The craving by New Zealand real estate agencies to reinvent the language is a continuing source of amusement.

“Your 20-year wait is over-Parnell Waterfront” was a recent Bayleys heading for an Auckland residential property.

First, why 20 years? Are potential buyers who’ve spent say only 12 years looking for such a property disqualified?

But worse is their redefinition of the term “waterfront”.

I’d have thought its meaning was clear, namely a property adjacent the water, but not according to Bayleys. For the photo revealed the property lay high on a hill, several hundred metres from the water, affording mainly an unpleasant view of wharf cranes, plus part of the distant harbour.

Wellington Bayleys boss Mark Hourigan threatened to sack any of his agents a couple of years back for writing absurd headings for properties. As I’ve recounted before, the final straw was one of his agents heading an advertisement for a plain fare industrial property, “Hard working building”.

I promptly sent over a generous offer, conditional on the building’s work skills.

If it simply operated a computer I wrote, then the offer is withdrawn. On the other hand if it has entertainment talents such as juggling, singing, tight-rope walking, or, more mundane abilities such as house-work, cooking or gardening, then I’m your buyer.

Mark is certainly not lacking a sense of humour but enough was enough as he told us when he popped in for drinks a few days later. He’d called his agents together and put his foot down once and for all on ludicrous advertisement headings.

Out when “footprint” in lieu of “rental area”, so too all the other faddish terminologies.

Why do they do this?

In my experience it’s peculiar to New Zealand and Sydney but nowhere else.

We often hear the claim that language is constantly evolving advanced in defence, usually of language abuse. In fact so much of this rubbish is simply faddish copycatism.

A classic case is the recent years replacement of the word photograph for image. That’s a regressive change, not an evolvement.

Take say, “She has an image of her husband on her desk”.

Is it a photograph, a painting, a sketch or what?

Clear speech is characteristic of all highly successful people as it reflects clear thinking.


The footprint of a building is an entirely different thing than its rental area.

Having been involved in the commercial real estate market for three decades, I’m seen some fundamental language changes in that time. Going forward I’m sure to see many more. At this point in time, I’ve just seen an advertisement’s heading “As rare as hens’ teeth”. Each and every advertisement has its own peculiarities and by the way, I’m a commercial real estate investor.

John Clarke (Fred Dagg) wrote a wonderful piece on realtor-speak:

I don’t lose any sleep over the wording of any real estate ads. Is it possible the property in question has been owned for 20 years and not been on the market? As it is now available the wait is indeed over?
Guarantee however, none of the Govt sponsored (dozens) ads on radio and TV presently will ever win any awards either. Every station would be bankrupt without said “sponsorship “.

Advertising, for the most part, is to build the profile of the brand (person and agency) as much as anything, and catch phrases make them memorable (sometimes for the wrong reasons). For that reason, think hard before contributing towards advertising costs.

Agents will continue to push boundaries (excuse the pun), so dont expect changes anytime soon.

All that aside, if the property being sold is special, it will be sold before it hits the press. Course this wont be news to the informed, but tells you more about the practice of agency.

Its almost as bad as “Police Speak” which is remarkable for its peculiarities

Jargon to me has always been emblematic of two things; laziness and stupidity. To assert that language is constantly evolving is as ridiculous as asserting that the works of Rembrandt (no matter which Rembrandt) or Chopin are constantly evolving. What evolves is the interpretation of their works.

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