Translating Real Estate Agent/Broker “speak”

Frederick Warburg Peters, the chief executive of Warburg Realty, has a framed New Yorker cover hanging in his office of an enthusiastic broker standing with a hopeful couple on a balcony. Clutching a clipboard and grinning, she points to a sliver of the Hudson River peaking out through a wall of buildings. In a carefully crafted listing, such a view might be described as a “partial river view.”

“It’s what I call a two-person view,” Mr. Peters said. “If one of you hangs out the window and the other one holds onto his legs, you can see” a tiny bit of the river or whatever view is being touted.

Brokers use all kinds of verbal gymnastics in blurbs that could be applauded if there weren’t a potential buyer at the other end of these colorful but ultimately obscure paragraphs. Since “the possibilities to create your own piece of New York are endless,” according to one TriBeCa listing I came across recently, your imagination could really take you anywhere, maybe even to one of the listing photographs of a virtually staged bedroom with walls where none currently exist.

There’s a reason for the euphemisms. Listing agents work for sellers, not buyers, and they have a delicate dance to do. They must simultaneously avoid offending their client while also conveying to the buyer that, say, although the kitchen was recently updated, the seller’s penchant for flamingoes may have led to some interesting wallpaper choices.

Brokers are also bound by federal and local rules that require them to use inclusive language instead of phrases like “great for families,” which might imply that those without a family would not be welcome. So, if you want to let a buyer know that an apartment would be an ideal space for children, you might list the nontoxic paints the seller used in the bedrooms, giving a nod to anxious parents.

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