#Stephen’sNiche: Deciphering ‘agency speak’

#Stephen’sNiche: Deciphering ‘agency speak’

Well, summer’s nearly over and I can report that I’ve turned a deeper shade of brown over the last couple of months. What’s tickled me pink between sunbathing sessions though is the language used by estate agents to try and persuade you to buy one of their properties.

Let me explain.

One of my wife’s hobbies is what I call ‘pretend house hunting’. We lived in our first home for 14 years and have moved three times since. We’ve been at our present address for nearly two decades and I tell her she has absolutely no prospect of getting me to up sticks again despite her view that we should downsize, now that our children are grown up and have flown the roost. Does that deter her from perusing every property advertisement that comes her way? Not one jot.

Which means I end up reading them as well.

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In the forlorn hope of curbing her zeal, I’ve taken to translating estate agent-speak for her.

For instance: how likely is it, as claimed, that a one-bedroom flat with a combined kitchen and dining room (described as ‘open plan’ to make it sound nicer) and a bathroom with no bath, but a ‘walk in’ (not ‘drive in?’) shower is truly ‘amazing’ and ‘wonderfully appointed’? What does wonderfully appointed even mean?

Or take an apartment that ‘benefits from’ (why not simply ‘has’?) a ‘small room, which is currently used as a store room’. That’s because, try as you might, you just can’t fit a bed in it. Otherwise it would be touted as having one more bedroom. And for the prospective purchaser’s sake, let’s hope the fact that the flat has an ‘airy feel throughout’ isn’t code for ‘it’s draughty’!

Consider also the fantastic, ground floor, corner studio apartment that ‘offers full open plan living’. Enticed? Me neither. Especially when the balcony offers “views over the rooftops” (seriously, that’s what it says) and ‘partial views of the sea’.

Our second home was sold to us on the basis of it having partial sea views. The reality was that it was a Rock-facing flat from where you could just about glimpse a sliver of blue below the horizon if you stood sideways at one end of the balcony and craned your neck 45 degrees anti-clockwise. Not worth the effort believe me.

Be wary, too, of adverts that highlight nearby amenities rather than the property itself. One I saw mentioned practically every kind of establishment in the neighbourhood, from a hairdresser to a showroom, but didn’t point out that the flat is in a location that’s inaccessible by road and parking in the area is a nightmare. This particular property has a ‘fantastic walk in shower’ (another one) and ‘a small but perfectly formed area for storage’. I’m still trying to work that one out.

Another recognised estate agent tactic is to use pleasant-sounding words and expressions to disguise the truth.

A ‘galley kitchen’ may conjure up thoughts of enjoying a romantic dinner at sea. If the kitchen’s in a flat instead of a boat though, the reality is more prosaic: there’s no room for a table and chairs and probably not enough space for more than one person to be in it at any one time.

Flats are sometimes described as two or three ‘bedroomed’. Be suspicious. This could signify they’re poky, little box-rooms and the suffix is intended to make them sound grander.

And why do so many advertisements end with the exhortation that viewing is ‘a must’ or ‘highly recommended’? Surely no one in their right mind is going to buy a property without seeing it first, are they?

P.S: Estate agents please disregard everything I’ve said and be as florid and imaginative as possible with your descriptions of our home, should we end up putting it on the market after all!

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Stephen Neish
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