Opinion: Eye of the beholder


As it is with most industries, jargon in the residential real estate community is a language to those in the know. The count on the number of bathrooms is fairly straightforward, while claims that the view from the deck is “breathtaking” may be a little more dependent upon the taste of the observer. Many suggest strategies to enhance sales vocabularies with articles like “115 Real Estate Words to Spice Up Your Property Listings.” Unfortunately, it all delivers ambiguity. Things like cozy might mean cramped or warm. Expressions such as centrally located could indicate convenient or in a terrible neighborhood. Sun-filled conjures up bright and airy or warns that there is not a tree anywhere nearby. And is “updated” a good thing if the person doing the updating has the taste of a hoarder?

So, how do reasonable people find their way? Do we buy a new house, with each element fresh and the appliances under warranty? Or do we seek an older home imbued with superior craftsmanship and time-tested materials? Even if these cliches hold true, those of us who have had both are likely to say that neither is ideal. Open-floor plans, “real” fireplaces and luxury vinyl tile each means a different thing to different people.

In a favorite variation on the maxim, “Beauty is in the eyes of the beholder,” American Founding Father Benjamin Franklin wrote in 1741, “Beauty, like supreme dominion, is but supported by opinion.” Could it be that our visceral reaction to carpet on the bathroom floor is only sustained by the prevailing trend, and that whatever is “must-have” today is likely to be torn out by a subsequent generation? Do we imagine our domiciles to be timeless and everlasting or disposable examples of fashion and aesthetic? Do our homes reflect us or we them?