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Season five of everyone’s favourite property-porn show, Selling Sunset, has dropped on Netflix…and we’re already addicted. To be fair, nobody actually watches it for a deep insight into the real estate business: it’s all about the lavish (albeit soulless) properties, the impossibly beautiful women and the brilliantly bitchy office goss but, that said, if you really want to immerse yourself in the wheelings and dealings of California’s real estate biz, it helps to know what they’re talking about.

Yes, our friends in California do speak what can loosely be described as “English”, but some of the more common terms in the US property industry are unfamiliar to those of us on these islands. Fortunately, our friend Amy Pritchett, student success manager at Preply, has taken time out to fill us in on all the jargon you’ll hear delivered in that slightly annoying valley-girl drawl. Aaaaaaaahsome.

1. Escrow

Five seasons in, and a hella lot (see what we did there?) of fans have absolutely no idea what this means. In fact, a massive 104,480 people a month have enough time on their hands to take to Twitter to find out. So here goes: when a third party is holding the funds for a property while offer conditions are confirmed, those funds are said to be in escrow. So now you know.

2. Contingencies / contingency period

A contingency is a condition of contract that must be satisfied before the process can continue. A contingent offer is an offer that depends on something the buyer needs to get done such as an appraisal on a loan.

The contingency period protects the purchaser so they can make an offer without risking losing their deposit. 

3. Realtor vs real-estate agent vs broker

Here in the UK we tend to use just two terms for people who sell houses: estate agent and money-grabbing shark. In America, a real-estate agent has a professional licence to help people buy, sell and rent real estate. They must work for a sponsoring broker or brokerage firm. A realtor is a real estate agent that is part of a trade association. 

A broker is a real-estate agent who has completed additional training and licensing requirements. They can work independently and hire other real estate agents to work for them. A broker can open up their own office, and trouser a slice of everyone’s commission.

4. Primary bedroom

This has now become the preferred term for what we call a master bedroom. While no such interpretation exists in the UK, in the US the word “master” has connotations of slavery, leading us to conclude that this change in terminology should really have been made years ago.

5. Double-ended deal

Not what you’re thinking, you dirty devil. This sort of much-less-fun double-ender refers to deals where an agent represents both the buyer and seller in one transaction. This can be a tricky situation for novice agents as they have a duty to negotiate the lowest price for the buyer while also achieving the highest price for the seller. However, if it works, this is a great way for the agent to make even more money.

6. A turnkey property

A turnkey property means you can literally ‘turn a key’ and move straight in with minimal work. This is an ideal property for those wanting an easy transition into their new home before ripping everything out and replacing it with identical minimalist decor and white wallks.

7. Under offer

An offer has been made but it is subject to specific conditions that the seller is yet to agree to. This means the property has not yet been sold or that the transaction has become legally binding.

8. Co-list

You and another agent work together to list a property together. Unless commission-sharing terms are set in stone in advance, arguments and conflict can ensure. Let’s hope that this season of Selling Sunset contains as many vicious arguments as possible, preferably with tears, swearing and flouncing out.

9. Appreciation

The appreciation of a property is the amount of value a property has gained in a certain period of time. Not only can growth in the housing market lead to a large amount of appreciation, but renovations and home improvements by homeowners can also lead to an increased value. That said, the questionable taste on display in some of the homes featured in Selling Sunset should, in our view, be punished with the harshest financial penalties.

10. Closing

All contingencies contracts and conditions have been confirmed and keys are handed over. This is when the agents and brokers get the cheque they’ve been working for so they can gloat on from of their colleagues while their colleagues pretend to be happy for them while seething with murderous rage on the inside.

Selling Sunset is on Netflix in the UK.

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House & Home Team

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