Home Listing Words That Sell (and those that DON'T)
Some real estate listing terms have been in use for so long they’re practically clichés: “Must-see!” “Handyman’s special!” “Motivated seller!” But recent research has found that many of these familiar phrases aren’t as effective in selling your home as you might expect. Some can even negatively impact your final sale price and cause your home to linger on the market. Before you list your home, find out which words work and which ones hurt.
Motivation = Desperation
Logically, you’d expect terms like “motivated seller” and “must sell” -- phrases that imply a willingness to negotiate on price -- would help move a home faster. But according to a recent study by Paul Anglin, a real estate economist at the University of Guelph in Ontario, Canada, these words have the opposite effect.
Anglin’s research found that “must sell” homes sold 30 percent slower than others, and terms such as “good value” typically resulted in sales five percent lower than average. Emphasizing the price point or the seller’s willingness to unload the home implies that the seller initially overvalued it or that there’s something wrong with the house. Palpable desperation in a listing is also a definite turn-off, so keep the exclamation points to a minimum.
“New” and “Clean” Aren't Enough
Other words that can have a negative influence on a listing’s effectiveness are terms that mention the cleanliness of the house or basic improvements such as “new paint” or “new carpet” as primary selling points. These simple statements convey a sense that the home is unremarkable. If a new paint job is the most exciting aspect of your home, don’t expect buyers to be lining up around the block to see it.
Stress Distinguishing Features
Terms that catch the eye and distinguish your home from a crowded marketplace are the best ones to lure in buyers. Anglin’s study found that homes described as “beautiful” tended to move 15 percent faster and sell at five percent more than usual.
Words that convey curb appeal and a sense of value beyond sale price are also excellent motivators. Listings including the word “landscaping” tended to sell up to 20 percent faster, with “granite” and “maple” also scoring big with buyers. Keywords that play up a property’s nearby features, like “golf course” or “lake,” also work well because they situate the home in its real-world environment, as opposed to just some house on an anonymous street.
Think like a Buyer
When writing your listing, keep in mind that you’re not selling a house, you’re selling a home. Most buyers are looking for a home that feels special, attractive and immediately livable. Phrases like “move-in condition” and “turnkey” communicate that your house can be moved into with minimal fuss and can speed up sales time by 12 percent.
With a little creativity, you can make just about any home sound special. Don’t just say your home is a “must see,” prove it. What’s more evocative: A “quiet backyard” or a “garden sanctuary?” A “basement rec room” or a “lower-level entertainment room?” Creative language both describes your home’s best features and gives potential buyers room to dream.
Know Your Market
If your home has some significant drawbacks, it’s best to come clean with them up front. That way you can tailor your listing to attract the specific type of buyer who is likely to be looking for your kind of property. Being honest about the fact that your home has a few flaws may appeal to someone who is willing to put some work into a place and is looking for a bargain. Anglin found the phrase “handyman’s special” cut selling time by 50 percent. However, you wouldn’t want to use it unless your home really was one. It also reduced the selling price by 30 percent.
In all cases, it’s important to note that Anglin’s percentages were just averages and there were wide variations within categories. When selling your home, honesty is always the best policy. Never use deceptive wording in your listing -- as soon as potential buyers drop by and see your home for what it really is, they’ll suspect a scam. And while proper word choice and creative language are a definite plus, remember that the ultimate determining factor in almost all home sales is the asking price. Not even a listing worthy of Mark Twain is likely to sell an overpriced home.
Photo: This billboard was put up in 2008 by homeowners in Chicago desperately trying to sell their home. Read the full story here. Photo courtesy of the Chicago Daily Herald.