The broker was describing another house she found for the Chicago couple.

“It’s darling,” the broker said. “It’s an adorable little house. A charming home.”

That’s not a bad description for one house. But when the broker described 19 other houses in exactly the same way, the couple expected to see a neighborhood of their dreams. Unfortunately, the houses ranged from “cute” and “adorable” to houses that would need tremendous amount of work.

A good broker, whether he or she is a buyer broker or a sub-agent for the seller, is supposed to act as your eyes and ears. You want them to spend the time to pre-tour homes for you, then decide which ones might best meet your needs and your wants.

The problem is real estate agents and brokers often sound like walking advertisements, heaping praise both on homes they have and have not seen. They describe property by repeating the narrative description found at the bottom of the listing sheet, a paragraph written by the listing broker that is designed to sound appealing.

The key to understanding such descriptions is to always assume the broker is trying to make the best of a bad situation. That way, you’ll never be disappointed.

It’s as if the broker hopes by writing that the condominium “has a skyline view,” that you won’t notice it looks right onto another building. “Treetop view” means you can’t see through the trees during summer. “Handyman’s special” could mean the house needs major renovation.

You can’t blame listing agents for trying to get you to look at their properties. That’s their job. If you’re looking for a sunny, bright house with a nice garden for $200,000 in a particular neighborhood, listing brokers hope you or your broker will peruse the listing book, and use the descriptions to ferret out listings that meet your needs. You’ll be looking for descriptions that use words like “light,” “bright,” and “sunny,” so that’s what they put in.

After all, who wouldn’t want to look at an “adorable,” “sunny” house?

When should you believe your broker? It would be nice, though a little unrealistic, to say you should always believe your broker. That probably isn’t in your best interest.

Brokers need to establish credibility with their buyers, and too much sugar-coating can spoil the trust between you and your agent. Brokers who heap praise on all properties show buyers they can’t tell the difference between a truly special property, and one that isn’t fit to live in.

Indiscriminately throwing around words like “wonderful,” “adorable,” and “perfect,” do brokers a disservice to themselves and their buyers, who will quickly stop believing them.

On the other hand, if you don’t like the way your broker describes potential properties, you should sit down with him or her and explain that you’d prefer to hear the “truth” about each property, so that you’re not always disappointed by what you’re seeing. In a joking manner, you might even “outlaw” words like “cute,” “adorable” and “nice,” which lose their meaning when overused.

It’s a little like the boy who cried wolf. When too many “utterly charming” houses turn out to be tear-downs, buyers won’t jump in the car every time the broker calls about a potential property.

In fact, they might just find a new broker.

Published: Feb 28, 2005