Brand building through storytelling

Unreal estate: the secret language of real estate ads

We were prepping our first home for its inaugural open house when our agent bounded up the front steps with the feature sheet he’d just composed for the occasion. Could we please take a fast look, just to double-check a few details?

The agent beamed as if he’d written a sonnet in praise of our house, not a mere piece of advertising copy. And he had clearly been in thrall to creative inspiration. After lauding the obvious charms of our winsome but modest brick semi-detached house —stained glass window, original woodwork—he moved on to its hidden depths. Nothing so bourgeois, so expected as a finished basement with a Unlike all the other undervalued brick houses with stained glass windows and original woodwork, ours had…a wine cellar. We gasped and cried with one voice, “What’s this stuff about a wine cellar?”

The agent shrugged like an eight-year-old who figures he’s too clever and cute to be chastised for bad behaviour. He flashed a wicked grin. “You’ve got a cellar. You’ve got loads of wine in it. And you’ve got a house to sell. Look, I have to be honest. Your place has some knocks on it. No powder room, no hall closet, one bathroom…why not play to your strengths?”

That cellar! I can picture it now, although we moved more than 15 years ago. Dusty crannies where our cat liked to hide single socks that he had snaffled from the laundry (just practicing his hunting skills, as cats will do). Wine maturing in lengths of ceramic pipe because we couldn’t afford a more sophisticated temperature-regulating device. A disused bathroom with illegal plumbing and rust stains on the toilet.

I have marveled ever since at the breathless enticements and flaring hyperbole employed to hustle real estate-or unreal estate, as I now call it. At least when you’re selling, you can hold the line. When you’re buying, like my husband and me, you have to parse the copy as if it has been written in some obscure dialect that only looks like English. Not that it’s really obscure, of course. It’s the only language spoken in Unreal Estateland.

As a reluctant expert on this subject, I’d like to share my hard-won wisdom with the rest of you beleaguered home buyers. If you read yesterday’s post, you’ve already had lesson one: the real meaning of “charming” and “featured on HGTV.”But don’t get cocky; there’s a lot more to learn. The glossary starts right here:

$$$ spent on upgrades (variant: all the bells and whistles): We’ve blown our wad on gimmickry, and you’re going to pay the tab.

New York style: Quick-and-dirty reno featuring white walls, exposed brick and stairs with open risers that your kids will drop their Lego pieces through. Closets, what closets? We never lived here; we’re just flipping the sucker.

European style: Faux Roman columns and lions standing guard on the porch.

European shower: We were too cheap to spring for a shower stall, so we’re giving you one of those hand-held jobs.

Irregular shape: We challenge you to squeeze a bed, end tables and a dresser into this bedroom.

Terrace with million-dollar view: Yours for the bargain price of a few tens of thousands (at least a hundred grand in a hot market, but hey, you only live once).

Great up-and-coming area: You’re going to love this ‘hood when the crack dealers move somewhere else.

Mint condition: Unchanged since Betty Crocker was a bright young face.

Steps from everything: Big-box mall across the street, schoolyard around the corner, traffic sounds to lull you to sleep.

Dramatic (variant: exotic): Colours fit for a clown suit, rooms shaped like wedges of pie, floors vibrating with patterns. Don’t you just adore homes with personality?

Executive home: It’s got everything you want except panache.

Don’t miss this one! (variant: Look no further!): There must be something we can say about this no-hoper.

Have I forgotten anything? Now’s your chance to speak up. Legions of weary home buyers are counting on us all.


Posted by Rona

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