As a writer, I’m impressed by well-written Listing Descriptions in the MLS.
OK, so I’m easily amused. But there’s something inherently sexy in an agent’s employment of an interesting turn of phrase and the avoidance of empty adjectives.
An agent who uses the few characters allowed by the MLS to highlight features and amenities that a photo can’t show, instead of repeating what’s already listed in the property Description, deserves major kudos.
Despite what many agents and certain agenda-driven researchers seem to think, an agent’s description of his or her Listing is important to homebuyers who seek them out.
Does anybody really read them?
Not if they suck. And, not if they don’t include photos.
It’s common knowledge by now that Internet house hunters pass right by listings that lack photos. Some of that knowledge was imparted by a 2011 study published in the Journal of Real Estate Research.
Researchers tracked eye movements of homebuyers who were using the internet to look for homes.
They found that the subjects looked at the photos first—and for the longest period of time—before moving on to the property description and, finally, the agent remarks.
Oddly, the researchers feel that since 20 percent of these homebuyers didn’t look at the agent remarks, this section of the listing has no value.
They, in fact, went on to say that this statistic reveals the unimportance of “agent remarks to home searchers.”
The fact that a whopping 80 percent of homebuyers do read the remarks seems to have flown right by the study’s obviously glass-is-half-empty authors.
Since your glass is half-full, however and you understand that 80 percent of homebuyers is a great-big plus, you’ll need to stop wasting that space and start using it to power-market your listings.
Highlight in-demand features
Remember the ocular tracking studies we mentioned earlier?
Potential homebuyers looking at your listing online will read your remarks last.
This means they’ve already seen the photos and read the description of the home before they get to the agent remarks.
Not only that, they most likely narrowed their search according to their criteria, such as number of bedrooms and bathrooms.
To repeat that information—and the information in the property description—is a waste of precious marketing copy.
If you know buyers’ hot buttons for homes in your listing’s price range, use the remarks section to trumpet them. If you don’t know what these buyers want, do some research.
Kiplinger, for instance, with help from Trulia, says that 93 percent of homebuyers want a separate laundry room. In fact, 57 percent say they wouldn’t buy a home without one.
If your listing happens to have this feature, let the folks know in the remarks section.
In fact, put it up front and hit it heavy.
Other features to consider advertising in the remarks section include outdoor lighting, energy efficient windows and storage space.
Whatever you do, don’t mention the number of bedrooms and bathrooms, the square footage or anything else that is listed in the property description.
Words will never harm me
“The difference between the almost right word and the right word is really a large matter. It’s the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning,” according to Mark Twain.
Words have power and, although sticks and stones may break your bones, words can sell a home
At least according to Paul Anglin, with the University of Guelph in Canada.
Anglin and some associates conducted a three-year study of real estate listing descriptions and how the agent’s choice of words affected the home’s sale price and the days it spent on the market.
The researchers then compiled a list of words that sell and words that don’t.
Although the study was conducted over a decade ago, it speaks to the importance of taking your time when writing a property description, understanding what buyers want and paying attention to the words you use.
Words that sell in listing descriptions, at least according to this somewhat dated list, include:
- Curb Appeal
- Fixer Upper
- Handyman Special
Our friends at Zillow.com performed a more recent study and suggested the following (yeah, that first one is a head-scratcher):
Words to avoid, according to the Guelph University study, include any that may be perceived as seller desperation, such as “motivated” and “must sell.”
Believe it or not, the word “value” was associated with homes that sell for five percent less than other homes, and the authors claim that you should avoid describing your listing as “clean,” or that it has “new paint” or “new carpet.” Who knew, right?
Zillow.com suggests avoiding these words in your listing descriptions:
Sell the sizzle with listing descriptions
Once called the “Greatest Salesperson in the World,” it was Elmer Wheeler who admonished salespeople to sell the sizzle, not the steak. “The sizzle has sold more steaks than the cow ever did,” he explained.
Wheeler was talking about using words that appeal to the senses to get the sale.
In other words, hardwood floors become “gleaming wide-plank bamboo underfoot.” Views are “Unexpected far-reaching views”
While it may seem a bit of a lofty goal for a mere property description, if you follow the advice of the late, great Joseph Conrad, you can’t go wrong: “My task . . . is, by the power of the written word, to make you hear, to make you feel — it is, before all, to make you see.”
Buyers as editors
Luxury agents need to be extra careful when writing their listing descriptions.
According to a recent study by Redfin and Grammarly, the online grammar checker, luxury buyers are keenly aware of technical errors, such as incomplete sentences and misspellings and they tend to shy away from these listings.
In fact, homes listed at more than $1 million dollars remain on the market longer and sell for less when their descriptions contain technical errors.
Real estate agents typically come to the industry as a second or even third career. Some have college in their backgrounds, while many don’t.
We all know that a formal education isn’t required to be a successful agent, but if you lack basic spelling and grammar skills, especially when attempting to sell high-end property, you may want to hire a ghostwriter to help out with your writing chores.
Otherwise, just a few extra minutes spent in careful consideration of which words and phrases to use will turn your listing descriptions from sludge to smooth and compelling works of art.
It’s time to dominate the competition. Need new marketing ideas?
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