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