11.10.2022 | Buyer Resources

Inside the Mind of a Toronto Real Estate Agent

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Every industry has its own lingo. It’s own shop talk, if you will. Real estate is no different. However, our industry-specific terms are also broadcast to the general public, which often results in some side-eye from the average person trying to decipher an MLS® description. 

So why are MLS® descriptions written that way? It all comes down to space baby! The Multiple Listing Service® is like Twitter circa 2010–very few characters available! With limited space, we have to adapt our listing descriptions to get as much juice out of them as possible. 

That’s how we end up with phrases like ELFs (electrical light fixtures), GDR (garage door remote), and CDC (central air conditioning). 

In this post, though, we aren’t talking about boring acronyms. Your buyer’s agent can totally read those for you. Instead, we’re going to focus on some of the common terms we see in other listing descriptions, and what they mean for buyers like you. 

Before we go any further, have you subscribed to my YouTube Channel? Subscribe here and be the first to know when I upload a new video! 

What the Actual Heck is a ‘Condo Alternative’ 

It’s pretty common to see phrases like cozy, cottage-like, and charming in listing descriptions. But ‘condo alternative’ is a relatively new one. Basically, it means small. Like really small. You could even say teeny, tiny, itty-bitty, you name it. If the property is a condo alternative giving cottage vibes, it’s probably only appropriate for a single person and maybe their teacup puppy who lives in a handbag. 

Looking for more insights into the Toronto real estate market? Check out these blogs:

Do I Want to Live in an ‘Up-and-Coming Neighbourhood’? 

Maybe! An up-and-coming neighbourhood is usually a nice way to say sketchy. You’ll want to make sure your doors are locked, and you might have some interesting neighbours. But this phrase isn’t always a negative thing. Up-and-coming neighourhoods are usually very unique with lots of charm and character. Plus, there’s always room for growth! 

Looking for an actually great neighbourhood in Toronto? Read our blog about why we love Fort York right here! 


If the agent is already calling your attention to the fact that the home would be great for a handyman (or woman!) to purchase, chances are, you don’t want to get involved. Either the house is about to collapse or it will need so much work that it would cost you an arm and a leg to get it to the standard you want. For most builders, these phrases are also a pretty glaring red flag.

In a similar vein, if something “has potential for…” it usually translates directly to, “you’re going to spend a ton of money.” 

The Home is ‘Well Maintained’–From What Era, Though?

Maintaining your home is a super important way to make sure your property values continue to go up. But just because a home has been “well maintained” doesn’t mean it’s good. Something that is well maintained often means you’ll need to update it. Additionally, if it’s been well maintained, we will be able to see it with our own eyes. Calling attention to the obvious only makes us a little bit skeptical!

Are you in the process of selling your home or thinking about selling in the future? There’s more to it than just writing a killer listing description. Check out these resources for home sellers right here:

Keep Your ‘Custom Home’ 

The first word that springs to mind when someone says, ‘custom home’ is NO PERMITS. Yes, custom homes have a certain appeal that you can’t usually find in a cookie-cutter home in the suburbs, but the reality is that a custom home is also something that has been specifically built to the current owner’s specifications. Unless you have the exact same taste as them, you probably won’t appreciate many of the customizations. 

Also. In our opinion, bringing up the fact that the home is ‘custom’ tends to scream, “I paid a lot of money, and you should too!” 

What is a ‘Motivated Seller’? 

This one is a real kicker for us. All sellers are motivated–for the right price. In our experience, even the most motivated sellers out there, like the Tony Robbins of home sellers, are not going to sell their home if they don’t think it’s a good offer. This term is kind of misleading.

‘Basement Suite Potential’ but Is It Legal?

Let’s clear something up right away. Most of the basement apartments in the GTA are not strictly “legal” basement suites. Does that make them bad? No. Does that mean you should sing it from the rooftops? Also no. When we see ‘basement suite potential’ in a listing, this tells us that you could make a basement suite there, and earn rental income, but it’s not saying you should because we’re not the boss of you and we don’t recommend you do anything illegal. It’s giving the info with a bit of a nudge and a wink. 

Is it possible to buy a “cheap home” in Toronto right now? Read our blog here to find out! 

‘Close to Transit’ Doesn’t Always Mean What You Think it Does

When a listing says the property is “steps away from transit” they don’t usually say how many steps. In most cases, proximity to transit still usually involves a 15-minute walk. And while that doesn’t sound so bad on a beautiful crisp, fall day, talk to us about it in mid-July or mid-January. 

Of Course, ‘The Tenant Would Like to Stay’ 

When we see any verbiage about the home being tenanted and the tenant wishing to stay, it says one thing: the tenant is getting an amazing deal on their rent, and doesn’t want to move and forfeit that. If you see this on a listing description, bear in mind that you may need to pay the tenant to leave, or jump through some legal hoops even if you’re taking possession yourself. Tenants know how to work the system and with Toronto rental prices up 30% year-over-year, they are looking for excuses not to leave.

Are you a Toronto real estate investor? Read our tips for finding a great tenant for your investment property here. 

‘Quiet Neighbours’ Can Have Two Meanings 

Either the home is next to a graveyard or it’s a wildly opposite claim and the neighbours are actually members of Stomp and they like to practice every evening at midnight. There is no in-between. If a listing chooses to mention the neighbours in the description. We are immediately raising our eyebrows. 

If you’re caught up with reading listing descriptions or you’d like some real-world interpretation, call or text me at 647-973-8392, I’m always happy to help!

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