Toronto real estate listings have their limits. Namely 200 characters for a real estate salesperson or seller to describe the property they want to sell in the client remarks. It’s not a lot of space. So you had better make it count. Still, I’m sometimes left scratching my head on how certain phrases keep popping up over and over again. So, I thought I would compile a list of phrases that I see often, and look at them more closely to see what is really being said. Because the language of these remarks can be a little misleading, coded or just plain silly.
I think most of the descriptions you will find on a listing from the Toronto Real Estate Board will fall into one of Five Categories. Here is a breakdown of these five categories on the real estate property descriptions:
PHRASES THAT REALLY LAY IT ON
Ah, if Hallmark wrote the remarks for real estate listings, they would say something like this…
- “Hidden gem”
- “Something truly special”
- “Rare opportunity”
- “Don’t miss out”
- “Must see”
Hyperbole and real estate descriptions go hand and hand. So, let’s roll our eyes together at some of the more commonly used ones. One that particularly drives me a little nuts is “gleaming hardwood floors”. Gleaming just seems to be a little too powerful to describe the shine on the floor. We don’t need protective eyewear to shield ourselves from the powerful rays emitted from wood floors. No floor reflection has ever gleamed unless it was on fire. Why not just beautiful hardwood floors or new hardwood floors. But gleaming…?
PHRASES YOU SHOULD UNDERSTAND
There are also certain phrases that may seem just puzzling to many buyers. One such phrase would be “Sellers do not warrant retrofit status”.
For some this could be a little scary, and it could be. This phrase often appears in houses that have more than one unit in it. So, you may have a triplex for sale that says “Does not warrant retrofit status”. It means the renovations done to make the triplex (by the landlord or previous owners) do not necessarily meet the building code of the City of Toronto. If the City finds out, they can make sure you do the work to get that particular unit up to code, and that costs money. Now, I don’t know if you must panic for this. Something around 90% of all Toronto multiplexes don’t meet all the constantly changing city codes. The city codes are very stringent, and it may be as simple as not having the right fire code rated door. The thing is, if the City clamped down on all the houses with illegal units, there would be a massive housing crisis and the vacancy rate would be an even bigger disaster than it is right now. Still, this phrase should be taken seriously. If, for example, you buy a house in a subdivision where the garage has been converted to a second unit in an area that is not even zoned to allow for multiplexes, then your chances of being discovered and shut down are greater. Plus, you cannot make the anticipated income from that unit if discovered. If you have a unit that is up to code in every way, in an area that is zoned for multiplexes, except it does not have the required fire-proof door, then the chance of finding trouble is slim, unless the fire department has reason to come by.
PHRASES THAT MAY UNDERSTATE
Though exaggeration is much more common in real estate descriptions, understatement is also common. But don’t be fooled be these seemingly mild phrases.
I’m talking about such phrases as:
- “perfect for handymen/renovators”
- “developer’s dream”
- “calling all builders and contractors”
Often deal hunters see these phrases because they accompany cheaper than average house prices. Good chance you should have some concern when you see the phrases here because this house needs a lot of work. And by a lot, I mean A LOT. The kind of house you gut and spend six to seven figures to fix up. Such phrases can come between you and your mortgage if your lender feels your new house is too costly to fix up. So, unless you are a seasoned contractor or you are seeking a project to make your mark on, best to let these ones pass by.
As an aside, there are phrases that mean the exact opposite of “Perfect for Handyman”, and that’s “Move Right In” or “Move In Condition”. “Move Right In” is suppose to imply that there is little work to do and the buyer(s) can move in right away, and not spend months or years renovating with a bin out front before they move in.
IN YOUR PRIME
I’m kind of ok with this, but I still find it a little confusing. Some agents like to toss around the term “prime” as in “Prime Leslieville” or “Prime” Roncesvalles”. I’m sure it is intended to suggest this property is located the best and most exciting party of a neighbourhood. Still I can’t help but think this word makes a neighbourhood sound like a well-graded, top cut of beef.
Let’s end on a high note. Here are some phrases that do offers us specific details about a given house or condo property.
- “Quartz countertops”
- “Beamed ceilings”
- “New hardwood floors” (or any upgrades)
- “Custom-designed kitchen”
- “Floor-to-ceiling windows”
- “Heated floors”
- “1245 sq ft” (and a source)
- “Gas bbq hookup”
- “Hard loft”
- “10 ft ceilings”
Client remarks should point out things not already mentioned on the listing somewhere else or remark on items you can easily determine by looking at the photos. I also like the term “private” when it is honestly used. I think a sense of privacy is difficult to convey in photos or in a listing unless it’s in the remarks.
With all that said, I can openly admit that I far exceed the 200 characters with my first draft of the client remarks. Because of the limited amount of characters that can be used, I spend much of my time editing and contemplating what information the buyers of a given property/neighbourhood would like to find. Still, when I read the client remarks on some listings, I can’t help but feel these remarks were written by someone who studied marketing at the Used Car Salesman Academy for Trickery and Silliness.