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In the world of real estate advertising, some things never change. During my very first house-hunting forays in the 1970s I quickly learned that “cozy kitchen” meant there was barely room to swing a spaghetti fork, that “needs TLC” meant the house had been neglected for decades, and that “handyman special” translated into “bring a demolition crew because it’s not worth saving.” They all still hold true today!

However, in this post-Great-Recession economy some new things have been added, especially in my region where property taxes are oppressive and zoning laws strongly discourage rental living spaces. In the past decade many more homeowners have turned to creating a separate apartment for much-needed income supplementation. The problem is that the vast majority of these – which are often located in a basement – are done without, er, ‘consulting the local authorities’ (*ahem*). Although the apartment is completely illegal, such houses can be very attractive to potential buyers who would need exactly such a setup in order to afford the home in question.

Naturally, no realtor would ever say “includes lovely illegal non-taxed apartment” in a listing advertisement but they still want to give shoppers a wink-wink/heads-up; thus we now have several euphemistic phrases that get the point across while splitting some pretty fine semantic hairs.

The most popular is “Room for mom”. This does not mean ‘extra bedroom’, oh no no no! Any dutiful offspring would surely want mom to also have her very own bathroom, kitchen, and livingroom, which coincidentally happens to be already there for mom or, well, whoever. 😉 An alternate version is “poss M/D” which stands for ‘possible mother/daughter’. (I do wonder, though, why it’s always “room for mom”. What if it’s dad instead? Would he be reduced to pitching a tent inside the garage?? Sounds like gender-discrimination to me, LOL)

A more subtle indication is “fin bsmt OSE” (finished basement with outside entrance) in which the message is that there is direct access from the outside to the basement so that a tenant could come and go without intruding into the homeowner’s own living area. House-hunters with ‘tenant intentions’ will zero in on this phrase like a drone.

Another suggestion that an illegal apartment exists in a house is the mention of a “summer kitchen”. In olden days this meant a kitchen located in a space that was detached, or at least semi-detached, from the main house; for example, in a cabana or pool shed. Light meals could be prepared there during hot weather and it would also be convenient to the outdoors. Sometimes the modern usage simply means that there’s a second, smaller kitchen on the ground floor of the house in addition to the one on the second floor; but in today’s harsh realty-reality it more often means “tenant-ready lower level”.

However, it’s reassuring to see that most of the standard terms have survived into the 21st century with their true meanings intact, such as:

Charming = you’ll never be able to maneuver your existing furniture through the corners and hallways
New = has been subjected to constant use for 2 years or less (5 years or less, in some areas)
Updated = was replaced at some vague unknown point in time after the house was first built
Partial 1-car Garage = the only vehicle that will fit into it is a SmartCar
Many Custom Features = some truly weird stuff was done to this house
Open Floorplan = can’t tell where one room ends and another begins
(shed/hot tub/sundeck/pergola/whatever) Is A Gift = seller never obtained a permit for it and has no intention of ever doing so (or of removing said item, no matter how awful it now looks)
Easy Access to Major Roadways = traffic noise never ceases
Large Bedrooms = somewhat larger than a closet
Large Closets = somewhat larger than a breadbox
Needs Some Updating = looks exactly like the house you grew up in, but not in a good way!

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