English Vocabulary for Buying a Home or an Apartment

Apartment Complex
Listen to the phrase »

This is what a group of apartments owned by the same company is usually called.

“Let’s go check out that new apartment complex over on Riverside Drive.”

Landlord
Listen to the phrase »

The landlord is the person that rents the property to the person who needs the house or apartment. Landlords collect the monthly rent and are responsible for repairs to the property as stated in the lease.

“My landlord gets angry if I pay the rent late!”

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Tenant
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A tenant is the person who is renting the apartment or home. Her name will be on the lease.

“The tenant is responsible for any damage to the apartment.”

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Lease
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A lease is a contract between the tenant and the landlord that states the conditions of the renting of the property. The tenant signs the lease before moving into the property. If the tenant breaks any of the rules in the lease he could be evicted or charged a fine.

“I signed a lease for one year.”

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Break a Lease
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When the tenant does not pay the agreed upon amount of rent for the agreed upon amount of time this is called breaking the lease.

“If you break the lease your credit score will be bad.”

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Credit Approval
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Before you are able to rent or buy an apartment or house the person you will be paying will need to check on your credit history. They will check on your financial history and make sure that you are a responsible person that pays your bills. If they find that your credit history is good, you will be granted credit approval. Now you will be able to rent the apartment or get a mortgage to pay for the home.

“If I can get credit approval I will be able to get that new house.”

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References
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To get a credit approval you may be asked to list the name and telephone numbers of people you know to verify your identity and credibility. These people would be your references.

“Before the apartment complex lets me sign a lease, they want to check my references.”

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Security Deposit
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A security deposit is a certain amount of money you have to give the landlord before you can move into the apartment. This money is returned to you at the end of your lease, provided that there are not any damages. The landlords ask for this “security deposit” so if the resident leaves early, or destroys the place, he will at least have some money towards the expenses.

“Before you move in you’ll have to pay a security deposit of $250.”

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Co-signer
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If you want to rent a house or an apartment, and the landlord requires that you have a higher income than you do, you can get another person to sign the lease with you. This other person is the “co-signer”. Your income, and your co-signer’s income, will be looked at to determine if you are someone who is likely to be able to afford the rent.

“Since I am a student, I don’t have a high income. I will need a co-signer so I can get into that apartment.”

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Notice of Eviction
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An eviction is when the tenant is forced to move out of the property being rented out. Tenants are usually evicted due to breaking a stipulation of the lease agreement.

“When I returned home there was a notice of eviction on my door. I should have paid the rent!”

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Amenities
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These are extra features an apartment or apartment complex may have. A pool or a nice gym are examples of amenities that an apartment complex could have. Examples of amenities in the actual apartment living area would be a fireplace or a large bathtub.

“This apartment complex has a lot of great amenities. They have an indoor pool, a basketball court and a game room.”

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Mortgage
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A mortgage is a loan to purchase a home, where the property is used to guarantee repayment of the loan. Individuals will get a mortgage through a mortgage company so they can buy the house immediately. This individual pays a set amount every month to the mortgage company until he pays off the loan.

“Our mortgage payment each month is $1300.”

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Down Payment
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A down payment is a sum of money you pay towards your home when you first buy it. In some situations you are required to pay a certain amount as a down payment before you can move in.

“We will need $10,000 for the down payment on our new house.”

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Realtor/Real Estate Agent
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This is the title of the person who specializes in real estate and finding you the home you want. This person also will help you find a buyer for a home you would like to sell. Real estate agents make a percentage of what your house sells for.

“My realtor is Barbara Smith. She is really good at her job.”

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Asking Price
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This is the price that the seller of the home has indicated that he wants to sell it for. Depending on the economy, and other factors, the seller could go up or down on the price.

“His asking price is way too high. Nobody is going to make him an offer.”

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To Flip a House
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This is a term used to describe the act of purchasing a home with the intention of selling it in the near future for a profit. Usually the buyer will buy a run down home, fix it up and try to sell it for more money. This is called “flipping a house”.

“How long do you think it would take to flip that house?”

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A Lot
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A lot is the piece of land that the house will be built on or is already built on. An advertisement for a house could say, “Beautiful two story house on a spacious lot.”

“I want a large lot so that my kids have somewhere to play.”

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Wooded Lot
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This term is used to describe a lot with many trees. Wooded lots are desirable because they provide more privacy and shade, so the price is usually a little higher.

“If you live in a wooded lot your neighbors won’t be able to see into your windows.”

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Cul-de-sac/Dead End
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This is a street in a neighborhood that ends and has no exit. The cul-de-sac is circular and there are usually houses built all around it. Many people like to live in these areas because there is not much traffic. The only traffic comes from people who live off of the cul-de-sac.

“I like living in a cul-de-sac because there isn’t a lot of traffic.”

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Upgrades
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When you buy a new house from a home builder usually you have two options for the different features in your house. You can get the standard features or the nicer ones, which cost more. When you choose the fancier features, you chose to “upgrade”. An example of an upgrade would be to get the more expensive lights installed in your house instead of the ugly ones that are standard with the home you are buying.

“This house comes with a lot of upgrades like tile floors and stainless steel appliances.”

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Subdivision
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An area of real estate or land that is divided up into sections to build homes on. The homes are usually on a small lot of land and built by the same builder.

“In our subdivision there are 100 homes all built by Centex.”

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HOA/Home Owners Association
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This is an organization created by the developer of the subdivision that enforces any rules or codes. This group is in charge of the maintenance of the public areas like the pool and the sidewalks. Each resident is a member of this association and pays a monthly fee. That money goes towards things like neighborhood parties and landscaping. The HOA will meet a few times during the year and discuss any issues.

“The HOA has decided to put a new pool in.”

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Townhouse
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A townhouse is also known as a row house. It generally refers to a type of dwelling having two floors, with the living area and kitchen on the first floor, and the bedrooms on the second. Townhouses share a common wall between units.

“Near the downtown area you will find a lot of townhouses.

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No Money Down
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If you buy a house usually you need to make a down payment. If the seller advertises “no money down” than it is not required to make the down payment.

“Now is a great time to buy a house. You can get a new home with no money down.”

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4BD/2BA
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You may see this type of expression in a newspaper that advertises real estate. BD stands for bedroom and BA is for bathroom. So in this example the house or apartment has four bedrooms and two bathrooms.

“We have three kids so we want four bedrooms and two bathrooms. We are only looking at the adds that say, _4BD 2BA_”

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Breach of Contract
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This means a failure to perform promises that are made in the contract. If I sign a contract that says I will not have a pet in my apartment and I have one anyway that that is a breach of contract.

“My land lord is suing me for a breach of contract because I have too many people living with me.

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Furnished Apartment
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A furnished apartment is one that already has furniture in it. These kinds of apartments are usually for a person who is working in town for a long period of time.

“I am only going to be in Seattle for six months. I will need to rent a furnished apartment.

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To Put Down Money
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If it is required that you make an initial payment on the home you want to buy than you have to “put down” a sum of money. You could say, “I put down $10,000 on my new house in Atlanta.”

“If you don’t want another buyer to buy that house you’ll have to put money down on it.

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All Bills Paid
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If you rent a house or an apartment and the monthly price you pay includes utilities (electric, gas, phone…) than it is “all bills paid”. The tenant doesn’t have to worry about paying individual utility bills. The landlord has already charged the tenant in their monthly rent for those services.

“The rent for this house is $1000 a month. This price is all bills paid.”

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Floor Plan
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A floor plan is how the inside of the house is set up. It refers to the positioning and location of the different rooms in the house. An older person who has trouble walking may prefer a floor plan that has all the rooms close to each other so he won’t have to walk a lot.

“I like this floor plan. Having the kitchen next to the den is great.”

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One-Story or Two-Story
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A floor or level of a house is called a “story”. A house with only one level is a one-story house. Most homes for sale are either one or two stories. Three story houses are usually very large homes that cost a lot of money.

“My grandmother needs a one – story house since she can’t walk up the stairs.

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Ghetto/Slum
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If someone describes a place as a “ghetto” or a “slum” it is slang for low income housing with a high crime rate.

“There is a lot of crime in the ghetto.”

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Ritzy Area
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If a neighborhood is considered “ritzy” than the homes are expensive and fancy.

“Our friends make a lot of money. They live in a nice big house in the ritzy area of town.

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Starter Home
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A home that is relatively small that a young couple would buy for their first house. The idea is that when the couple makes more money they would move to a bigger nicer house.

“My son and his wife just got married. They just bought a small house near their work. It is cute, but it is just a starter home. In a few years, when they have more money saved, they’ll move to a bigger house.”

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Curb Appeal
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This describes a home that has an attractive front yard and front porch area. The landscaping is nice and inviting.

“If you want to sell your house you need some curb appeal.”

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Run Down
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A home that is old and is falling apart.

“My home is old and run down. I need to make some repairs and paint the exterior.”

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Fixer Upper
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A house that is old and run down, but with some repairs and updating, has the potential to be a nice home again. These homes are many times found close to the downtown area of a particular town or city. This is where the first homes were built years ago when the town first got started. In the US there is a trend of people moving back into the downtown areas that were abandoned. Old houses are renovated and, due to their desirable location, they can be worth a lot of money.

“If you are going to buy fixer upper you better have some money for repairs”



More Exercises

  • Conversation Activity for Buying a Home
  • Script for the Conversation Activity on Buying a Home
  • Script for Buying a Home Listening Activity
  • Buying a Home Vocabulary Listening Activity
  • Buying a Home Vocabulary Fill In the Blanks
  • Word Order Exercise
  • Home and Mortgage Matching
  • Fill in the Blanks