Cameron: Buyer, beware the house that Jack built up

November 18, 2006

pictureThe Internet has gone a long way toward eliminating middlemen from commercial transactions, allowing consumers to have easy access to all sorts of great scams. Take home buying, for example. Why pay a real estate agent to screen houses for you when the Internet enables the seller to lie to you directly? You just enter the features you're looking for and pull up a list of places that the sellers claim will match your criteria (though my son was disappointed to discover you can't specify a house with a view of Jessica Alba).

Because of the softening in the housing market, I recently spent some time shopping for a home, hoping I could pick up a colossal mansion for 10 bucks. What I discovered is that people who are selling houses without real estate agents often use the same terminology as the pros, but with slightly different definitions, like this:

Price recently reduced: It used to be priced "way, way too high"; now it's priced merely "way too high."

Recently updated: We just now hung a new calendar in the kitchen.

Hardwood floors: We had to pull up the carpet because of the fungus.

Floor-to-ceiling windows: Ceiling is window height.

Den could be a third bedroom: If you don't mind sleeping standing up.

Breathtaking views: You don't want to inhale near the Dumpsters.

A gated community: All the residents have bars on their windows.

Open floor plan: We couldn't afford walls.

Convenient location near the interstate: People driving by can see into your shower.

Unique windows: Most people would have used glass instead of plywood.

Great starter home: It's a halfway house.

Recently landscaped: The dog just dug holes in the yard.

Great fixer-upper!: You're gonna want to fixer the lower, too!

Fun, active area: The house backs up to the exercise yard of the local jail.

Great investment home: You can't actually live there yourself.

Custom paint: The house was painted in 1970, back when that was the custom.

Huge sunroom: If you look up through the hole in the roof, you can see the sun, which is huge.

Wonderful agricultural area!: Many of your neighbors use their basements to grow marijuana.

Peaceful neighborhood: The truce between gangs is still holding.

Nestled at the bottom of a hill: Formerly nestled at the top of the hill.

Lovely golf-course location: If you want to step out into the back yard, you'd better wear a helmet.

Seller motivated: He's had it with all the gunfire.

Hurry, this won't last!: The whole place is about ready to collapse.

Beautiful wood molding: The beautiful ceiling is molding, too.

Fountain in backyard: The hose leaks.

Wonderful old tree: Too bad it fell on the house.

New driveway: This house is so bad the only thing we could think to brag about is a patch of concrete.

Minutes away from shopping, schools and parks: 139 minutes, to be exact.

A homeowner's dream come true: It's that dream where the roof leaks and the neighbors sell crack.

After wading through listings like these, I've concluded that I prefer a house with bay windows over one with bullet holes.

I want a yard that's large enough that I can spot my neighbors coming, especially if they're the rude kind like my neighbor Tom, who's always demanding I return his tools.

And I'm certainly not going to buy a home from someone like the woman I met this morning, who said she "isn't sure she has accounted for all of her cats."

You may not get a great deal buying a house for sale by owner, but you do get to meet some interesting people.

What I really want to do is buy a house on the last day of the current slump, or downturn, or blip, or blump, or whatever it's called, and then I want a guarantee that the market will reverse its decline and generate the kind of profits that are always associated with the word windfall.

Put that in the ad and I'll buy it!

Write to Bruce at .


Copyright 2006, Rocky Mountain News.