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You are reading: Understanding the Apartment Market Lingo

April 11, 2024

Understanding the Apartment Market Lingo

Daniel Berlind

Apartment listings often describe available units using ambiguous language, including head-spinning industry jargon and abbreviations that are hard to decipher.

For instance, do you know what “Gar” really means? Maybe it’s a garage, but what if it’s a garden? What about the abbreviation,”DR?” Perhaps it stands for a dryer or a dining room?

And what about those colorful listings that describe a unit using words like “fantastic,” “cozy” and “unique?”It turns out that these words are real estate agent-speak for an apartment that actually does not have many – or any – particular attributes worth describing.

It’s also not uncommon for an apartment listing to richly illustrate a spectacular-sounding apartment that – in reality – translates to something entirely different, according to a recent article written collaboratively by and HuffPost.

Whether you are prepping to become a renter for the first time or you are a seasoned renter simply looking for a new living space, it is essential to learn how to “decode” apartment listings to find the best place to suit your needs.

Shedding Light on Rental Language

With so many phrases and words that get thrown around in the rental world – from the basics to some more complex terms – it can make the apartment hunting process more complicated than it has to be.

Here is a list of popular abbreviations (and what they really mean):

  • incl (included)
  • elec (electricity)
  • a/c (air conditioning)
  • w/w (wall-to-wall carpeting)
  • h/w (hardwood floors)
  • dw (dishwasher)
  • furn (furnished)
  • cpt (carpeted)
  • eff (efficiency, a.k.a. a studio)
  • immed (available immediately)

Below is a brief guide to help you better understand a few common apartment rental terms during your search:

  • Amenity Fees. Some buildings with many amenities (think workout areas and pools) charge a monthly or annual fee to apartment owners to use these conveniences.
  • 2/2 (or 3/2, or 1/1.5). This complex fraction reflects the total number of bedrooms and bathrooms in an apartment. The first number represents the bedrooms; the latter, the bathrooms. Of special note: if the second number features a decimal, it is describing a “half bath,” or a bathroom with a toilet and sink only.
  • This term typically refers to any specialized elements of a unit, like hardwood floors, stainless steel appliances or other high-end fixtures.
  • Junior One Bedroom. This type of apartment lands somewhere in-between a studio and one-bedroom floor plan. It typically translates to a defined, mostly walled-in space that a renter can use as a bedroom, including a full kitchen, however the space is not closed off from the apartment’s main living area by an actual door.
  • Commonly found in a bachelor-style apartment, this term describes a kitchen area that is not fully equipped, and may lack full-sized appliances or some appliances altogether, like an oven.
  • Walk-Up Apartment. This term describes a unit on a floor above ground level in a building that does not include a working elevator.
  • In-Unit. If you see this phrase, itmeans that a particular feature is located on the inside of the apartment, versus a shared, community amenities, such as public washers and dryers.
  • W/D Connections. If you see this phrase in a listing, it refers to a space that includes the hookups to install a washer and dryer but does not include the actual machines.

Punctuation Matters!

Industry pros warn never to spend quality time pursuing a listing that includes an exclamation point–  this scenario is a red flag that cloaks flaws or something more unimpressive with a lot of false enthusiasm.

Take a Test Drive; Consider All Costs

Google map units you want to pursue, and actually take the time to drive around a neighborhood – versus taking the listing agent’s word – to see how long your work commute will be, and to confirm it’s in an ideal location for your specific needs.

Keep in mind, while you may be targeting a community because of its “affordability,” it could end up costing you more money to get to work. A longer commute means spending more on gas and car maintenance, or public transportation costs. It also can mean more time spent in your car and less time enjoying your new apartment.

The Bottom Line

If you are actively searching for a new apartment, take your time, and always carefully read through rental listings. Also, understand that a lot of the language is typical “marketing speak.”

Don’t let the clock – or your patience level – take over your efforts to find a new place to live. Unfortunately, they can result in a bad choice. Remember, renting an apartment is a big deal, and the more you educate yourself about the process, the easier it will be to make the right decision.

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