Column: An apprisal of appraisals: Why am I not apprized?

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Commentary by Curtis Honeycutt

The real estate market is white-hot right now. As soon as a property hits Zillow, the listing agent enjoys a bidding war above the asking price. In fact, someone stopped by to inquire about the Little Tikes house in our backyard. I had to break the news to the curious couple that our plastic, 20-square-foot tiny house property is already under contract and pending inspection. After all, the house’s plastic countertops are so easy to clean.

Is it buy low and sell high, or vice versa? All I know is that it’s not a good idea to buy while high. Either way, all this house market hullabaloo got me to thinking: What’s the difference between the words “appraise” and “apprise?” I have a feeling it’s time for a refresher.

These two words share so much in common. Both words are verbs. They have incredibly similar spellings. Not only that, but both have their roots in French. “Appraise” comes from the Old French word “appriser,” which means “to set a value on.” We get “apprise” from the French word “appris,” which means “to inform, give notice or advise.” Appraise, appriser. Apprise, appris. Are you surprised we confuse these words?

I’ll cut to the chase: “Appraise” and “apprise” do have distinctly different meanings. “Appraise” means “to estimate or assign value” while “apprise” means “to tell or inform.” A Realtor can apprise her clients of the home’s appraisal. In this hot market, appraisals are coming in unusually high. Our Realtor apprised us of the fact that we were outbid on the modern bungalow.

Case closed? Not so fast, house hunters! Another word has crept into existence: “apprize.” Although it’s an uncommon word that appears in English in the 14th century, its definitions include both “to inform” and “to increase in value.” Go home, English; you’re drunk. In theory, your Realtor could apprize that the home you want to buy has granite countertops. As a result, this apprizes the home in your eyes. People love a good granite countertop.

First, I’d advise you to forget you ever learned the word “apprize.” It only confuses things. When you hear “appraise,” think of “raise,” as in value. When you hear “apprise,” think “advise.” I don’t know much about real estate, but I do know about words. And you can’t put a value on using the right word at the right time.


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