Here’s what cozy, charming & other real estate terms really mean


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As you read real estate listings, you may come across industry jargon and certain catchphrases again and again. Paying attention to and understanding these terms can provide valuable clues about the home and the seller’s situation.

What follows is a real estate glossary that can help you decipher listings and figure out what a realtor is really saying about a property.

Real estate has a language all its own. To figure out which homes may be worth looking at, and which might not, you may want to use this handy real estate translator next time you peruse the listings.

Related: How to find a real estate agent

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1. Cozy

While this descriptor may bring to mind a comfy armchair and a steaming mug of cocoa, in real estate, “cozy” tends to mean “small.” The home may have minimal square footage, meaning each room may have very limited space

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2. Charming

“Charming” is often another code word for a house with a small footprint, and may also indicate an older construction — which may, indeed, be charming, but might also end up needing costly repairs and renovations.

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3. Cottage

This is yet another word that sounds like it’s invoking a feeling when it may really be invoking a size — and that size may be on the smaller side. Cottages tend to be one- to two-bedroom houses and, again, might also be dated.

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4. Hidden gem

These words might indicate a nice home in an out-of-the-way location or a home in a popular and trendy locale that needs some work. Either way, it can indicate that the property offers a great opportunity for the right buyer, though you may have to put in some work or make some sacrifices.

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5. Investor special

That sounds like a good thing, right? But a real estate agent might use this phrase to mean a house is in pretty rough shape and will take significant work to make livable– as in, you may only be able to buy it for cash or with a rehab loan.

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6. Fixer

A listing agent may use this term as a shortening of “fixer-upper.” In other words, major renovations are likely going to be needed.

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7. Good bones

A home with “good bones” is typically one that needs some renovation and repair, but whose original construction is solid and whose layout is desirable. In other words, the skeleton of a great home is there, but you may need to do some work to flesh it out.

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8. Move-in ready

Here’s a phrase you want to see in your real estate listings. “Move-in ready” typically means a home doesn’t need any major, mandatory repairs and is ready for you to start living in as soon as you’ve closed on the property. Of course, this term does indicate that the seller probably has a lot of leverage to demand the highest possible offer on the home

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9. Turnkey

Basically a synonym for move-in ready–just turn the key and you’re all set to go!

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10. Lives large

This indicates that the home may appear small in terms of square footage, but when you are actually in the property and walking around, it feels a lot more spacious.

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11. Room to roam

A home with “room to roam” is typically one with a larger-than-average lot with lots of room to create outdoor living/play spaces or grow a garden.

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12. As-is

If you see the words “as-is” in a real estate listing, proceed with some caution: This typically indicates that there are repairs or renovations that need to be done that the current owner is washing their hands of and passing off to the buyer.

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13. Handyman special

This is another term that can indicate that a property needs a lot of work — thus making it a good opportunity for a handy homeowner, since the house may be priced lower than other, more turnkey, homes in the area.

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14. Priced to sell

“Priced to sell” often indicates that the seller is pretty set on the price they’ve offered. You probably won’t be able to negotiate it down too far or get anywhere with a low-ball offer.

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15. Serious buyers only

This term is usually meant to keep casual browsers or open-house visitors who are “just-looking” at bay. The seller likely doesn’t want to waste their time with people who aren’t seriously considering making an offer.

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16. Custom

While “custom” sounds cool, it may or may not be. This term indicates that the property includes some built-to-order features or additions that appealed to the previous owners. These features, however, may or may not be to your taste.

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17. Unique

“Unique” is another word that can go either way. It could be used to describe a lovely, one-of-a-kind feature, like a rooftop patio. Or it could be used to describe something odd-ball, like a sunroom converted into a photographer’s darkroom.

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18. Loft

“Loft” indicates that the home is large, open and airy, with high ceilings and few interior walls. The bedroom, for instance, may be situated on an open second-floor landing that looks out directly onto the living room below. This may make for a picturesque living situation, but also one with relatively little privacy, so depending on who you live with, take heed.

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19. Vintage

You might be able to guess from the name that “vintage,” when it comes to real estate listing terms, is generally code for “really outdated.” Those 1960s appliances might look cute in the pictures, but how much more life do they have in them before they need to be replaced?

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20. Rustic

At its best, “rustic” might mean natural wood fixtures and a kind of casual, barn-inspired theme. At its worst, “rustic” might mean old, unprofessionally constructed or poorly maintained.

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21. Modern

Here’s a tricky one. Although you might assume “modern” means that a place is newly constructed and contemporary in style, it can also refer to mid-century modern, an era of architecture and design that took place between the 1930s and 1950s.

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22. Great potential

In a similar vein to “good bones” or “hidden gem,” a home with “great potential” is typically one that provides an opportunity for the right buyer — but that likely needs some work to get there.

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23. TLC

Short for “tender, loving care,” TLC is yet another term in real estate listings that typically indicates the home in question needs some renovations and repairs before it’s comfortable — or even livable.

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24. Well-maintained

This is another term that sounds good on its surface — and might be! However, it can also be a yellow light. “Well-maintained” often indicates that a property has some age on it. (After all, if it’s new, there’s nothing that has needed maintenance yet). An older home isn’t automatically a bad thing, but it does mean you may be faced with upgrades or appliance replacements sooner rather than later.

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25. Original details

As with “well-maintained,” “original details” suggests that the home has some older features that you may love, but may also require some maintenance/upgrading in the future.

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26. Up-and-coming neighborhood

An up-and-coming location is one that might actively be evolving or drawing new residents. However, it can also indicate that the neighborhood may still contain a fair number of run-down homes and have a way to go before it’s considered a hot housing market.

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27. Built-ins

Built-ins are features like bookshelves, benches or cabinets that are permanently built into the home itself, and are fairly common in older construction. Built-ins can be charming and convenient, but can also limit the flexibility you have in arranging and decorating the space as you see fit.

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28. Motivated seller

“Motivated seller” may mean almost the opposite of “priced to sell” (above).  It indicates that the seller is motivated to make a deal go through and may be willing to hear lower offers or make negotiations in order to get it to happen.

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29. Location, location, location

Perhaps one of the most common real-estate-related catchphrases, if a listing puts a heavy emphasis on a property’s location, it could potentially indicate that the house itself leaves something to be desired (even if the location it’s in is fantastic).

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30. Natural landscaping

“Natural landscaping” might indicate that there’s actually very little landscaping at all. Rather, the property might have lots of wild-growing flora that needs to be cleared to create an organized outdoor living space.

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31. REALTOR (in all caps)

Although “real estate agent” and “realtor” are often used interchangeably, REALTOR is actually a term trademarked by the National Association of REALTORS (NAR). Real estate agents can only use the title REALTOR in all caps if they are members of NAR and adhere to the organization’s strict code of ethics.

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The takeaway

If you feel like property listings are sometimes written in a foreign language, you’re not entirely off-base. Listing agents often use terms that may be well-known in real estate circles, yet are unfamiliar to the average first-time home-buyer.

Agents may also use vague-sounding terms and phrases to make a home’s less-appealing qualities sound more attractive.

Knowing how to decode real estate listings can be a great first step toward finding the perfect home. Another step you may want to take is to pre-qualify for a mortgage.

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