Estate agent phrases translated: what they really mean

Why a 'peaceful location' and an 'easily-maintained garden' are actually coded phrases for far less positive attributes

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Estate agents don't have much of a reputation for plain-speaking. They are in the business of flogging a property, so they're hardly likely to tell you it's a glorified cupboard where you can feel the walls shake as the trains pass by. Instead they have devised a cunning code for insiders, and researchers have been busy at work doing the translations.

Researchers from GoCompare.com persuaded estate agents to spill the beans about industry euphemisms (on the understanding that they could remain anonymous), and they have produced a list of 24 things estate agents say and what they really mean.


Ben Wilson, Gocompare.com's home insurance expert, said: "We wanted to test the commonly-held belief that estate agents get creative in order to rent or sell property and, having had chance to work with industry insiders, we can finally expose the verbal tricks of the trade." He insisted it was a tongue-in-cheek list, but it seems pretty close to the mark.
  1. Bijou – a tiny boxroom
  2. Cash-buyers only – no bank in its right mind would lend on this
  3. Compact – glorified cupboard
  4. Convenient for transport links – feel the walls shake as a train passes
  5. Cosy – no more than one person per room at a time
  6. Close to good schools – can get there in ten minutes, if you drive like Lewis Hamilton
  7. Easily-maintained garden – concrete as far as the eye can see
  8. Full of history – Doesn't have electricity or running water
  9. No onward chain – somebody died in there
  10. No photo available – the stuff of nightmares
  11. Peaceful location – God's waiting room
  12. Perfect for a first time buyer – we know you can't afford to be choosy
  13. Period property – Derelict and possibly haunted
  14. Popular area – you'll be squashed in like sardines
  15. Put your own stamp on it – half-built
  16. Renovation required – watch your money magically disappear
  17. Rural – there is nothing there, except maybe some sheep
  18. Viewing recommended – the outside looks like something Stig of the Dump would reject
  19. Pied-à-terre – fancy French phrase for cosy
  20. Quirky – nothing matches and the doors are 4ft high
  21. Three-bedroomed property – two bedrooms and a cupboard where you could fit a sleeping bag... just
  22. Reduced for a quick sale – there has been no interest
  23. Within walking distance – if you have a spare five hours
  24. Sought-after area – ridiculous price
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Understanding Real Estate Agents

Refreshing honesty

While we all recognise these phrases from the run-down glorified cupboards we have been persuaded to look at in the middle of nowhere, there are some occasions when estate agents break away from the pack, and engage in a most unusual and unexpected outburst of plain-speaking.

For most agents, the departure from traditional description is a rare foray into brutal honesty. In May this year Harvey Residential hit the headlines for advertising a flat in Hoxton for rent as being "not very nice".

It was around a third cheaper than comparable flats and the agent said: " like the budgie it's cheap, open plan, well used kitchen, and if you can call it this – a small lounge. Large double bedroom (can't say more than that), bathroom with a toilet and a bath." At the time, one of the directors said the agency was championing brutal honestly. The current crop of adverts, however, are uniformly glowing.

Another property advert in Morpeth, Northumberland, meanwhile, hit the headlines in 2012 for describing a property surprisingly honestly.

The description included the phrase: "The north-facing windows have been stuck for years, including one over the archway which is open to the elements. Being untouched by the 21st century, it will require blood, sweat and tears to haul it anywhere back to modern tastes." The agent told the newspapers that the seller had insisted on total clarity after years of visiting disappointing properties herself.

Drop the hard sell

However, for some this level of honesty is a key part of their proposition. Mr Green Homes in Bournemouth prides itself on dropping the hard sell and being honest with buyers. Most of the descriptions are wholeheartedly positive, but honest.

In one the description states: "Outside space is mainly based around the decking area. It's an ideal BBQ garden for entertaining, but not ideal for 5 a-side football." And "The garage is at the back of the property with side access (you would get a small car down to the garage, but not a big one)."

And he's far from the first to go out on a limb. One early proponent of honestly was 1960s estate agent, Roy Brooks, who plied his trade in the Kings Road, and made no apologies for the properties he was selling.

One of his more colourful descriptions was: "Wanted: Someone with taste, means and a stomach strong enough to buy this erstwhile house of ill-repute in Pimlico. It is untouched by the 20th century as far as conveniences for even the basic human decencies are concerned. Although it reeks of damp or worse, the plaster is coming off the walls and daylight peeps through a hole in the roof, it is still habitable judging by the bed of rags, fag ends and empty bottles in one corner."

Have you heard a great example of estate agent jargon? Let us know in the comments section below

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