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Be Bilingual: Decoding Broker Babble as a First-Timer

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So you've decided to take the plunge and now you're looking at listings. Awesome, way to go you first-time buying dynamo! Now you just have to watch out for shady listing language and broker babble! Sound intimidating? It's not, because we've assembled this handy-dandy list of hilarious euphemisms realtors use to convince you a house or condo is nice when it's totally not. Be on the lookout for them.

Think this list is incomplete? You're right, so do your fellow buyers/agents/brokers/human beings a favor and send us your favorite broker babble terms. We'll add to the list and keep it in a safe spot so you can always turn to it when you need to deal with your realtor (or when you're writing your own listing and want to avoid being totally evil). Send an email to with your additions.

Many thanks to the brave brokers, amazing agents, and all-around radical real estate pros who owned up to hearing, using, or despising the following terms. We'll keep them anonymous for their own safety, but we do appreciate their help.
Here are a few of the terms you need to know when shopping in Seattle:

Wine Cellar: "It just means a small, unfinished room in a basement with no windows. Or a closet in the basement."

Media Room: "Also lacking windows, also in the basement, but this time it's bigger and finished."

Deferred Maintenance: "This means that repairs and routine upkeep have been neglected for years. It's a pretty way of saying it's a fixer-upper."

Charming: "Cute-but-awkward. I once conducted an open house for a 'charming home in Edmonds.' Yes, it was charming, but functionally it was a disaster: two loft bedrooms upstairs while the only bathroom remained down stairs. Excellent curb appeal but a disappointing layout. The word 'cottage' is often used in conjunction with 'charming.'"

Price Pre-approved: "It's a short sale, and it's also a potentially hollow promise. Seeing 'Price Pre-approved' might make one think that this particular short sale could be an expedient transaction. However, there's just no silver bullet for a short sale. Communication between banks/lien holders and other parties are not always clear, so you still need to expect a minimum of 60 days when entering a short sale."

And finally:

Starter home: "Good for now but not later. 'Starter Homes' are typically small, may not be able to accommodate a growing family and often need some elbow grease. They are great for first time buyers who don't plan on having a brood in the next 5 years. If an agent advertises a 'starter home' it should be affordable and FHA qualified."