Real-estate ad copy is a notoriously Orwellian, two-faced literary genre. It is written not to provide you, the buyer, with any real data but rather to bait you with smiley disinformation. Knowing what grim, moldy truths might lurk behind the chirp-chirp adjectives and randomly capitalized, surreally punctuated sales terms can save a lot of disappointment when that "Close-In Charming Cottage!" turns out to be a decommissioned meth lab in Troutdale.
As you scan the listings, check out this modest decoder ring—our attempt to put the "real" back in real estate.
|If the ad says:||It really means:|
|Up and Coming Neighborhood||Chain-link fence, cars on cinder blocks, pot-holed dirt roads.|
|Easy Freeway Access||Wedged up against Interstate 205.|
|West Irvington||Between a laundromat and an abandoned Alcoholics Anonymous meeting hall on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard.|
|Alberta Arts District||As far north as Columbia Boulevard, as far east as 82nd Avenue.|
|Close In||Gresham, Clackamas or Tigard.|
|Near Historic St. Johns||Next to the train tracks in the industrial no-man's land of North Portland.|
|West Hills||Could be Forest Park. Or Scappoose.|
|E-Z Care Yard||The yard is completely covered with concrete, or it's the size of a bathtub.|
|Room to Grow||Tiny house the size of a garage.|
|Charming, Cute or Quaint||Really goddamned small.|
|Ranchalow||Not a ranch house, not a bungalow—a crappy post-1940s house that has had all of the redeeming modernist chic stripped out.|
|Updated Kitchen||1970s avocado green or 1980s mauve and electric teal color scheme.|
|Needs a Little TLC!||Needs new roof and foundation.|
|Bring Your Tools and Your Imagination!||You'll need an unlimited expense account at the local hardware store and a good contractor.|
|Agent Will Entertain All Offers||Something is seriously wrong with this house, and the real estate agent is getting desperate.|
|Original Owner||Sure, you'll get a period-piece kitchen that looks like a retro housewares catalog. But you'll also get the bad wiring, an old, leaky oil tank, and 70 years of Grandma's junk in the attic, basement and garage.|
|Gardener's Paradise||Large, overgrown jungle of a yard covered in blackberry bushes and weeds.|
|Perfect Starter Home||This house sucks, but it's all you can afford.|
HABITAT: Table of Contents
Become Donald Trump in One Day!
A Renter's Survival Guide
I'm Buying a What?
Way of the Ninja
Guns for Hire
Cracking the Code
What the Hell Does $250K Buy, Anyway?
The Final Frontier
Armed & Dangerous