'Mad Men' selling ... homes?

(Courtesy AMC/MCT )
May 14, 2012|Jamie Smith Hopkins

The lexicon of real estate listing language has many terms for putting a positive spin on features the average buyer wouldn't like.

"Bold" for the orange-and-green themed condo.

"Cute" for the house decorated for princess-loving preadolescents.

Now comes a phrase custom-made for homes that haven't been updated since the Johnson administration: "'Mad Men' style."

That's the creative advertising used in the listing for a Baltimore County house that just hit the market for $475,000. Which has a certain logic, considering that the popular show, set in the 1960s, is about creative-advertising pros.

Business editor Chris Dinsmore noticed this example of listing-speak. He's new to the area and looking to buy a home.

To give the sellers a break, I'm not linking to the listing. But it also includes more typical housing euphemisms for not-cutting-edge: "classic" and the dreaded "home sold as is."

As it happens, some things have been updated, including the windows, furnace and hot water heater. The photos show elements that the younger generation would probably like, along with other things -- like wallpaper, '60s colors and a '60s kitchen -- that they probably would not. Unless, you know, they're really big Mad Men fans.

But hey, it's not outside the realm of possibility. Search on "Mad Men style," and you'll find "Mad Med-Inspired Home Decor (Incorporate decorating accents from the hit show, but with modern twists)" and "So you want to recreate 'Mad Men' style at home?"

It's just that buyers seem to be pretty jaded these days when it comes to any descriptive listing words -- things that are subjective, unlike "kitchen appliances replaced last month." A few years ago, when we were discussing the tendency of listings to put a cheery twist on downsides, Wonk reader Julie suggested these definitions for a Realtor-to-English dictionary:

Cozy = small
Charming = old
fixer upper = it's a dump

Buyers commenting in the thread had a common suggestion: Forget the words, just give us a ton of photos.

What's your favorite example of rose-colored listing language?

Got a housing tip to share? (Or just want to tell me something?) Email me at jhopkins@baltsun.com.

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