Most Overused & Overexaggerated MLS Terms


5 minute read

March 26, 2014

Part one of this 2-part blog series was fun, but fun with words is nothing compared to fun with actual phrases!

Words are already existing.  They’re just misused, and overused.

Phrases are something that Realtors put together themselves, and it wouldn’t be out of the question to suggest that we Realtors like to invent terms that have no meaning, or invent terms and then misuse them.

Have a look, and as always, please feel free to add to the list…


“Possible Basement Apartment”

Isn’t any basement a potential basement apartment?

I mean, a backyard is a potential putting green or miniature football field, but you still have to turn it into one.

In my mind, a “potential basement apartment” should already have a kitchen, a bathroom, and a separate entrance from the street level.  Then all you need to do, in order to turn it into an apartment, is find a tenant!

But basically any property thrown onto MLS these days can claim to have a “potential basement apartment” so long is there is a basement!


We see this all the time.

“Roughed-in kitchen,” or “roughed-in second bathroom.”

The only thing necessary to call it a “roughed-in kitchen” is a pipe sticking out of the wall.  Then you have to actually build a kitchen.  Man, that’s rough….

I was in a house last week that said “roughed-in basement kitchen,” on the MLS listing, and all that I found was a chalk-outline in the corner of the room in a 12 x 6 rectangle, with a sign that said “roughed-in kitchen.”

It wasn’t a roughed-in kitchen.

It was a spot in the corner of the room where a kitchen could go.

“Move-In Ready”

We see this a lot on MLS, and it can describe virtually any property, in any condition.

Ask somebody in a third world country if “move in ready” can apply to a home without new granite counters in the kitchen, or custom window coverings.  Isn’t ANY house move-in ready?  Doesn’t it just need electricity and running water?

I love when I see “move-in ready” in the description for new construction.  I mean, if a brand-new house isn’t move-in ready, then what is?

Move In And Enjoy!


What a novel idea!  Thanks!

My plan was to buy the house, sit in a lawn chair every day and stare at it for hours on end, and wonder why my satisfaction level is lacking.

But now I can have my cake, and eat it too!  Thanks!

“Custom Built” or “Custom Home”

Isn’t any house a custom-house?

Unless houses are built on conveyor belts in Omaha, Nebraska, and shipped by flat-bed truck to Toronto for installation, then EVERY house is a custom house!

Somewhere along the line, somebody had to make choices, decisions, and put ideas into action.  That is called “customization.”

The true idea of a “custom-built house” in Toronto is one where an end-user has bought a piece of land, and hired an architect, designer, and builder to construct their home to suit.  Then this house, years later, is put on the market and termed a “custom-built house.”

But we see this in many, many other places.

Think of a developer that builds twelve houses a year and puts “custom-built house” in the MLS listing.  Who did you custom build this for?

“No Expense Spared”

I disagree.

The roof isn’t made of ivory, the toilet isn’t made of gold, and there are no elves.

If you were truly sparing no expense, there would be elves.

In fact, the ivory roof would have been installed by elves, with the help of unicorns.

Unicorns are expensive, FYI, and thus, you simply cannot claim “no expense spared.”

“Cathedral-Like Ceilings”

Have you ever been to a cathedral?

Really?  You have?

So……..then how come the ceilings in the house you’re selling, and marketing as “cathedral-like ceilings,” aren’t made of 500-year-old stained glass, and weren’t hand-painted over the course of two decades by a world-renowned artist?

Oh wait – you meant “high ceilings,” instead of “cathedral-like ceilings.”

Right.  Those are two very different things.

I understand marketing the 14-foot ceilings in hard lofts, but isn’t “cathedral-like” a bit of a stretch?

I got this term – cathedral-like – from a condo listing that said, “cathedral-like 9 1/2 foot ceilings.”

Those aren’t really cathedral-ceilings.

They’re really just…….ceilings.

“Chef’s Kitchen” or “Gourmet Kitchen”

Do most chefs have IKEA?

My friend works at Gusto 101 on Portland Street, and I can say that the kitchen they have back there is nothing like what I see in $699,000 houses off the Danforth.

What do you need in today’s market to claim you have a “chef’s kitchen?”

Stove?  Check.
Fridge?  Check.
Counters?  Check.
Ummm…….floors?  Check.

“Gorgeous Chef’s Kitchen Will Delight Even The Most Discerning Buyer!”

Yes.  Sure it will…

“New York Style”

Cheesecake?  Mmmm….

Oh…..wait… meant the house in Toronto, that’s nothing like anything in New York.  Right.

Or the condo?  The crappy loft on King Street that isn’t remotely close to anything in New York state, let alone New York City?  Right.  That sure is “New York Style!”

I should call myself “Male Model Style.”

Gangam Style…

“Well Maintained”


I certainly hope you can maintain your house.  It’s your HOUSE!  It’s your largest asset!

What don’t we maintain?  I dunno, maybe the bike in our storage locker.  We should probably tune that baby up, give it some oil, and crank the chain.  Maybe personal hygiene?  Maintain that?

But a HOUSE?  I hope your house is “well maintained,” for the love of God!

And are we really marketing this?  “Well maintained?”  Is that the best thing we can find to say about this house?

Imagine going to an online dating site and saying, “My name is Ted, I’m 36-years-old, and I’m well maintained.”

If this is the very first thing you see on an MLS listing, chances are – this house is not well maintained.  Not even close.

“Newly Renovated”

“Family Home”

If a family moved into a condo, would it be a “family condo?”

Or let’s take the home example.  If a school of fish moved into that home, would it still be considered a “family home?”  Or something else?

By “family home,” most people mean “house.”

Perhaps it’s bought by a family.  But I put my feet in my shoes, and I don’t call them “feet shoes.”  I just call them “shoes.”

So why do we call a “house” a “family house” when a family might buy it?

What if some rich, single guy wants to buy it?  Is he allowed?

(or) “Build Your Dream Home”

I love this one!

I put “or” in brackets, because I love when “build your dream home” is preceded by “or,” as in the case where it reads, “Gorgeous Well Maintained Custom-Built Family Home Is Move-In Ready.  Or Build Your Dream Home.”

Soooo…… can it be both?

How can it be move-in ready, but also make sense as a complete tear-down?

I see this a LOT, and it makes zero sense.  A knock-down is a knock-down.  Who spends the money on a “family home” and then knocks it down to build something else?  Unless you really don’t care about the the numbers adding up, it makes zero sense to me.

“Gut Renovation”

Do you know what a “gut reno” really is?

It’s a “down to the studs” reno.

And “down to the studs” means you rip out EVERYTHING except the 2 x 4’s in the walls.

You rip out the GUTS of the house.  Not just the floors, but the sub-floors too!

And yet, we constantly see crappy flips listed on MLS where the buyer/owner/investor/genius has installed engineered hardwood flooring, pot lights, an IKEA kitchen, and new stainless steel appliances, and these homes are marketed as “gut renovations.”

That so-called “renovator” would hate to go for an operation at Sunnybrook to remove an impediment in his gut, only to have the surgeon say, “I shaved my initials into the hair on your stomach, put a band-aid on the cut on your knee, and added some liquid Gravol to your intravenous tube.  You should be fine.”

Well folks, that was fun.

Something tells me we’ll be at this again, really soon.

As an aside – have any of the men out there experienced arthritis in the ring-finger about nine months after getting married?  Man, I’m in a world of pain.  I can barely type!  I know, I know, “first world problems.”  But something tells me if I come home without wearing the ring, my wife is going to see to it that I lose the finger altogether…

Written By David Fleming

David Fleming is the author of Toronto Realty Blog, founded in 2007. He combined his passion for writing and real estate to create a space for honest information and two-way communication in a complex and dynamic market. David is a licensed Broker and the Broker of Record for Bosley – Toronto Realty Group

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  1. Brad

    at 7:23 am

    Over the years the upper beach has moved way up, and east, and west…..not an empty phrase necessarily but misleading advertising for sure. No one is that map challenged.
    While shopping for my first house in Toronto I was hoping for upper beach–yes a broadly used descriptor–I ended up south of Coxwell Danforth, no not upper beach but a good hood.
    I did come across a listing for the upper beach at Lawrence and Warden, really?

  2. Gilly

    at 8:58 am

    “Transit friendly”. I’ll see this one for a house a few blocks away from what I know is a TTC bus route that runs every half-hour, even in rush hour. I understand that RE salespeople for their work are drivers not strap-hangers, but jeesh, do a bit of research on TTC’s website to check out routes and timetables (and whether the bus even runs on weekends at all) before you say “transit friendly”!

    1. AndrewB

      at 11:31 am

      You’ll also see a lot of “transit friendly, right by the proposed LRT expansion!” etc

  3. AndrewB

    at 9:01 am

    Haha, the Chef’s Kitchen one I like. Perhaps “Chef’s Kitchens” have an island with the flat top on it and an over range hood? *shrugs*

  4. Jason H

    at 9:19 am

    So here is the thing.. most of those I could agree with but I find the issue really comes down to realtors exaggerating.

    I like the idea of “rough-in” because it tells me I don’t have to hire a plumber (should I even care too) to get the plumbing through the walls into the area I may expect it to be especially if you consider rough-in in the basement. It means I don’t have to cut through the concrete floor to find and move plumbing (which I have in the past).

    Maybe CREA needs to set up guide lines – the problem as you stated is with your profession.

  5. Mike

    at 9:54 am

    you forgot ” Boasts” this home boasts 9 ft ceilings….

  6. Geoff

    at 10:43 am

    I like “minutes away from downtown” as someone else noted.

    Pickering is minutes away from downtown the same way that it’s minutes away from Shanghai or the Sun, or anything anywhere in the universe for that matter.

  7. BillyO

    at 2:39 pm

    ‘easily converts to a ‘ is still my favourite

  8. JG

    at 6:57 pm

    In regards to the Ring Finger, well, I just recieved mine a week ago. So I’ll get back to youin 9mths if any arthritis pain has occured.

  9. Rob Fjord

    at 1:18 pm

    all this hyperbole is due to the fact that real estate agents dont do much to sell a house, so they resort to fluff in the MLS description, their idea of marketing is to add in clever adjectives like, “beautifully appointed” …dumb home owners could never come up with that script on their own…its worth the 2.5%!!!

    -roughed in kitchen drawn in chalk, is a bloody classic, they should have also chalked in a spa, a walk in humidor, a wine cellar, and a home theater….raise the asking price by 100K, all for the cost of a stick of chalk.

  10. Jen

    at 5:31 pm

    Anyone who has sold more than a handful of properties knows, that in the vast majority of cases, it is the SELLER that demands their home be described as such. I’m constantly asked to beef up the language and stretch the truth. One client recently asked me to call walk score and see if they would change their score for them! The bottom line, is that they are paying us boatloads of money to sell their house. They are entitled to demand we say whatever they want (provided it’s not inaccurate) and I will happily oblige them. Next time you’re selling a $1.5 million house, I’d love to see how you describe it.

  11. Richard A Voges

    at 4:18 pm

    Im always looking for country acreage for a “get-a-way” and when I see “Build your dream home” in the ad I move on to the next ad. The term “get-a-way” is starting to have the same effect on me. Anyway, I eventually come back to the ad because I shouldn’t spite myself due to an unimaginative realtor (not realator, which I’ve even heard realtors pronounce it this way). I found your blog when I googled “overused real estate terms” because I wondered if I was the only one that these terms and phrases bugged the crap out of.

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