Brits in the Bay

Learn the Lingo: Accommodation Edition

LiveAlexis MonoogianComment

House hunting in the Bay can be a daunting experience, firstly it takes a while to get used to the numbers involved and then there’s the realisation that the houses in the sitcoms with the white picket fences and an acre of lush green grass are not here, or at least not in your budget! So, I’ve done what I can to help with a handy vocab list so at least you can get the lingo down. It’s alphabetised, just like my CDs and DVDs , or at least just like how they’re meant to be.

  • 2.5 baths – 2 full bathrooms (either with bath, shower or both) and 1 guest loo.
  • Addition - An extension
  • Apartment – Pretty obvious here, it’s a flat! Difference to note is that here in the Bay, they tend to come in complexes and have varying levels of amenities. It’s quite common to have pools, gyms, community areas and the like especially in the newer ones. They also do short term all-inclusive leases (furnished, bills etc), but be warned for anything under a year these can be up to double the advertised price. They are generally rather nice though and offer a good community with yoga classes, work and hangout spaces, free coffee… If this is your vibe, check out Prometheus, they have complexes throughout Silicon Valley, we’ve checked out a few of them, and they get a big thumbs up from us, bonus points for being doggy friendly too!
Prometheus Shadowbrook Apartments Sunnyvale.jpg
  • Breakfast Nook – A really cute and cosy way of describing the space for a kitchen table.
  • Crown Molding - Coving
  • Family Room – In the more traditional houses that have not gone full ‘open concept’ you will find a formal living room, formal dining room and family room setup. The family room is where you stick the telly! It is generally attached to the kitchen, so you can watch Netflix while looking at the dishes you haven’t done.
  • First Floor/Main Floor – The ground floor.
  • Formal Dining Room – It’s just a dining room, use it every day, use it for Christmas, it’s up to you!
  • Formal Living Room – A reception room usually at the front of the house and what we would probably consider to be the living room. However, they often don’t have tv points which can complicate matters a little.
  • Garden – Vegetable patch
  • HOA – Home Owners Association. This is mostly an issue if you’re buying, but if you’re in any form of community living situation there will be a home owners association, they will demand money from you and they will force you to keep your property in a certain way. They use the fees to maintain the common areas, including roads, pools, gardens and some also maintain security systems etc. You also contact them when you wish to book one of the community rooms or need to complain about a neighbour. Some will have a list of paint colours you can choose from when painting your house, some will have strict rules about mowing your lawn and keeping your garden pretty. They can impose fines if you don’t stick to the rules. If you’re renting, the owner should be paying these fees, and they should also be sticking to the appearance rules too.
  • Open Concept – Basically open plan on crack! A very popular trend in the houses here is to have just one big giant living/dining/kitchen area with no walls. Separation is provided by use of furniture and the staging people helpfully show you how to do this so you know what area is supposed to be what.
Open Concept Living.jpg
  • Open House – A really good opportunity for a nosey!! When a property goes up for sale (and sometimes rental) they hold an open house, usually on the weekend in the afternoons, when anyone can have a look round. The idea is that they get a whole bunch of people in at the same time so don’t have to bother with making appointments for tours whilst also driving up the price by making the house look extremely popular. The houses are usually staged for these open houses by professional companies and have an abundance of cushions in accent colours and a distinct lack of TVs and quite often there’s snacks. I’ve even heard of there being wine, but I’m yet to witness it for myself, the mission continues. These are shoes off affairs, so clean socks and/or pedis please!
  • Second Floor – Upstairs or the first floor.
  • Single Family Homes – Basically a house! These are what we Brits would just describe as a house, it’s a house on a street, road, drive, avenue or other public road with some form of front and back garden and the facilities it comes with. No communal gardens or pools here, but also no need to speak to anyone unless you want to! Kids generally do not play in the street, but this does sometimes happen in the smaller cul-de-sac type streets I’m assured.
  • Single Story Home – Nope, not spelt it wrong, it’s called a story here not a storey! But yes a bungalow, not an old people bungalow though. A lot of the houses in the Bay Area are bungalows, we viewed about 8 houses on our house tour before selecting this one and only 2 we saw had 2 floors, and neither of those were proper 2 floor houses. One was on a hill so had a couple of guest bedrooms downstairs and everything else was up on the main floor and the other had quite a tight upstairs which was more like a loft conversion that a deliberate upstairs.
  • Sod - turf
  • Spa – Jacuzzi bath
  • Townhouses – Nope, they’re not in a town! They’re most similar to a terraced house (but think modern development not Victorian brick terraces) and are in communities with amenities such as pools, gardens and community rooms, similar to apartment complexes. They tend to have a good family atmosphere and kids can and do run about in the streets. Parking can be limited though depending on the development and it can also be hard to avoid your neighbours.
Pulte Homes Radius Mountain View.jpg
  • Wainscoting – The cute wood panelling on the bottom part of interior walls.
  • Yard – Garden

Happy hunting and let me know if you come across any terms that you need explaining or you just found plain amusing. I was shocked at the number of dinning rooms I saw in my search, I still don’t know if that’s just a different spelling on an error…