The real estate market is in a league of its own when it comes to peddling jargon. From proclaiming the bleeding obvious (“vendor says sell”) to the downright unlikely (“your search ends here”), the world of property advertising is steeped in euphemism and chronic overstatement.
“I don’t actually look at the pictures or the copy when buying property,” says Director of JPP Buyer Advocates in Melbourne, Ian James.
“I look at a map of where it is, the floor plan and the façade. People who are spending $130 on copywriting are wasting it in my opinion.”
Nevertheless, advertising copy can reveal a surprising amount about a property’s flaws by what the agent chooses to emphasise, or even what information is left off the brochure.
But first you need to understand what the terminology actually means.
Close to transport!
If a property advertisement says the home is a short walk to the local train, then it probably is. However, sometimes the words “close to transport” are a little too true.
“It can mean that you exit the off-ramp and drive straight into your garage,” says Mr James.
“Or perhaps you are right on a level crossing, which is much worse than backing onto a train line.
“Those level-crossing noises are high-pitched clanging sounds, and you will end up in an insane asylum if you buy on one.”
There is nothing like a Continental reference in the advertising copy to add gravitas to what is essentially a property so small there is no space for a laundry.
We love our European appliances — those expensive Miele and Bosch brands — so how about a tiny European-style laundry for a touch of class?
“A European-style laundry in Australia is a bit of a misnomer,” says Mr James.
“It means the washing machine is hidden away in a cupboard which may not seem great, but it would be a dream to most Europeans.
“In large parts of Europe a true European-style laundry isn’t a laundry at all. It is a washing machine in the kitchen.”
“If it is advertised as perfect for renovators, more often than not it means it is structurally shot,” Mr Bucello says.
“The problem is not something that a lick of paint will fix; the value is really in the land.”
If, however, a property is advertised as being in “original condition” or “neat and tidy” then that is much more likely to be a genuine renovator’s delight, according to Mr Bucello.
“We buy these kinds of property all the time, because all they need is a new bathroom or the kitchen to be updated and they can be good buys,” he says.
Here is hoping because in some capital cities some front gardens have been concreted way back when to spare the hassle of maintaining a bit of greenery. It is indeed low maintenance, but it is also downright ugly.
“If you don’t like concrete you will be spending a good $10,000 to rip it up,” notes Mr James.
This is the phrase that annoys Mr James the most, as there is nothing attractive about a north-facing property (it means the backyard or courtyard is south-facing and never gets any sun).
But a north-facing courtyard is a thing of great beauty, and Mr James reckons many agents use the term north-facing property in the hope that buyers will confuse the two.
“I always look for how the property is actually situated on the block and not how it is described in the brochure,” he says.