Cristal's Blog


January 13, 2023

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Every homebuyer needs to know what the specialized real estate terms used in property descriptions means for them. Look at any listing anywhere in the country and you will realize that they all include certain phrases that buyers may or may not be familiar with. If you’re looking for a new home in Montecito or anywhere across the country, it’s important to stay up-to-date on what’s being said about a home you might be interested in seeing. Before you get excited about any home, you need to read between the lines. Many listings may sound impressive, but some of the familiar-sounding terms may have a not-so-obvious meaning.

A magnifying glass over a home listing to illustrate the real estate terms used

Listing Definitions

Let’s start by defining the word “listing.” A listing is an agreement between a real estate broker and a homeowner that allows the broker to market and arrange for the sale of the owner's home. The word "listing" is also used to refer to the for-sale home itself. Here are some frequently used code words buyers might find in a listing, along with their true meaning:

    A real estate agent or sales associate who is a member of the National Association of REALTORS® Not all real estate agents are REALTORS®
  • Awaiting possibilities
    This one likely means (a.) the home needs a lot of work, or (b.) it, and/or its yard offers abundant versatility.
  • Quaint
    Unless you’re looking for a tiny, tired home, this means the place is probably too small or dilapidated to live in.
  • Private
    Make sure this doesn’t refer to a home that is located on a busy street, with just a hedge around the house and some type of water feature to drown out the noise.
  • Original
    This could be another code word for the home needs work. (See “quaint” above.)
  • Fixer
    This one makes it fairly obvious that the home needs lots of work.
  • Room to grow
    A listing that includes these three words could mean the home is not the prettiest, but does offers lots of space. The inference here is “potential.”
  • Undiscovered/hidden neighborhood
    There’s a reason – good or bad -- that this neighborhood is undiscovered.
  • Tenant occupied
    Listings like this will cost the current or new owner money and time to get the tenants out.
  • As-is
    Take it or leave it, but don’t try to sue the owner for problems after you close escrow because the seller probably has their own attorney on retainer.
  • Bonus area
    Possibly an unpermitted room that has been added, but usually a versatile, non-descript space.
A fully equipped gourmet kitchen in a Santa Barbara home.
  • Grmet kit
    Think chef-Inspired kitchen. A gourmet kitchen is the No. 1 upgrade for home sellers, with the greatest return on investment. Believe it or not, having a quality kitchen that hosts state-of-the-art appliances and other high-end accouterments can attract potential home buyers and clinch a sale.
  • Ask agent for disclosure
    Questionable roof and/or foundation
  • Just reduced!
    This could mean a good deal because the seller needs a quick turnaround, the property was overpriced to begin with, or the home has some sort of problem that’s scaring potential buyers.
  • Priced to sell
    See “Just reduced” above.
  • Opportunity awaits
    Probably refers to a major fixer upper.
  • Peek-a-boo view
    You might be able to see a slither of a view someplace on the property, but you will have to work to enjoy it.
  • 4B/2B
    Four bedrooms and two bathrooms. "Bedroom" usually means a sleeping area with a window and a closet, while a "full bathroom" is a room with a toilet, a sink and a bathtub. Then, there is a "three-quarter bathroom" which has a toilet, a sink and a shower, and a "half bathroom" or powder room that only has a toilet and a sink.
  • CMA
    A report that shows prices of homes comparable to a subject home and that were recently sold, are currently on the market or were on the market but not sold within the listing period
  • Closing Costs
    All of the miscellaneous expenses paid by the buyer and the seller when the real estate deal closes. They include the brokerage commission, mortgage-related fees, escrow or attorney's settlement charges, transfer taxes, recording fees and title insurance. Closing costs are generally paid through escrow.
  • Contingency
    A provision of an agreement that keeps the agreement from being fully legally binding until a certain condition is met.
The backyard of a Santa Barbara home with a terra cotta deck, trees, grass, plants and a hint of a balcony above.
  • Dk
    Decks and patios will not only encourage a healthy outdoor lifestyle but
    also improve the overall flow and function of the house itself. And even more than a deck or patio, here in sunny Santa Barbara, a substantial outdoor kitchen is a must. But it isn’t just about the grill. Consider adding a wok range, pizza oven, mini-fridge, sink, and ample counter space. That way, you can prep, cook, and plate a meal without having to step inside.
  • Expansion pot'l:
    You’ll find extra space on the lot, or the possibility of adding a room or even an upper level; all subject to local zoning and permit restrictions
  • Fab pentrm
    A room on top of the house but under the roof that offers great views
  • FDR
    Formal dining room.
  • Fixture
    Anything of value that is permanently attached to or a part of real property including wall-to-wall carpeting, light fixtures, window coverings and landscaping
  • Frplc, fplc, FP
    There’s at least one fireplace
  • Gar
  • Gard
    Garden on the premises
  • HDW, HWF, Hdwd:
    Short for hardwood floors
  • In-law pot'l
    Space to add a separate apartment, subject to local zoning and permit restrictions.
  • MLS
    Multiple Listing Service is an organization that collects, compiles and distributes information about homes listed for sale by its members, who are real estate brokers.

I do my best to keep my listing descriptions honest by using easy-to-interpret real estate terms so buyers know exactly what they’re reading. If you’re considering buying a new home in any of Santa Barbara’s upscale neighborhoods, you need to familiarize yourself with these commonly used real estate terms. As a REALTOR®, I’d be happy to help you find the perfect home sweet home. If you’re interested in selling in the area, I’d be happy to add your property to my portfolio of fine homes and estates. Give me a call at (805) 886-9378 or email me at

Other Resources:

How to Find the Best Santa Barbara Real Estate Agent
10 Luxury Amenities Every Cutting-Edge Home Needs
What Makes Santa Barbara One of the Best Places to Live?

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Client Reviews

“Cristal Clarke has conducted numerous real estate transactions for me beginning 13 years ago with the purchase of a Lemon Ranch. She has handled both large and small purchases and sales with equal dedication. As a negotiator, you can’t find anyone better. Her transactions are always conducted in the most appropriate and professional manner. Cristal has considerable knowledge of the Santa Barbara market.”

- S.N. Decker Ph.D.

“Living in Europe, we were to say the least, unaccustomed to the nuances of Real Estate acquisition in California and Cristal steered us through the process with absolute professionalism and personal attention to detail at every turn. Her in-depth knowledge of the market place combined with enthusiasm and drive was the only reason we secured the property of our dreams and will be forever grateful. If you are looking for personal discrete and private representation of the highest quality we suggest you look no further than Cristal Clarke.”

- Johan and Paula van den Berg

“Cristal is very straightforward, cheerful, helpful, professional and trustworthy….we felt very lucky to work with her.”

- John and Lacey Williams

“After considering our many choices, we are grateful it was Cristal Clarke of Sotheby’s International who represented the sale of our Montecito cottage. We are familiar with Cristal’s reputation of hard work and dedication to clients, but it was her attention to detail that made our experience so positive. She offered suggestions for staging the property, worked in harmony with potential buyers and was even able to secure back up offers. The sale of our cottage was completed much sooner than we expected, due in great part to Cristal’s professional skills and support. We highly recommend Cristal as a first choice for anyone needing representation with real estate.”

- Michael & Nancy Lee

“Our experience in working with Cristal Clarke resulted in the successful and discrete acquisition of a property which was not yet on the open market. Her knowledge of the Montecito/Santa Barbara area and vast expertise blended with her passion for real estate and architecture, provided us with the very highest level of professionalism and personalized services. Cristal exhibited a rare combination of excellent communications, attention to detail, creativity and patience.”

- Richard and Catherine Frinier

“Cristal really breaks the mold. She knows every nook and cranny of this real estate market, understands value, and follows up on everything, all the time. She was incredibly patient with our two year quest to find the perfect house. Every house hunting trip from across the country was well planned, and our time was never wasted. On top of her professionalism and expertise, she is delightful to spend time with. We are thrilled with the home we purchased, and grateful to Cristal for so wisely advising us through this process, right through to the close and beyond.”

- Laurie Siegel

“We met Cristal first in the course of renting a winter home (for three years), then buying a house using her as our agent. She was amazingly good at listening to our wants and showing us homes that fit our needs. Her mastery of the paperwork was perfect. Most importantly, there was never a situation where we doubted her straightforwardness or integrity. If we do another real estate transaction in Montecito (which I doubt, we’re happy with what we purchased), without question we’d use Cristal again.”

- Ken Saffir

“Susan and I just want to thank you for your efforts in the sale of our home. You are really quite amazing. Your competence, persistence, optimism and humor made the entire process effortless. Every problem that arose, you somehow fixed; any obstacle, you overcame. We have bought and sold many homes. It has never been such a painless and enjoyable process!”

- Michael & Susan Marquart

“A little something about “our” realtor, Cristal Clarke. My wife and I came to Santa Barbara about fifteen years ago looking for a seasonal home from which to enjoy the weather and amenities of the central coast. Being in the real estate business myself I was familiar with agents and brokers so entered the market with open eyes. We “flipped” a few houses in the early years, dealing with various agents and finally ended up in Montecito. That’s when good fortune put us together with Cristal. To say we were impressed is to put it mildly. Cristal really knows the market. She is familiar with the area, its history and trends. When we have questions about a particular property she either has the answers immediately or gets back to us by phone or email. There is no waiting or wondering with Cristal. She is an agent who is “on top of it.” Her recommendations as to price points, contractors, inspectors and title agents have proven to be exceptional, showing great insight and the highest professional standards. We consider ourselves exceedingly fortunate to say that Cristal Clarke is our realtor and would recommend her services to any serious buyer or seller.”

- Rob & Judi Kelch