If Orange County newcomers are stunned by home prices and what's available, imagine how the language of real estate agents hits them.
Tract houses are often referred to by their floor-plan designation. One is likely to hear such things as, "Isn't this a lovely 420?" or "How about that beautifully landscaped Plan 3?"
And if you come from outside California, all this business about "patio homes" and "zero-lot lines" can leave you somewhat bewildered.
There are some phrases and slogans, of course, that transcend regional boundaries and are as common in Fort Lauderdale as they are in Fullerton. But for those who may not know the difference between an attached home and a duplex, here is a glossary of some of the more commonly used expressions and what they really mean:
DETACHED HOUSE: This means the structure of the house is not attached to the house next door, although it may be awfully close. In some areas of the country, where land is not at such a premium, everything is detached unless designated otherwise. In Orange County, one is advised to ask.
ATTACHED HOUSE: Conversely, this means the house is attached to the structure next door. This is called a duplex, triplex or fourplex elsewhere, but here it's given the more glamorous description of "attached housing." In either case, neighbors share common walls.
CUSTOM HOMES: In the era of tract housing, custom means the house was built by one particular builder and may not look like anything else on the block. But then it may. Some custom homes simply feature amenities--hardwood floors, special built-in cupboards, expanded kitchens, etc.--that the house down the street with the same floor plan lacks. Because of this, custom homes usually cost more.
PATIO HOME: This means you don't have much property, or what they call a "zero lot line." If you own a patio home, your patio is about the only outside space you have.
CURB APPEAL: Houses that have good curb appeal look good from the street. Garages that front the street make for bad curb appeal; nicely landscaped lawns make for good curb appeal.
LOW-MAINTENANCE LOTS: If you're looking for a lot of yard space, beware of homes advertised as having low-maintenance lots. In many cases, this can mean the house either has a very tiny yard or what yard space it does have has been converted into a concrete patio. When you don't have much of a yard, there isn't much to maintain.