent - OK

Average – poor

Fair – not operational

Waiting for your touch – if you’re a contractor with lots of time and money, or maybe an arsonist

Handyman Special – money pit, don’t even think about it unless you have money, time and skills

Cash only – should be obvious

And this list merely scratches the surface…

Inaccurate and misleading information does no one any good. The seller is likely to wait longer for a buyer as those visiting are expecting something different. The agent is likely to see an extended market time for the very same reason. The buyer and the buyer agent will be wasting time expecting to see the home described only to find something less. In short, no matter how much someone makes a Hyundai sound like a Ferrari on line, when you walk up to it it’s still a Hyundai. Buyers won’t be fooled, and even if they miss something, inspectors and appraisers probably won’t.

Agent Speak” and what real estate agents say matters. Nonsense is completely counterproductive but won’t likely stop anytime soon. In fact, it will almost certainly increase as the spring market begins. Agents should take a second to consider the consequences of this; not only to their seller and other agents but to their reputation in their market. It’s fine to shine an apple with worm holes or bruises but keep in mind that in the end, accurately portraying a home often results in buyers with the most realistic expectations…and that usually results in a better experience for the seller.

Hank Miller is a full time Associate Broker and Certified Appraiser in Atlanta. He is known as much for his attention to detail as he is for his candor. Visit for all things real estate.
  • 2 comments on “"Agent Speak": Deciphering Real Estate Agent's Babble”

    1. It's not about budget - it's about accurately representing what the agent is selling. A starter home can easily be properly described and expectations of potential buyers set. The listing agent has a resonsibility to the seller - misrepresenting things does nothing positive for their client.

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