Thursday 19 July 2018

Home truths: Most creative language of all is ‘brochurese’

Does your estate agent think your décor is out to lunch? He does if you find words like
Does your estate agent think your décor is out to lunch? He does if you find words like "interesting," "eclectic" or "endearing" in his brochure description of your home
Mark Keenan

Mark Keenan

Peering into the window of a well-known estate agency, I can see the details of 28 different properties for sale. The text on every single one of those 28 brochure sheets starts with the words: "A unique opportunity..."

Of course, in an estate agent's world, all opportunities are indeed "unique" no matter how many there are. As we know estate agents use an entirely different language, based on the professionally necessary tenet that they can never criticise a client or their properties. For this reason their practised terminology requires a very special skill set indeed - the ability to express all things without using a single negative. In 'brochurese', your local estate agent can only write the word "no" before "limits".

It's a world in which every pebble-dashed three bed semi - is "stunning" (dictionary definitions: staggering, astonishing, breathtaking, phenomenal, thrilling) and the agents themselves run around in a constant state of delight (they are always "delighted to present".)

But if you can understand the estate agent's lexicon you will soon realise that they're quite an expressive lot. Plenty of negatives exist - rather as lesser positives - and if you can read between the lines, you can begin to tease out the true meanings of fainter praise, particularly when it comes to what they really think of their clients.

For example when it comes to décor - the aspect of a house which reflects most on its owner - then watch out for terms like "artistic" or "eclectic". These may indicate a psychopath who has built his own living room fireplace entirely from chicken bones and painted his bedroom floors, walls and ceilings in black.

The estate agent's all-time most damning term for a client's décor tastes is "interesting". This becomes "endearing" if the agent actually quite likes the hapless vendor.

In this language of greater and lesser positives, "dreams" should forever be avoided as they usually denote a nightmare scenario of some sort. Run a mile from a builder's dream (it's sinking in its foundations) or a commuter's dream (groceries by airlift only). In the latter case watch out also for anything described as being "tranquil" or "secluded" - you won't be seeing your friends for a long time and your new neighbours will be playing a three-stringed banjo.

In contrast, equally avoid a location described as "vibrant" - it's right under a rail bridge or next to a very large and popular nightclub with an ambulance rank outside. Also read "up-and-coming area" as "your neighbours will be up at 4am and coming to steal your car."

There are many more terms for "no" in brochurese. For example: "plumbed for washing machine" means "no washing machine" and "wired for alarm" means "no alarm".

Similarly "potential for an extension" means "no extension". Continuing on those hidden negatives, the suffix: "style" means "not". So an "Adam-style" fireplace could have been made by Abraham Lincoln or Mahatma Gandhi but the only thing you are guaranteed is that it has not been made by Adam. A "Gagganau-style kitchen" has not been made by Gagganau. You get it now? "Boasts" means "has."

A "sunny" back garden means "north facing" or "east facing" because if it were south or west facing then the agent would have said so. In any case the sun generally shines on everything outdoors for a least a few seconds a day, if only to highlight mildew and mould.

Some terms mean nothing at all. Try "fully fitted" (as opposed to?).

Then there's that old chestnut "deceptively spacious" which seems to mean that it's physically bigger on the inside than it is on the outside, but of course that's only possible in Dr Who and Harry Potter.

For vendors remember that brochurese is a creative language deployed for your advantage. Take a decent sized patch of lawn and a bucket of white paint. Paint a big white circle on your lawn and then draw a big letter "H" in it. Hey presto! You have just created a "helipad". Now on another part of your lawn sketch out a very large white rectangle. Then intersect it with a straight line across the middle. You have just added a "lawn tennis court."

If it's a site with nothing built on it, don't fret because brochurese can also create entire houses. Get a pencil and water colours and sketch a Grand Designs type contemporary villa with a bright red sports car beside it. Stick it in the brochure and you now have "potential for a luxury home subject to planning permission". Got trees? Your villa has a has a "sylvan setting;" or with concrete only that's a "low-maintenance garden".

Buyers beware of the term "opportunity" - it's a reverse barometer denoting lots of things for the new owner to do (and pay for) - as in a builder's or renovator's "opportunity". And if the house is looking for a new owner "with imagination" then steer totally clear. Because the only way anyone could countenance living here at all is by closing their eyes and imagining they are in fact living somewhere else entirely.

Indo Property

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