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English Quiz: House-Hunting, Results
So, First, The Theme
The theme of this article is simple enough in basic terms: people who would otherwise be expected to purchase homes are too frightened to buy.
Having said this, the context of this spin – being “frightened” – includes two aspects which are touched upon by the article without being permitted to interfere with this theme.
First, in a falling housing market where prices were, until recently, supported (“propped up”) by temporary government measures that were part of the Obama administration’s 2009 stimulus package, but are being so supported no longer, buyers feel an incentive to hold out for a better deal by postponing purchases.
Second, buying one of the many homes that have been foreclosed upon is a process that often becomes long, and carries risk that seems to increase month by month. A nationwide moratorium on foreclosures brought on by political disgust with stories of incomplete paperwork filling the news media. As a result, every single purchase of a foreclosed home carries the risk of a legal challenge that may bring the sale to an end.
So, buying a foreclosed home at a low price is not necessarily an issue about price alone.
Idiomatic Expressions, In Brief
Best… in years; meaning, prices are much more favorable to the buyer than in the last several preceding years. (As mentioned above, factors above prices may actually be worse, but this is not part of the article’s message. – J)
Pull the trigger; make a final decision to proceed with an action. Pulling the trigger of a gun is not an action you can take back afterwards.
Perfectly natural; something that is understandable and cause for sympathy, as opposed to something that is unjustifiable and inexplicable.
In the wake of; following after. The “wake” of a ship is the line of disturbed water following a ship when it moves, largely created by its propellers.
Sitting on the sidelines; choosing not to participate in an activity. This is the opposite of “pulling the trigger.”
Too pushy; too insistent and aggressive.
The right time; the correct time to make a decision.
Backing off; retreating. To tone down/ reduce aggressive behavior.
Scores of homes; a “score” is an old English word meaning “twenty” (20). Treat as “dozens of homes” etc. etc. An indeterminate but significant number.
Starter homes; houses for first-time buyers. These are of small size and low price, but are still houses rather than apartments. The small size is a significant disadvantage and is tolerated only by people who cannot afford better.
Move-in ready; a house that can be moved into (occupied) immediately, which assumes a process of bringing in furniture, appliances, etc. A house that is not move-in ready requires prior repairs or remodeling for the house to be acceptable.
Price tag; the listed price.
Come down; to be reduced (as in, in price).
Held back; restrained (himself) in the past tense.
Paid off; paid a debt in full (past tense).
First-timers; (plural) people doing an activity for the first time. In this case, buying a house.
Sure deal; a definite deal (final verbal contract to be followed by a written, permanent contract).
Peppered… with questions; “to pepper with questions” is to ask many questions in a short period of time, probing for problems or opportunities.
We got stop signs; a “stop sign” is a road sign that warns you to stop. (Command might more accurate.) In this case, “stop signs” were strong indicators to stop rather than proceed forward.
God must have wanted/ not wanted; this is meant partly literally by people who are highly religious Christians, but it is also meant in the broader sense of, “this is something that was destined (or not destined) to work from the beginning.” This is to say, it is not something to blame human beings for; it is simply a matter of circumstance.
Hoard cash; to aggressively save cash (disposable income), either for its own sake (rare!) or for some kind of future investment, such as buying a house.
Build up; to bring something up to a particular level. In this case, to hoard cash up to the level of being able to make a down payment of 20% of the price tag (list value) of a house as a condition for purchase.
Worried over their jobs; to be concerned about the possibility of losing jobs. (Plural subjects)
Understanding; to be understanding is to be sympathetic.
Dash out; to hurry out of (and therefore leave) a specific place, such as one’s place of employment.
Make a purchase; to buy something. Since houses require written contracts, “a purchase” is considered a process rather than a simple action, so people customarily speak of “making a purchase” rather than simply “buying” as if it is like buying a can of peas at a grocery store.
The worry over job security; (collective noun + prepositional phrase) the collective concern about losing one’s employment. Because this employer was sympathetic and understanding, Tonya was less concerned about losing her job in the future (whether this is rational or not).
Angst; a mix of anger and concern. While not an idiom, this word is uncommon except when dealing with teenager anxiety and apprehension (and often, it is implied, misplaced anger at others). Angst is a Germanic word, which makes it stand out from the Latin-based words that modern English usually insists upon. The Latin-based equivalent is anguish, but English writers associate this with the pain of the loss of loved ones (family members, even pets).
Therefore, rightly or wrongly, writers will tend to use angst when referring to anxiety about things, and anguish to refer to sorrow about people. (As per above, this seems technically incorrect, but we cannot ignore what language testers would feel is “normal” usage in academic English. Most English natives know words like this only by their customary use, not by their linguistic roots!)
To Horde Cash: This was my bonus question. If you follow the link at the top of this article, you will see that CNN corrected the typo. “Horde” is pronounced like “hoard,” but is a noun that would be correctly applied to The Mongol Hordes of Genghis Khan (a.k.a. The Golden Horde). One hoards cash; one does not horde it.