OMG! A Crazy World of Real Estate Shorthand from AO to ZB

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Bill Primavera
Bill Primavera

This week’s Home Guru is an updated column from several years ago.

 By Bill Primavera

You don’t have to be a realtor, as am I, to appreciate – or be perplexed by – a whole world of activities and terms in real estate that can be abbreviated to a few letters.

We’ve all grown up with abbreviations and acronyms that probably originated at sea, such as SOS (save our ship) to POSH (port out, starboard home) and many others for everyday living that nearly everyone is familiar with. There’s VIP, RSVP and ASAP, and the important one I learned attending college in a dry state, BYOL (bring your own liquor).

Not all of us studied Gregg or Pitman, but a new shorthand developed, then exploded, with the invention of the personal computer, then the Internet. Who ever heard of LOL (laughing out loud), IMHO (in my humble opinion) and the ubiquitous OMG! (oh, my God!) before we logged on? And now that we’ve learned to text, much of what we send and receive makes it look as though we’re all secret agents.

But in RE (real estate), the world of abbreviations and acronyms frequently draws questions about meanings among realtors and blank looks from buyers and sellers as we start to automatically reference letters from the alphabet, from AO (acceptable offer) to ZB (zoning board), CMA (comparative market analysis) and CO (certificate of occupancy).

Keeping up with these abbreviations is a continuing learning process that can lead to misunderstanding, double interpretations and silly sounds. My favorite is FISBO, for sale by owner, which when I first heard it sounded to me like a digestive remedy.

This subject came to mind recently when I was having a rather uncomfortable conversation with a service provider. This provider, who installed tiling, refused to give me a solid estimate of what it would cost to have some tiles repaired and replaced at the water line of my pool.

When I shared with him that I was hoping it might be about $500, he retorted, “No way! It’s going to be a lot more than that!” When I asked how much more, he said, “I won’t know until I actually do the work and then it will all be ‘TM.’”

The only TM I knew was transcendental meditation, which I thought I would surely need when our conversation was over. When I summoned my courage to ask what TM was, he was happy to educate me: time and materials. I added this abbreviation to my shorthand list to be ITK (in the know).

Why everything in the real estate business must be abbreviated, I can’t say for sure, but I suspect it originated as a way to save space in listings and ads.

Read any ad about a house and it seems there are more abbreviations than complete words. Some of the abbreviations are more difficult to guess than others. Consider this house description: EF (entry foyer); LR (living room); DR (dining room); EIK (eat-in kitchen); FR (family room); BD or BR (bedroom); BA (bath); SGD (sliding glass doors); WIC (walk-in closet); WDSTV (wood burning stove); BSMT (basement); GAR (garage); and DK (deck). The ad might also state that it needs TLC (tender loving care) and offer the possibility of a M/D (mother/daughter).

Styles of homes also have their own codes: COL (colonial), CONT (contemporary), RR (raised ranch), SL (split level) and CC (Cape Cod).

Not to be overlooked for confusion are those abbreviations with double meanings such as AC (air conditioning, but it can also mean acre) and FHA, which can mean either Federal Housing Authority or forced hot air.

Some sound either funny or crude, such as PUD (planned unit development), HOA (homeowners association), HUD (Department of Housing and Urban Development) and NOO (nonowner occupied).

Then there are all the financial terms to keep straight, such as APR (annual percentage rate) and ARM (adjustable rate mortgage).

Those that definitely need explanation the first time around may be DVAC (central vacuum), HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning), and the one I’ll never remember if I live to be 100 years old, GFI or GFCI (ground-fault circuit interrupter), a special electrical receptacle that protects us from electrocution in high-risk areas such as bathrooms and kitchens.

Before I’m ready to draw a conclusion, I’ll relate an incident in which I was convinced that abbreviations, while convenient, may be taken too far.

I was in a back-and-forth e-mail conversation with a seller’s agent concerning an offer I was trying to make on behalf of my buyer client. She said she would be sure to “follow up” with the response of the seller by e-mail. Granted, it was a somewhat lowball offer, but I was initially startled when the return e-mail’s subject line said simply, “FU.”

Bill Primavera is a Realtor® associated with William Raveis Real Estate and founder of Primavera Public Relations, Inc., the longest running public relations agency in Westchester (, specializing in lifestyles, real estate and development. His real estate site is To engage the services of The Home Guru and his team to market your home for sale, call 914-522-2076.


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