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Estate Agents

Estate Agents have to make their houses stand out from others by descriptions alone. They must first entice a future purchaser to the house and they commonly do this by use of linguistic devices such as hyperbole and euphemism, showing the good points of the house to best advantage and trying to make the bad points into good ones.

Since different houses appeal to different people it is not always easy to know what it is best to highlight, so the estate agent tends to go for overkill, proclaiming every possible feature as if it is a virtue.

There is a limit to the number of features which the agent can speak of, but no limit to the number of praising adjectives which can be used. Estate agents' prose is therefore colourful, and features 'a wealth of exposed adjectives.' Some adjectives and phrases have proved so popular (and the likelihood of houses being similar is so high) that certain phrases recur and become clichéd.

The opening phrase is intended to demonstrate the great good fortune of the seller:

a rare opportunity to acquire...
a unique opportunity to purchase...
followed by a general overall paeon of praise
a property of grace and distinction
a highly individual residence...
a delightful listed grade II 15th century country house...

Note the length of the noun phrase and the grandeur of the noun.

These may then be followed by a phrase describing the location.
The whole may comprise a very lengthy sentence.

conveniently positioned close to the village centre.
in a non-estate location...
in one of the village's most eagerly sought after cul-de-sacs tucked away just off Station Road within a few minutes of Woollards Lane which is the principal shopping area of the village.

Notice the emphasis on desirability conveyed by 'eagerly sought after', the cosy picture expressed in the phrase 'tucked away' and the convenience of nearby facilities.
Sometimes convenience and cosiness are combined with an emotional appeal as in:

in the heart of this thriving village
An isolated place can be described as
situated in a quiet lane in the picturesque and peaceful village of Bythorn.

Isolated in flat countryside such as East Anglia:

Rolling countryside and open views are plentiful in this unspoilt corner of Cambridgeshire.

Peace and quiet seem to be generally appealing attributes, so wherever possible isolation is described in favourable terms:

eagerly sought after cul-de-sac
in a quiet lane
fully enclosed garden
secluded position

On the other hand, however much you may think you would like a
'quiet rural idyll' the fact is that most houses are in built-up areas. Therefore other features must be emphasised. A garden surrounded by other houses may become a:

fully enclosed private garden

A house near other houses, shops, roads etc is

well situated
convenient for local facilities
ideally located for the M1 motorway

A general location may be 'fantastic' 'super' or 'magnificent'

The size of the house is often a topic of euphemism, particularly if it is small, which becomes:

easily managed

while if large the house or its rooms can be:


or the two-edged description - 'deceptively spacious.'

A large house may be referred to as a:

farm house
family accomodation
or set in an acre
or with an extensive range of outbuildings

Houses are in fact rarely referred to as 'houses' at all and may be

properties' (Victorian, terraced, semi-detached etc), '
town houses',
chalet style,
on plots ...

but above all they are homes, which gives them an emotional appeal, far superior to the simple house. Note that the company selling the house for you is an estate agent, not a house agent. He or she may be a member of the Homelink organisation. The first suggests grandeur, the second warmth.

As a home it must be invested with as much personality and character as a structure can be given, so we find the bricks and mortar become:

a home to be proud of
having the charm of the period with all the comforts of the present day

If the house is old and unchanged it may be:

an ideal renovation opportunity
oozing with charm and character
with a wealth of exposed beams

If it is old and has had work done to it it may be:

extensively restored
lovingly restored
meticulously updated
featuring an aesthetically blended architect-designed extension

The appearance of a house is not to be trusted to adequately convey its charm so you are advised:

internal inspection recommended
must be viewed
and you will then see
excellent decor
in good decorative order

Gardens, apart from being 'private', 'secluded', 'walled', may be:

laid to lawn
laid to lawn with flowering and shrub borders
laid to a spacious paved patio beyond which is a lawn
flanked by mature trees and bushes
mature gardens.

Larger areas become:


Small gardens are often

perhaps miniature or
easily maintained.

Houses still retain the sexist 'master bedroom', toilets are referred to as 'cloakrooms' when downstairs, 'bathrooms' when upstairs or 'WC' when separate upstairs. Bathrooms usually feature 'low level suites' even though the only alternative (the high level Victorian style) has been extinct for 50 years. Favoured colour at the time of writing seems to be 'champagne' (off white) which has replaced the 'avocado' (off green) and 'flamingo' (violent pink) of earlier years. The complete group of toilet, hand basin and bath is invariably referred to as a 'suite' when they are 'luxuriously equipped'.

Rooms downstairs are given a variety of names such as:

front sitting room/bedroom four
living room
drawing room
dining room
breakfast room

A room may be a

family room
playroom (in Australia a "rumpus room")
breakfast room.

A kitchen may be

well fitted
with 'ample worktops'

This is only a brief and partial survey of estate agents' hyperbole and doesn't attempt to untangle the nuances of 'executive style' estates, 'pied a terres' , 'penthouse flats','retirement opportunities' and the like.

The agent is responsible for making the house as attractive as possible within the limited range of a piece of typed paper and a photograph. Purchasers come to expect exaggeration and by and large take it in their stride. Fortunately they rarely lie - but caveat emptor - buyer beware.



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