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April 11th, 2007 Lizzy Caston | Special Section Stories
 

HABITAT: Cracking the Code

What real-estate ads really mean.

     
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Let's face it: Real estate is based on sales and marketing. This is not a bad thing, inherently. But sometimes real-estate agents get a little creative when it comes time to write the short, sunny description of the latest shack they have to flog.

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 NeighborhoodChain-link fence, cars on cinder blocks, pot-holed dirt roads.
Easy Freeway AccessWedged up against Interstate 205.
West IrvingtonBetween a laundromat and an abandoned Alcoholics Anonymous meeting hall on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard.
Near SellwoodMilwaukie
Alberta Arts DistrictAs far north as Columbia Boulevard, as far east as 82nd Avenue.
Close In Gresham, Clackamas or Tigard.
Near Historic St. JohnsNext to the train tracks in the industrial no-man's land of North Portland.
West HillsCould 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 GrowTiny house the size of a garage.
Charming, Cute or QuaintReally goddamned small.
RanchalowNot a ranch house, not a bungalow—a crappy post-1940s house that has had all of the redeeming modernist chic stripped out.
Updated Kitchen1970s 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 OffersSomething is seriously wrong with this house, and the real estate agent is getting desperate.
Original OwnerSure, 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 ParadiseLarge, overgrown jungle of a yard covered in blackberry bushes and weeds.
Perfect Starter HomeThis house sucks, but it's all you can afford.

HABITAT: Table of Contents
The Plunge
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
Sweat Equity?
Armed & Dangerous
 
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