Allen Norwood

Your language for real estate might mean you aren’t from around here

Do you say “escrow” to mean “closing?” If so, you might not be from around here.

Do you know the difference between a three-piece bath and a three-quarter bath?

The quirks in the vocabulary of home and real estate have caught my ear recently. Don’t know why. Sometimes they go right by, and other times they bring me up short.

The language of real estate varies from state to state, of course, depending on state regulations. Usually there’s no right or wrong. It’s like the difference between pine straw and pine needles.

Back in the ancient days, when dinosaurs roamed the Earth and there was no such thing as Google, such differences could cause a little more confusion. Now, an explanation is just a click away and differences are just fun and interesting.

Escrow is the one that I’ve noticed recently.

Folks moving to Charlotte from out West use it as shorthand for closing.

Escrow doesn’t mean closing in North Carolina, though. Here, closing is, well, closing.

I chatted with Randy Cameron, who’s with Keller Williams Lake Norman, to ask whether some buyers moving to the lake use that West Coast shorthand.

Yes, indeed, he said. “We have to explain, escrow doesn’t mean closing, here.”

It’s not a problem, he said. Buyers pick up on the differences quickly, when knowledgeable agents explain.

Agents also have to explain that closings here are typically handled by attorneys, not escrow companies. He said that takes a little more convincing.

Escrow – if you haven’t looked it up on your tablet by now – means that money is held by a qualified third party until it’s disbursed. In some states, that’s how the sales process is handled. An escrow company holds the money until buyer and seller settle up.

Here, escrow is usually used to describe the account – held by a third party – that holds money to pay taxes and insurance.

Anyway, I asked Cameron if there were other home and real estate terms that newcomers might use that North Carolina natives would never utter.

He said he couldn’t think of any, but would ask his fellow agents.

I called back days later. “Escrow is the only one,” he said. “Everybody I asked said the same thing.”

“What about an en suite bathroom?” I asked.

There was a long pause.

He finally confessed that he wasn’t familiar with that one.

Which only means that Cameron doesn’t watch HGTV regularly, and hasn’t run into any clients who’re watchers. Canadian show hosts on HGTV toss “en suite” around like confetti. For the past couple of years I’ve been hearing and reading that term more often. (There’s even a spirited debate online: Is it en suite, ensuit or ensuite?)

En suite is one of those terms that you might understand, even when hearing it for the first time. It means a private bath attached to a bedroom. Like, say, the master bathrooms in Charlotte master suites.

“What about a three-piece bathroom?” I asked Cameron.

“Ah, no.”

It means the bath has a sink, toilet and either a tub or shower, but not both. It’s the same as a three-quarter bath. That’s a trick question in the second paragraph.

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