Putting The ‘Real’ In Real Estate

One of my hobbies is shopping for land. It’s a bit of a pipe dream since it’s so expensive around Calgary, but I keep looking just in case there’s a bargain out there. Hey, if it made sense, it wouldn’t be a hobby, right?

Over the years I’ve gradually learned the language of real estate listings, so I’ve decided to share some of my hard-earned knowledge. Here are translations for some common phrases:

“Pristine recreational quarter”: It’s swamp.

“Beautiful creekside property”: It’s swamp.

“Perfect for hunters and sportsmen”: It’s swamp, with scrubby black spruce and gnarly undergrowth.

“Enjoy the beauty of nature and watch the wildlife from your window”: It’s mostly swamp. And if you try to grow a garden on the part that’s not swamp, a herd of ravenous deer will devour it.

“All the space you need”: It’s bald-ass prairie.

“Stunning views”: It’s bald-ass prairie.

“Perfect for your horses”: It’s bald-ass prairie.

“Seasonal creek”: It’s bald-ass prairie, but there’s a low spot where the runoff collects in the spring.

“Over 500 trees planted around the building site”: It’s bald-ass prairie, and the ‘trees’ are six-inch twigs. They might be taller than you by the time you die, but only if you have really severe osteoporosis and you shrink to under five feet.

“Spectacular mountain view”: You can see the very tips of the mountains if you stand on a ladder in the far northwest corner of the property next to the neighbour’s barn.

“Oil lease revenue”: There’s a sour-gas well smack in the middle of the only habitable part of the land. The rest is swamp.

“Ideal location to build the walkout of your dreams”: It’s a 45-degree grade with a ten-foot strip of level land at the top.

“Owner is motivated to sell”: There’s a feedlot and slaughterhouse on the next quarter and the stench of concentrated cow shit and rotting innards will slag your sinuses from two miles away.

“Wonderfully secluded property”: There’s no road access. To get to the property you have to build half a mile of road, or else dodge an evil-tempered bull while you four-wheel through the neighbour’s pasture.

“A half-mile of beautiful river frontage”: It’s a flood plain.

“It’s been handed down from generation to generation but now the owners must regretfully pass it on to someone who’ll enjoy it as much as they did”: A giant sawmill has been built on the property to the south and a bunch of nutjobs have established a ‘sporting society’ on the property to the north. The owners are fleeing like rats deserting a sinking ship.

“There’s a sign on the property”: No, there isn’t.

“No, really, there’s a sign on the property”: Okay, there is; but it’s invisible unless you approach from the correct direction and glance over at exactly the right moment.  You will only discover this after driving a systematic grid pattern for at least an hour.

“Fenced and cross-fenced”: …sometime in the 1930s. Now it’s a gap-toothed line of drunken-looking fenceposts with a couple of strands of rusty barbed wire concealed in the grass, just waiting to wrap around your ankle and trip you face-first into the nearest cow patty.

…But I have to admit that after hundreds of disappointments, I’ve developed my own double-speak. It’s only one phrase, but I use it over and over:

“It’s not quite what we’re looking for.”

I’m sure you can guess the translation. (Hint:  If your guess includes an f-bomb or two, you’re probably pretty close.)

* * *

P.S. Book 10 is sailing along!  It’ll definitely be released early, probably in late summer.  Woohoo!

38 thoughts on “Putting The ‘Real’ In Real Estate

  1. We were looking at possibilities out in the (very dry) West and saw “seasonal creek” used quite often. It usually meant “serious erosion problem”. Real estate sure has its own language and you have done a wonderful job of translating!
    Your first 9 books got me through the end of winter. Can’t wait for # 10!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Jono – I’m so glad you’re enjoying the series! 🙂

      And that’s right; I missed “serious erosion problem”. Good catch! I wish I could say I’d made these up, but the truth is they’re exact descriptions of the properties I’ve seen. Needless to say, I’m getting just a wee bit jaded…

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Diane,
    OK I just read your post. Sorry but with grad school I’m busy reading all kinds of literature that I really don’t care about lol.
    You crack me up! I love your line, “it’s not quite what we are looking for.” I’ll use it when I move to ??? My daughter wants me to move to Phoenix, but I know the minute I do, they’ll move to Central Oregon. Decisions to make, but not making them now.
    Book #10 maybe later this summer, sounds awesome. I can’t wait! I’ll reread the series during my week break in September, and then #10. Do you have a working title yet? IF so can you tell us?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Cait! Nope, so far the working title for Book 10 is “Working Title”. I never seem to be able to pick a title before I finish the book, but maybe I should push myself this time. 😉 Oh, and I just found out I might be able to offer preorders on this one, so I’m digging into that right now. Fingers crossed!

      Tough choice about the move, too – I hope it works out for you!

      Liked by 1 person

    • LOL! That would be perfect. What I’ve never understood, though, is why they bother with the façade. A swamp is a swamp, no matter how prettily they describe it. Do they really think I won’t notice that I’m up to my ankles in mud?

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Oh my, sounds like some of the descriptions from around the South, deep Gulf South, river folks and Cajun country South. 🙂 One of the first places hubby and I checked out, early into our marriage, was some river front property. Uh-huh, it wound up so deep into the woods that even hubby, born and raised there, wound up getting lost. The “cottage” was cute, built up high on stilts (common in that area, and smart too given the amount of flooding that goes on) The place even came with the bateau (flat bottom boat). Given the area, the height of the stilts, AND the fact of the boat being on ropes affixed to the side of the house, there were the marks on all the walls of the house that showed a darkening in the color. The seller mentioned that the previous owners had had bookcases and shelves all over the place and that was just where they had all “been”. Now, even I know what high water marks are and I wasn’t raised there! Hubby just out right laughed. I was picturing what the next hard rains and storms would bring. Being that high and the water marks were still a good 4 feet into the rooms, and given to what I DO know comes up and out of those rivers, I decided “Nah”.
    We ventured into the Atchafalaya River basin a couple years later to check out a house/fishing camp/”cottage with a pier. First off, the Basin isn’t really outsider/stranger friendly. There are people that live back in there that have been there for a long, long time. There are other “things” that live there too, as we noticed along the way. Our truck bottomed out in the red gumbo mud, up to the fender wells. and we had to walk. Not the best idea. We did find the camp. It was seriously nice considering the remote location. Looking around we discovered a couple of locals coming up. They didn’t introduce themselves. We told them who we were and that we were considering buying. They said (and this reminded me of the movie “Southern Comfort”) IF you live here, you can’t hunt, you can fish for yourselves, friends can’t. You have a bateau, it stays here at the dock, you can’t take it out of the Basin. No parties, no loud music, no noise”. I asked him why can’t we have friends here for visiting, fishing etc. And, we owned our own boat we should be able to take it in and out with us, I swear, he just glared at me and said “No noise, boat stays here.” Hubby just nudged me in the ribs and said “O.K., understood”. The other guy with him asked if that white truck stuck in the mud was ours and we said yes. (there were no signs of anyone when we got out of the truck) He said his son, Justin, was there waiting for us. He had a jeep with a winch and would get us unstuck so we could leave.
    We decided, after that, to stick to property and house hunting to the ‘burbs’, perhaps rural and country, and not bother with waterways and swamps. I love the Cajun people, they really are warm and congenial. For the most part. They are always willing to help you out, fix your vehicle, feed you and NOT invite you to stay. It’s best to take the hint, say thank you and leave. LOL

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yikes! That just gave me the shivers. Even if you had decided to brave the “restrictions” and buy there, you’d have spent all your time looking over your shoulder.

      I grew up out back of beyond, and the thing I always found funny was that no matter how long somebody might have lived on a farm, the farm was always referred to by the previous owner’s name. The current occupants might be named Smith but their place was “the old Jones place”… at least until they sold and somebody else moved in. Then, depending on the age of the speaker, the farm might be either “the old Smith place” or “the old Jones place”, but never the name of the current occupants. You just don’t mess with tradition. 😉

      Liked by 1 person

      • Years ago, we spent ten years in a tiny little community way off out in the weeds. We owned a business, were a major employer, and had a child born there, but till the day we left, the old timers still called us those new people. I don’t miss that place much.


      • And it doesn’t matter at what point you moved there at all. We lived for a good while so far out in the boonies you had to pump in daylight. I was given directions one time on how to get out there. “You follow the old dirt road to where it veers off just a bit to the left. Stay on that for a good piece. Right there,hard to see it if you ain’t lookin’, there’s an old, empty fruit stand. Hadn’t been used in a long time. Make a left turn. The road has been paved off and on but it’s still useable for the most part. That there’s called the old True Light Baptist Church Road. No sign but everone knows what it is. Stay there till it ends and then yur home.”
        LOL! Only in the South.

        Liked by 1 person

        • “…so far out in the boonies you had to pump in daylight” – what a great line! Love it! And there’s nothing like giving directions via landmarks that used to be there. Yet another not-too-subtle way to point out that “yew ain’t frum aroun’ heer”. 😉


          • LOL, remember the old saying “It’s so dark you can’t see your hand in front of your face”? There’s country area outside Brookhaven, MS that is exactly like that. Unless they’ve incorporated over the years, and that’s doubtful, it is literally that dark. I tried walking across a yard to my hubby’s grandma’s house and almost got lost it was that dark. Scary too as there were things out there that made sounds I wasn’t familiar with. LOL It’s like the reverse of a “white out”, just so dark you can’t tell which way is up or down or behind or ahead. My introduction to the South.

            Liked by 1 person

  4. Makes perfect sense. Agrees with my own findings with regard to real estate. Similar deal with cars. Remember, I’m a gearhead, so I have a clue.

    Clean, one owner, low mileage – Fresh detail job that took three weeks, owned at one time or another by the entire population of New England and then El Salvador, and the odometer has been around twelve times and has just started over on the thirteenth.

    Owned by a little old lady who only drove it to church on Sunday – A fleet rental car for the first hundred thousand miles, then a taxi in Shanghai for the next million, then a noodle delivery vehicle in Singapore for the next five million.

    Just came of a three-year lease and is well maintained – If it came from any dealership I’ve ever had any dealings with, that means the lessee drove it off the lot and the dealer never saw it again until the day it was returned per the lease agreement…at which time it was given a quick wash job and stuck on the used car lot without otherwise being touched since the day it left the factory.

    Sure, that looks like a lot of miles, but they were all highway miles – The car belonged to a logging company field supervisor in Alaska who used it to scout new territory for his crew, and the nearest paved road was four hundred miles away.

    It ain’t just the realtors who have language that needs translating.

    And theventy-four point theven thix per thent! Theriouthly phabulouth, thithter!


    • Thankth! And LOL! Yep, I hear you about the cars. I’ve been an unwilling accomplice in that racket. Back in the days when I owned a piece-of-shit 1986 Taurus (the four-banger – worst engine ever), I spent more time fixing it than driving it. Finally I got sick of the whole thing and decided to buy a new car.

      I spent a couple of days detailing the Taurus, shampooing the engine and removing the body rust stains and touching up the paint. And I made sure I took it in on a warm day when the wonky fuel injection system was behaving. The dealer walked around it salivating because he didn’t have to do a thing to it, and offered me twice what it was worth for the trade-in. I didn’t feel guilty about taking the dealer’s money, but I felt terrible about the poor sucker who’d ultimately end up buying the car. That thing should’ve come with a warning label.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Bwahahah! And I know something about a spotless ’68 Plymouth Fury III, loaded, with a hundred thou more than was showing, with the engine FULL of STP to keep it from fogging the neighborhood for mosquitoes. Came out ahead on that deal big. But I learned the hard way not to buy a car at night. Hosed big on that one.

        So far, though, I figure I’m way ahead.

        But the lowest form of life is still the commercial purveyor of previously owned transportation. Followed closely by realtors. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      • Been there done that, having moved out of the city I needed a truck or SUV so traded in my Cirrus, that other than intermittent trany issues was pristine, crossed my fingers the day I went in and it behaved itself. Two weeks later I came across a very familiar set of wheels on the side of the road just outside Okotoks. The nice young lady driving it informed me it wouldn’t shift, I told her “I used to have one something like it” so knew how to get it out of “limp in mode” so she could get home. The next week it was for sale again on the dealers lot…

        Just discovered your books (A friend in Spokane recommended them), fun to read something set in southern Alberta.
        Had to leave the kobo on the kitchen counter last night or I’d be tempted to stay up too late reading, and I’m not as effective at coding with no sleep as I was 25 years ago.


        • LOL! What are the chances that the Cirrus would come back to haunt you? It was very nice of you to stop and help out the new owner, though, and it’s nice to know she was smart enough to cut her losses and dump it back in the dealer’s lap! 😉

          I’m glad you’re enjoying the books so far – thanks for dropping by to tell me! (And I feel your pain with the coding. Back in the old days I recall spending hours scouring a crappy piece of spaghetti code before I found the single lousy missing bracket. No fun at the best of times; totally revolting when you’re sleep-deprived.)


  5. “‘All the space you need’: It’s bald-ass prairie.”—Haha, I know a thing or two about ‘bald-ass prairies.’ I’ve lived on some in the past. As a child, it was kind of cool. But now? No thanks. If I can’t get to a Target within ten minutes in every direction, then it’s not for me!

    Liked by 1 person

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