I live with teenage boys so at my house there are select words they can't - or shouldn't use - even though mastering the art of the "expletive" seems very grown up indeed. Unless one of the boys has hit his hit his thumb with a hammer, their dad and I prefer a more refined vocabulary. On certain days, I am more successful at winning this battle than on others (especially when their peers are plentiful and so is the testosterone!).
With respect to real estate, my vocabulary is even more limited than my boys' language. Not only am I always mindful of my word selection (or as my mother use to say "if you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all.") I'm legally barred from using descriptions that are in fact, often the most accurate. While it seems counterintuitive, it's the law!
As any loyal Perspective reader knows, I write nice thumbnail descriptions of my favorite listings each week where I am trying to convey (to the best of my ability) the feeling of a home in three or four sentences. But here's what you probably don't know: HUD (The Department of Housing and Urban Development) prohibits me from using words like "family," "walk," or "children," without running the risk of a hefty penalty being levied my way!
Because these words are considered to be discriminatory by nature. And while I have a very liberal definition of the concept of "family," those who choose to remain childless, might feel otherwise. So while I can wax poetically about a "panoramic bay view" or a "babbling brook," I can't suggest that one might actually "walk" somewhere without getting the ADA upset.
This becomes a very slippery slope.
At the risk of offending anybody and everybody, Realtors must often speak in code to convey the best or most practical use of a property. The fact is that "live/work loft buyers" typically differ greatly from "Crocker Highland's traditional home buyers" or "Hiller Highland condominium buyers" and why wouldn't they? Each of these residences offer very different amenities. They're not just apples, and oranges, but apples, oranges and pomegranates in the fruit bowl of life.
So when you read "spacious home with level garden, near Piedmont schools," you should know that what I'm really trying to say is: "terrific family home for kids and pets and walk to school!" Read between the lines - you'll soon get my intended meaning.
BTW- reading between the lines applies to adjectives and phrases such as "quaint," "first time on the market," and "all original," as well . . . if you get my drift.
Now I've got a few choice words for the HUD!
Julie Gardner, has been writing The Perspective for 15 years and has published more than 600 essays. She is also a frequent contributor to the Sound Off column in the Real Estate section of The San Francisco Chronicle.