Every Tuesday night until February I’m in a finance class. I decided it was high time I understood the stock market, insurance plans and investing.
And although I will not walk away with a diploma or advanced degree, I have new confidence in budget management and estate planning, and I am genuinely looking forward to the two hours focused on debt reduction — this coming from the girl who would do just about anything to avoid math.
But there’s something else I’m taking away from class — a consideration of the words I casually use everyday. Did I say "use"? I mean overuse.
Our teacher is a little man in his 70s with kind eyes, a balding head, and the most straight-edge personality I have ever run across.
There is no room for jokesters in this class. If you have a question, please raise your hand. No whispering to your spouse. Or passing notes! Did you have something to say? Maybe you’d like to share it with the whole class!
Yep, I get in trouble every week. But it’s not my fault! I can’t help giggling when he refers to a budget’s extra cash as "blow money," right? How is that not funny? I also can’t help elbowing my husband when he says, "Like, no kidding" after every third sentence.
Which got me thinking. Does everyone have a catchphrase? And further, does our industry have its own unique overused phraseology?
The answer? Oh yes. Besides our flippant throw-around of acronyms — "MLS" (multiple listing service), "SS" (stainless steel appliances), "CMA" (comparative market analysis), "FP" (fireplace), "4B/2B" (four-bedroom, two-bathroom home) — each MLS speaks its own vernacular.
In Central Oregon, a half-bath was denoted with a decimal of "0.5" — pretty straightforward.
In the valley, though, one half-bath is a "0.1."
Elsewhere, anything with a sink and a toilet is a whole bath, shower be damned. Confusing? Yes.
Descriptors matter, too. In the city of Eugene, Ore., I notice a preponderance of "cream puff" listings. A cream puff? After thorough indoctrination, I now understand that to mean a home of impeccable regard.
And then there are your old standards: "turnkey," "good bones," "great potential" — gag me.
Please, if you use these phrases in your listings, you deserve a good lashing. But instead of retiring them, we add to the list of gag-me words until we have a whole paragraph of meaninglessness: "HOLY COW! Look no further!!! This Tuscan Old World home features cathedral-vaulted ceilings, a designer color-palette, gourmet kitchen and a park-like yard. Turnkey and ready for move-in today!"
How many real estate listings in your area read exactly like this?
It’s better we should just start using real words with real meanings.
"The previous owner built this house himself from pictures he cut out of Architectural Digest. No, he didn’t get permits. It’s very "Old World" (i.e., one sink). High ceilings (10 feet high, to be exact) and an even higher ceiling in the entry (12 feet). Wife designed the kitchen and picked the colors (mint green and chartreuse). All the GE appliances work. Yard has one tree and a large flowering rhododendron."
The difference? There are 25 homes in your area currently on the market with the first description. And none of the 25 will look anything like a "Tuscan" home. But I guarantee there will be only one listing as spot-on as the second description.
OK, so I jest (a little). I realize we often need to put a positive spin on some less-than-desirable listings. But my point is that the words we use in our marketing materials matter.
They introduce our product to the buyers before they ever walk in the door. So instead of putting every Realtor in your area code into a coma, why not try using new words? There’s a reason we have limited space for descriptions. The words we use are important.
"Like, no kidding."
Alisha Alway Braatz is a buyer’s broker for Coldwell Banker Advantage One Properties in Eugene, Ore., and a real estate humorist.
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