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How to read a real estate listing: a quick dictionary of terms

Browsing homes for sale, whether that's online or in a handy brochure, is usually a pretty exhilarating step in kicking off your home-buying journey.

While a listing description can contain a wealth of information, sometimes the important facts can get lost in the potential real estate jargon, and what can feel like endless acronyms.

That's why we've created this go-to real estate dictionary of terms, which will help you demystify real estate listings, and speak their unique language, when you're on the exciting hunt for a home. Now, some of these terms and acronyms may vary from listing service to listing service, but it will at least give you an idea of the typical information included in a listing (and what to look out for).

Side note: What are MLS (or real estate) listings?

Multiple Listing Services (MLS) is an online database with detailed information about properties on the market, and is used by real estate agents to share listings with each other, as well as to potential buyers.

Understanding the terms in an MLS (or real estate) listing

With all the acronyms and abbreviations, real estate listings can be like reading another language that only the most experienced real estate agents speak. Some are only applicable for houses, others only for condos and apartments. Whatever the case may be, this handy dictionary of the terms will help you translate the basic pieces you'll likely find on a listing page.

Reading the top of a real estate listing: A quick dictionary

  • Address: Simple enough! This is the address of the home or building. Knowing this can help you get a sense of what's around, as well as see the curb appeal.
  • DOM: Days on Market. It's worth taking a special look at this section, as listings that have been on the market for multiple months could indicate a challenge with the property.
  • Taxes: Property taxes. These are different from condo fees.
  • Rooms: This is how many rooms the home has in total.
  • BR: Bedrooms (and how many total the home has). Keep in mind that there may be different, regional definitions of what makes a bedroom.
  • Washrooms: This might be abbreviated as BA (bathrooms). Round numbers mean a full bathroom, and 1/2 or .5 likely means a toilet and a sink with no tub or shower.
  • Level: This is the floor the property is on, which is a very personal preference. If there isn't an elevator or lift (see below on how to tell!) then lower might be preferred, although higher floors can mean better views and less noise.
  • Unit#: If the listing features a condo or apartment, the unit number will be which specific unit the listing is for.
  • Locker#/ Locker Level/ Locker Unit#: This is a description of a storage locker, if it's included in the sale. You may find that this area is often left blank.
  • Dir/Cross St: This is the cross street that the property is closest to.
  • Prop Mgmt: Property management!
  • Lot: Lot number. This information legally separates one property from another in official records.

Reading the middle section of a real estate listing

  • MLS#: This is the reference or listing number.
  • Sellers: Here you'll find the names of the sellers (which could be a corporation, or people).
  • Possession: The sellers' ideal closing date can be found here So, this is around the time when you could potentially possess the keys to the property.
  • Occup: 'Occupation.' This will tell you if the home is currently occupied or not.
  • Status Cert: This reveals whether or not a status certificate for the building has already been ordered. 
  • Bldg Name: This translates to 'building name' (which is more common for condos and apartment complexes).
  • BSMT: This is short for basement, and indicates whether or not the house has one.
  • Heat: Type of heating system: radiant, central, forced.
  • A/C: Want air conditioning? This is where to look to find out if a property has it.
  • CVac: This means 'central vacuum.'
  • Apx Age: Here's where you can learn the age of the building.
  • Apx Sqft: This means 'square feet.'
  • Sqft Source: If you're curious where the square footage information was obtained, this will tell you the source.
  • Exposure: Want to know whether the unit is facing east, west, north, or south (might be important for those sunrise and sunset views)? Look here.
  • Elev/Lift: This indicates if there is an elevator or lift feature on the property.
  • Ens Lndry: This tells you if there is an ensuite laundry area.
  • BALC: Here's where to look if you're curious about whether there's a balcony (or not).
  • Laundry Lev: What floor the laundry rooms are located on.
  • Spec Design: This is the special designation of the building (for example, if it’s a heritage building, you'll find that out here).
  • Prop Features: Simply: 'Property features.'
  • Exterior: This will indicate the material of the building's exterior, like brick.
  • Pets Perm: Need to know if pets are permitted? Here's where to hone in on. The type of pets that are allowed can vary by listing, so it's worth asking if your furry friends can move in, too, as service and support animal laws could vary from province to province.
  • Locker: If a storage locker is included, and whether it's owned or rented, will be noted here.
  • Maint: 'Maintenance.' Does the property have a service or person that maintains it, and is it included in the price? This section will answer those questions.
  • Taxes Incl: This tells you whether or not taxes are included in the price.
  • Heat Incl: This tells you whether or not the utilities are included in the price.
  • Cable TV Incl: Is a cable TV included in the price? This will indicate a yes or a no.
  • Bldg Ins Incl: Is building insurance included in the price? Look here for the answer.
  • Com Elem Incl: Common elements means shared spaces in a condo or apartment building. Think gym, or pool, or recreation room. It refers to whether or not the maintenance of these spaces is included in the fees.
  • GreenPIS: This is a form of sustainability certification (like an Energy Star rating). Tip: Read more on how to make your home eco-friendly.
  • Water Incl: This indicates whether or not water consumption is included.
  • Hydro Incl: This indicates whether or not hydro (electricity) is included.
  • CAC Incl: "Central air conditioning."
  • Prkg Incl: This will tell you if a parking space is included.
  • Park/Drive/Parking Types: ... and this tells you where the parking space is (i.e. underground, or above).
  • Gar/Gar Spcs: "Garage, or garage spaces."
  • Tot Prk Spcs/Parking spots: This is the total number of parking spaces.
  • Park $/Mo: "Parking cost per month."
  • Prk Lev/Unit: Parking level.
  • Bldg Amen: "Building amenities."
  • PL, or SPL: This means "Pool"! (And 'A/G' means 'above ground pool.'

Getting to the bottom of (the bottom part of) MLS listings

  • Room/Level/Description: The sizes and short descriptions for most of the property's rooms, excluding washrooms or any type of hallway.
    Client Remks: Description of the property's features written by the realtor or seller. Keep an eye out for certain adjectives! Words like "cozy" and "adorable" often mean the the space is on the smaller side, while "traditional" usually means older. Terms like "fixer upper" and "home with potential" mean the property needs some renovations. "Highly motivated buyers" are usually ready to sell ASAP.
    Extras: Anything else they think you should know about the home!

If you're sifting through the listings and still need help demystifying the minutia, don't worry: you have an entire team of experts at your disposal! Having the right Canadian realtor to help you narrow down a long list of listings (to the ones that really suit your needs) is pretty key to the home buying process (and our agents are here to help if you need it!).

Haven't begun your home search yet and need some listing inspiration? See properties for sale, use your knew-found listing know-how, and start searching around in your dream neighbourhoods.

*DISCLAIMER: This article is provided for informational purposes only. It is not an exhaustive review of this topic. The content is not financial or investment advice. No professional relationship of any kind is formed between you and Properly Homes Inc. While we have obtained or compiled this information from sources we believe to be reliable, we cannot and do not guarantee its accuracy. We recommend that you consult a trusted professional before taking any action related to this information. Properly is a tech-enabled real estate brokerage that is transforming the home buying and selling experience with AI-powered home valuations and a modern streamlined service. We recommend that you compare and contrast your options, read the fine print, and conduct detailed research into any real estate, loan, or investment provider before using their services.*

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