Despite its popularity and contagiousness, linguistic inflation is strongly resisted in some contexts. You’re unlikely to read ‘totally epic’ in a philosophy book, ‘unbelievably amazing’ in an academic essay, or ‘Best. Results. Ever.’ in a scientific paper. But in other, less formal contexts, inflation thrives; one such place is real estate language.
In this world, medium is ‘large’, average is ‘first rate’, and unusual is ‘extraordinary’. Any site that isn’t a ruined shack sinking into a swamp may be described as ‘superb’. A well-maintained building is ‘stunning’ and ‘fabulous’, a better-than-average view ‘must be seen to be believed’, and everywhere but the most dilapidated neighbourhoods are in a ‘most sought after location’. (Hyphens, unlike typos, are often scarce in these ads.)
If the kitchen has working appliances, it’s a ‘modern’ and ‘top class’ residence, and if there are windows it’s ‘filled with natural light’. Anywhere within 20 minutes of a shop offers ‘a world of convenience on your doorstep’, and probably lies ‘in the heart’ of somewhere – anywhere will do. Recently I came across the claim that a house was ‘in every sense of the word a dream home’. Let’s hope for their sakes that the new owners never wake up.
Though some houses are certainly beautiful and impressive, and might offer the odd surprise, I’ve never been astonished by one. But this is just another word for property advertisers. We’re not talking hover-homes in treetops here, or Batcaves brimming with futuristic gadgets, yet going by the language used in real estate blurbs, you might think astonishment is a typical reaction. I once saw an ad for an odd-looking house with a fussy lawn described as ‘an astonishing property’ with ‘a magnificent array of landscaped gardens which are meticulously maintained’.
Such breathless exaggeration, transparently pretentious, is of course just a sales pitch, designed to appeal to our desires for comfort, security, status, and so on – and to make us more willing to pay a lot of money. If the property is expensive, it’s likely to be ‘exclusive’; if not, it’s ‘affordable’ or an ‘ideal investment’. Even run-down houses can be made appealing, since they offer ‘immense potential’.
One of my favourite property ad lines is the following: ‘One can hardly believe that a property on this road would come to the market with such a realistic price tag.’ By realistic the agent means ‘comparatively modest’ – in this case, almost unbelievably so. But realism rarely gets a secure foothold in the language of real estate. Because property advertising is a dream home for hyperbole.Email this Post