decoding real estate listings: a helpful glossary

If you’ve ever spent any time house-hunting, you’ve probably noticed that real estate listings have a certain lingo of their own. Often, this involves descriptions of properties that have been somewhat embellished to make even flaws quirky characteristics sound like selling points. Some of these euphemisms have become standardized, such as the “handyman’s special,” a term for a home that is falling apart in every imaginable way in minor need of repairs.

In order to help you read between the lines in an MLS listing, I offer to you this helpful example and glossary.

Example: a typical MLS listing

Charming and cozy 2 bedroom house. Enjoy summer breezes in this lovingly decorated perfect starter home, with sunny, low-maintenance yard. Modern kitchen, 1 and a half baths, partially finished basement. Homey, and ready to move in!
Location features:
• easy access to freeway
• excellent cell phone reception
• close to amenities
• friendly, mature neighborhood

Glossary of Terms:
charming: run-down
cozy: cramped
summer breezes: house is drafty, may have windows missing or holes in roof
lovingly decorated: all the carpets are magenta, and there is loud wallpaper in every room
perfect starter home: you’ll want to move out as soon as you can afford better
sunny: no trees or shade of any kind
low-maintenance yard: lawn is paved over
modern kitchen: kitchen done in the Modern style, circa 1960
1 and a half baths: the second bathroom has partially-installed fixtures, or there may be a toilet in the basement
partially finished basement: basement features water-stained shag carpet
homey: house has funky smells, possible from cat urine
Ready to move in!: home has been abandoned
easy access to freeway: next to an on-ramp
excellent cell phone reception: under a cell phone tower
close to amenities: across from a liquor and/or convenience store
friendly, mature neighborhood: may be near a strip club or adult bookstore

I hope that this information will be helpful to you in your house-hunting endeavors. If you have more terms to add to the glossary, I welcome your contributions!

This week’s Monday Mission, which I’ve chosen to accept in a roundabout way, was to write a post in the style of a real estate listing. For more listings, stop by Painted Maypole.

Thanks to maja for teaching me “low-maintenance yard” and “easy freeway access,” terms that she may have actually seen in use.

Introducing AHTV: The American Hovel TV Network

American Hovel Magazine, April 2007 coverAHTV
Lowering Acceptable Neatness Standards in the Home
…and Beyond!

Following the incredible success of American Hovel Magazine, the magazine dedicated to lowering acceptable neatness standards in the home, this month will see the launch of AHTV, the American Hovel TV Network. Here are a few shows that you’ll be able to see on AHTV:

  • Fashion Programming
    Laundry Day Style
    Getting dressed can be a challenge on those days when laundry is overdue. But with a little help from our fashionistas, you can throw together outfits that make a statement using what’s left in your closet.

  • Science and Nature Shows
    The Wild Kingdom: Indoor Edition
    Ever wonder what kinds of things are growing in your refrigerator? What sorts of animals have taken up residence in your garage or attic? Tune each week to find out.
  • Sit Coms
    The Oddly Compatible Couple
    Oscar is a messy slob. Felix is a messy slob. What happens when two messy people move in together? Hilarity ensues!

  • Dramas
    Law and Disorder
    A courtroom drama about a group of attorneys whose offices are in constant chaos. They’ll get to the bottom of the case, once they find the tops of their desks.

    The X-Piles
    Is that fuzzy gray thing in the vegetable drawer becoming sentient? Are rooms really disappearing in your home? Did aliens steal your remote? Join special agents Molder and Sullied as they investigate reports of supernatural occurrences.

    Max Clutter, P.I.
    Crime is a messy business, especially when Max gets involved. Join the Detritus Detective each week for a new mystery, as he searches for clues, missing persons, and his missing car keys.

  • Home and Garden Shows
    Trashing Spaces
    See some of America’s most beautiful showroom homes.Then see what happens when real families move into them.

    Martha Stewart’s Not Living Here
    Join our hosts, who are nothing like Martha Stewart, as they give ideas for ways to appreciate your messy home. Topics for upcoming shows include “Loving Your Dandelion Garden,” “Clutter Chic,” and “Feng Shui is not For You.”


This programming is brought to you by…The Monday Mission, sponsored by The Flying Mum, now with more TV programming than ever. Nothing brightens teeth better!

entertaining tips from American Hovel Magazine

American Hovel Magazine, April 2007 cover A few months ago, I shared the news that our home was featured on the cover of American Hovel Magazine‘s April edition, following our interview with that magazine earlier this year. Well, readers were so impressed by the chaotic state of our home that AHM has asked me to write some features myself as a guest author. Here is a draft of the article I’m working on, inspired by having recently had guests staying overnight.

Preparing for Overnight Guests, an American Hovel Magazine feature by guest writer alejna

When you know that guests will be staying over, it always helps to be prepared. If you have a guest room, or believe that you may have one lying around somewhere, it is a good start to find and prep this room. Here are some steps to follow to accomplish this goal.

  • Step 1: Find the guest room
    The first step is to locate and identify your own guest room. A guest room is a room in your house that may or may not have a door. Often, this room will be the place that you have found convenient to set aside items for “temporary” storage: boxes of clothing to be packed up or donated, piles of books and papers, small items of furniture or sundry toys that your child may have outgrown, odds and ends of obsolete technology, mysterious cables, miscellaneous repair or creative projects in various stages of completion, seasonal decor items given to you by your mother-in-law, holiday presents sent by various out-of-state relatives, holiday presents you never got around to mailing to various out-of-state relatives, and/or out-of-state relatives that you forgot were visiting. (Actual contents of guest rooms may vary.)
  • Step 2: find the sleeping surface
    Guest rooms typically feature some sort of bed or convertible sofa-type piece of furniture that allows your guests to sleep in relative comfort. (Many guests find that kitchen floors, front lawns or bathtubs are not terribly comfortable as sleeping arrangements. However, in a pinch, these will do. Make sure to offer a blanket or tarp.) You are likely to find that the bed (or other sleeping surface) can be found under the largest pile of items listed in Step 1.
  • Step 3: clear the bed or other sleeping surface
    Once you have identified the bed (or other sleeping surface, hereafter called simply, “the Bed”), it is time to undertake the most challenging task: “clearing” the Bed. This daunting task may take many hours, and will most likely be attempted when the arrival of your guests is imminent. Be prepared by having ready the proper tools for the job: rakes, shovels, forklifts and hard liquor. You may also find it helpful to have a phone nearby, so that you may call a sympathetic friend or relative to help ease the emotional burden of the task.

    One of the seemingly impossible aspects of “clearing” the Bed is to find places to put those items that have so long been inhabiting the Bed space. The ideal way to deal with this is to carefully sort through all the items, give away or discard those items that are no longer in use, and find appropriate permanent storage solutions for the rest. You will not have the time or energy for the ideal way, because your guests are almost here, and if you could so easily deal with things in the ideal way, you wouldn’t be reading this magazine, because you are neat and organized and you have in the past been likened to Martha Stewart. You will instead need to follow the more expedient method: move the items from the Bed to other spaces around the house that your guests will not see. Suggestions include: your own bedroom, office, car, back yard (depending on the season), neighbor’s yard, or if you have more than one bathroom, in a bathtub or shower.

  • Step 4: Prepare the Bed
    You will find that many guests will expect to find some sort of bed linens in place on the Bed, and that further, the expectation is that such linens will be clean. However, few guests will actually ask if the bed linens are fresh. Therefore, if time is short, and the sheets are not visibly soiled by any previous guests or nesting animals, you may find that a don’t-ask-don’t-tell policy is helpful.¹
  • That is all for this installment of hints for preparing for overnight guests. There are other preparation considerations that may be helpful, however, I believe that your own guests are now pulling into your driveway anyhow, so you will just have to wing it this time.


    ¹ For those guests who may have recently visited my own home: I put clean sheets on the bed. Seriously.