Matrix Blog

Language, Jargon & Quotes

Real Estate: Extreme Interest Fosters Extreme Language

January 30, 2006 | 12:01 am | |

[Back From San Diego, Where The Weather Is Absolutely Perfect.]

Do you ever get the feeling that everything you read about the housing market is either optimistic or pessimistic?

In other words, if you find yourself devouring articles about the current real estate market, do you find yourself confused by alot of their conclusions?

I certainly do. One of the problems is the evolving language of real estate. No, not old-fashioned brokerspeak, but the language of real estate economics, which has been morphing into the cliche feel-good phrases many despise.

In Stephanie Rosenbloom’s fun article The Power of Words [NYT] she explores the erosion of real estate language (with a little help from me – especially since I am guilty of having used the word “pause” on occasion but never, ever “grand.”)

“[Buzzwords] are especially prevalent in New York, where residents routinely say that real estate is a topic second only to sex. And where there is extreme interest, there tends to be extreme language.”

Fill In The Blank With The Latest Catchphrase: Housing “Expansion”

November 28, 2005 | 12:04 am |

Its been subtle, but there has been a change in housing market terminology over this past year. There have been several distinct segments to the trend, in terms of how what terminology is used to describe it.

Housing “Boom” [January to June]

In the first half of 2005, the media generally used the phrase “housing boom” to describe the vibrant state of the housing market. Several years of rising prices and success stories for brokers and builders seemed to fill the news.

Housing “Boom” = Housing “Bubble” [July to September]

Over the summer, during the barrage of bad news, including Katrina and Rita Hurricanes, spiking gasoline prices, worsening conditions in Iraq, political discord in Washington, growing inflation concerns and rising mortgage rates (wow, some major gloom and doom was abound) influenced the media to some sort of tipping point. Many of the articles during this period shifted from talk of a boom, with risk of a bubble, to if the bubble was going to burst.

Housing “Bubble” [October to November]

Lately, the housing discussion has firmly shifted to use of the word bubble as a key descriptor of the state of the housing market and the orientation became a matter of when the bubble will burst. This thinking seems to have its own momentum despite the significant change in many of the indicators that gave us reason for concern this summer.

For example, economic damage to the national economy from the hurricanes is now largely believed to have less significant implications. Mortgage rates have leveled off and have actually retreated lately. Gasoline prices have fallen sharply, core inflation has remained low and housing prices have not fallen.

Housing “Expansion” [December +]

Now the NAR is beginning to call the current real estate environment a housing expansion [Washington Post] Of course, a market characterized by more balanced conditions can not be characterized as an expansion.

Suggested dramatic titles for next phase (not necessarily correlated with actual events)

Housing “Bust” [?]

Housing “Black Hole” [?]

Housing “Katrina Effect” [?]

Housing “Rebound” [?]

Housing “Explosion” [?]

UPDATE January 29, 2006

Housing “Soufflé” [?] [See the Big Picture blog]

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The Fabulous, Gracious Language Of BrokerSpeak Used To Be Triple Mint

September 17, 2005 | 7:20 pm | |

Over the past 20 years, real estate brokerage has evolved from a part time, to a full time profession. Many accomplished professionals from other industries have switched careers to fill the ranks. As buyers and sellers have become more sophisticated having access to more information, the brokerage profession has worked hard to keep pace. The sales agents that will succeed in the future will likely embrace changes in the industry.

One of the residuals of the past, now on the decline, is the language of brokerspeak: [“This apartment has the most dramatic bathroom in New York City”]( Its the slang of superlatives used to describe property listings. The irony here is that the purchase or sale of a residential property is one of the largest financial transactions in anyone’s life and yet it can be reduced to brokerspeak.

Successful real estate brokers seem to rely less on brokerspeak to sell their listings than in prior years. Brokers still use plenty of superlatives, but hey, they are selling something, so thats ok. The major brokerage firms seem to be paying more attention to this and it shows in their online listings…brokerspeak is on the decline.

How To Classify A Phrase As Brokerspeak
A simple test: try saying the phrase This living room is absolutely sun-drenched to a loved one and not feel awkward.

How To Translate A Phrase From Brokerspeak
See: Reader’s Digest’s Speaking the Real Estate Language: What Brokers Say vs. What They Really Mean.

Favorite Brokerspeak Phrases
Triple Mint and Mint (no Double Mint? perhaps due to Wrigley’s copyright?)
Fabulous (or Fab) Views (An adjective that provides no explanation)
Gracious Living (what is that?)

Low End BrokerSpeak
From the basement of brokerspeak, here is a great post presented as only can.

Media Coverage Of The Words “Real Estate Bubble”

August 8, 2005 | 12:09 pm | |

Media coverage of the words “real estate bubble” was analyzed by our public relations firm, Publitas. The results were very interesting.

Admit it. Many of us now groan when we read another story of the housing bubble or crash (whether its true or not). The story cycle has run its course.

This is a very similar methodology employed by Robert Shiller of Yale as covered in the New York Times.

However, the Shiller analysis uses a multi-year Lexis-Nexis news search seems biased toward the later years. Major news organizations have a much greater presence on the web now than they did, say 8 or 9 years ago. The absolute number of hits should be far less in earlier years. His analysis should have been done as a percentage of total news stories.

Here’s the problem…

People are now using the logic that since information on the housing bubble has been pumped out into the mainstream ad nauseam, the odds of a market correction is now somehow less since more people are informed. Matrix thinks this is very misguided and relies on “mob mentality” too much. Safety in numbers is more of a distraction. Now that the market has made it through the hailstorm of coverage, we can start really looking at what is going on in real estate.

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