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Friday, August 8, 2008

Dancing on the line...

There are songs and poems and stories about “walking the line” – staying true to someone or to principals in general. The story below, from one of my real estate news sources shows how fine that line can be, when Realtors try to find “positive”ways to state things. When does being positive cross the line? You decide.

As the crooner Bing Crosby once sang, “Accentuate the positive. Eliminate the negative. Don't mess with Mister In-Between.”If you’re trying to sell a house, truer words were never spoken.The National Association of Exclusive Buyer Agents has compiled some of the descriptions that emphasize the affirmative in a booklet.

Here are a few of the most memorable ones:
- Cozy bedroom. Room for a twin bed and one very small dresser
- Damp basement. Three feet of water rushing across the floor
- Easy access to everywhere. Backing up to an expressway
- Galley kitchen. A hallway with cupboards
- Gorgeous home with great potential. Refers to the crack through the middle of the foundation
- Grandma’s house. Hasn’t been improved since she moved in and it still smells like her
- Light, airy basement. You can see daylight through the cracks in the foundation
- Low-maintenance front yard. Paved over with concrete
- Move-in ready. Vacant
- Period home. Kitchen in the basement
- Quaint cottage. Frame house from the ‘50s smaller than 600 square feet
- Retro décor. Original avocado appliances and paisley vinyl floors

I've also heard stories, some maybe true and I'm sure some that are real estate legends about agents taking the opposite approach and going negative in their descriptions of homes that they have listed. The most famous is the "This place is a dump" description that a Realtor supposedly used with great success to sell a home that needed lots of work. I've certainly had listings that I wanted to advertise with the words - bring your dumpster and get ready for major projects - but I have not - yet.

It is human nature to try to put the best "face" on whatever situation you have. I've seen a couple of fairly honest listings this year. One stated - "Likely a tear-down, but the lot is worth the asking price." That was probably true, since the lot was 50 ft of frontage on as nice all-sports lake. Then there are the near misses - the listing descriptions where the listing agent is trying to be honest, but just can't bring him/herself to use negative terms. So, they end up using phrases like "needs some TLC" or "handyman special" or "bring your remodeling ideas" (and your wallet, I might have added).

So does all of this wording shenanigans cross the line? Maybe, but I prefer to believe that the buying public is smart enough to be aware that this is just a game to put the best face on the situation. I guess I wouldn't be surprised if I rad some day that a buyer sued a Realtor who advertised a home as 'open and airy" when it had holes in the ceiling and walls. Maybe I'd be surprised if they won the case; but, remember that we live in a society that puts a label on your lawn mower that advises you that you shouldn't put your hand under the mower while it is running. Ignorance of the law is not a valid defense in criminal cases, but ignorance in general seems to work well in civil matters.

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