Real-Estate Listing Words: The Good, Bad and Hyperlocal

by Jed Kolko


A picture may be worth a thousand words, but what’s a word worth? Trulia combed through millions of property listings on for-sale homes to find the words and phrases in the most expensive and least expensive listings, as well as quirky hyperlocal phrases.

How Much Do “Once-in-a-Lifetime Opportunity” Homes Cost?

Even before you look at their multimillion-dollar price tags, luxury listings are easy to spot.  Below, we’ve identified the 10 phrases associated with the most expensive listings. Some of these phrases are specific home features, such as a “paneled library” or “public rooms,” and some are marketing terms, like “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”

Phrases in the Most Expensive Listings

# Phrase Avg price of listings containing phrase

1 parlor floor $4,935,632

2 formal gardens $4,006,401

3 paneled library $3,740,836

4 magnificent estate $3,646,040

5 Lutron lighting $3,524,588

6 public rooms $3,451,456

7 once-in-a-lifetime opportunity $3,402,801

8 highest level $3,388,751

9 motor court $3,359,954

10 two powder rooms $3,346,560

Phrases appearing in listings with the highest average asking price. These phrases were the top 10 phrases to appear in at least 100 listings.

At the top of the list, the phrase associated with the most expensive listings is “parlor floor,” which is the main and grandest floor of Manhattan townhouses and other big city mansions. On average, homes calling out this feature are priced at nearly $5 million. The second phrase on this list is “formal gardens”, which appears in listings priced at $4 million, on average. This home feature is one you’d find in more secluded properties, along with a “motor court” – because if you have a multi-million dollar estate, you’ll need some place for all those fancy cars.

In addition to mentioning specific home features, luxury listings often call out particular brands. For example, Lutron – a lighting brand – shows up in some of the priciest listings; appliance brands like Miele, Viking and Sub-Zero get lots of mentions in million-dollar-plus homes, too.

What’s the Discount for Homes with “Defective Paint?

If you’re looking for a great deal or a fixer-upper, remember that you usually get what you pay for. America’s least expensive homes often include features that you might wish they didn’t have and may cost you plenty extra to fix or bring up to code. Below, we’ve identified the 10 phrases associated with the least expensive listings.

Phrases in the Least Expensive Listings

# Phrase Avg price of listings containing phrase

1 minimum commission applies $27,569

2 lead based paint notices $39,939

3 mold-like substance $45,094

4 defective paint $45,974

5 city inspection $55,661

6 repair plumbing system $59,064

7 cute little bungalow $61,870

8 septic repairs $62,004

9 hud owned offered as-is $64,547

10 starter home investment property $65,041

Phrases appearing in listings with the lowest average asking price. These phrases were the top 10 phrases to appear in at least 100 listings. 

Listings mentioning “mold-like substance” – probably the saddest-sounding of all the phrases we’ve come across – are priced at $45,000, on average. Paint and plumbing issues also make the list of phrases on the least-expensive properties. Mold, lead-based paint and septic problems obviously aren’t strong selling points, but they might have to be disclosed eventually, so might as well call it like it is.

And what’s with “minimum commission applies?” That means the home is priced so low that the agent’s or broker’s commission will be a minimum dollar amount, rather than the standard percentage commission, because the standard percentage of such a low selling price isn’t enough to make it worth the agent’s time and effort.

The price differences between listings with the most expensive and least expensive words are huge. At $3.4 million, on average, a “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity” home is worth more than 50 “starter home investment properties.” For the price of one “magnificent estate,” you could get almost 60 “cute little bungalows.” And if you’ve got a lot of free time to strip paint, you could trade one home with “formal gardens” for 100 with “lead based paint notices.”

Know Your Local Real Estate Lingo

For some features, however, it’s not about how much you’re willing to spend: it’s about location. A “pole barn” may not signal luxury like a “paneled library” does, but it’s still an exclusive feature: these sheds without walls are more than 10 times more common in the Grand Rapids, MI, metro area than in the U.S. overall. We found several features that were at least 10 times more likely to appear in listings in a particular metro area than nationally:

Hyperlocal Listing Phrases

Phrase Metro

Lanai Honolulu, HI

Mirrored closet doors Ventura County, CA

and Orange County, CA

Pole barn Grand Rapids, MI

Roman tub West Palm Beach, FL

Solar screen Fort Worth, TX

Stone wall Fairfield County, CT

Glass block windows Buffalo, NY

Hearth room Memphis, TN

Whole Foods San Francisco, CA

These phrases were the top 10 phrases to appear in at least 100 listings per area.

Some hyperlocal phrases indicate truly local features that aren’t common elsewhere, like stone walls in Fairfield County, CT, built from New England stone. In fact, many listings in that metro area also mention a “level yard” or “level lot” – which is a draw because much of the land in that area is rocky rather than level. Other hyperlocal phrases are regional names for common features: a “lanai” is a popular term in Hawaii and Florida for an open-sided porch or patio, and a “hearth room” is a regional term popular in Memphis, TN, for a family room – often with a fireplace – that’s more casual than a living room.

Some hyperlocal phrases appear in a particular metro not because it’s unique to that metro – San Francisco is hardly the only place in the country with a Whole Foods – but because that feature appears to be especially important to house hunters there. Southern Californians might like to admire themselves in their mirrored closet doors, but many San Franciscans would be happier living next to – or even directly above – Whole Foods.


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