Realtor Speak | Good Bones

MLS Listing Information

Prior to doing an inspection we always review the MLS listing. In particular we carefully read the realtor’s description of the property. This is usually the only place where the agent (or their staff) demonstrate their literary prowess.

Managing Expectations

On occasion, there will be a statement to the effect that the “home needs some TLC but has good bones”. The ‘TLC’ tells our prospective buyer that the house needs repair and or renovation. Fair enough. But what about the ‘good bones’ part?

In one recent home inspection, the seller’s agent was downright effusive in their description and called it ‘great bones’!

‘Good bones’ often refer to a house that is downright ugly or rough looking on the outside. Most people will just skip it on their web search or drive right by.

Realtor Defined Good Bones

If you do a google search of what ‘good bones’ are supposed to mean to the real estate profession, we find the following opinions:

  • foundation is solid and structure is sound
  • a sturdy roof
  • the floor plan flows and good sized rooms
  • breathing room (whatever that means)
  • lots of natural lighting
  • it needs some cosmetic repairs or updating
  • there are no major repairs
  • unique craftsman features and old world charm
  • hardwood floors that can be sanded and restained
  • good lot and location
  • potential for in-law suite or rental income

Inspector Defined Good Bones

Is the foundation good and is the house structurally solid? That’s it!

Good Bones a.k.a. Wallet Attack

This ‘realtor speak’ tells us that the property is going to have an expensive surprise. However cost surprises are never pleasant.

Some house systems (siding, roofing, plumbing, electrical, heating, insulation, interior finishes) will likely require major repair or replacement.

Good Deal for Pros

Maybe.

The Pro will quickly determine if the asking price represents money to be made. Is it a holding property? Is it a reno and flip? Is it a tear-down? Or is it prime for a redevelopment?

Performance Opinion

Bones by definition are covered in layers of muscles, veins, arteries, nervous system and skin. Bones by definition are covered or hidden.

Realtors are not contractors or inspectors. Why would you trust a marketing professional to offer their performance opinion on foundations and structures?

Big Red Flag

‘Good bones’ should be a big red flag to any buyer. It should be read as:

  • Things are not right. Expect major issues.

A home inspection is absolutely mandatory to identify risk exposure. If the inspection does confirm ‘good bones’ then carry on with your deliberations.

Bad Bones

If instead, ‘bad bones’ are discovered, then it’s a lot value purchase, less the cost of environmental assessment, hazmat removal, demolition costs and monthly lot carrying cost.

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