Your listing details are more than a simple description of your house. They’re the key words and phrases that can help your home fly off the market in a weekend’s time—or keep it sitting there like a lonely kid waiting for a dance on prom night.
Don’t just take our word for it. CoreLogic researchers analyzed listing details of over one million sales in 2016, dissecting which words had positive and negative effects on the property’s duration on the market.
Want to make sure you’re marketing your home with all the right buzzwords to sell faster and for more money? Read on.
Little phrases with a big impact
First, let’s start with what you’re all dying to know. The listing phrases that boosted home sales the most were “fenced backyard,” “open concept,” “natural light,” and “updated kitchen”—so if your home has these features but your listing doesn’t reflect it, add them in!
On the flip side, phrases such as “gourmet kitchen,” “ceramic tile,” “golf course,” and even “custom built” led to more time on the market. This sounds counterintuitive at first, right? But researchers say these words can indicate expensive homes, which may have less demand than lower-priced, more affordable homes.
Don’t show your hand
While the CoreLogic study is the most recent of its type, it’s not the first one to study power words and phrases. Another study conducted between 1997 and 2000 on 20,000 Canadian listings found that words such as “beautiful,” “move-in condition,” and “landscaping” helped sell property. Words such as “good value,” “motivated,” and “must sell” meant more time on the market and less money. Desperation words!
“You’re sending the message [to buyers] to negotiate down,” says Harriet Reynolds, a Realtor® with Gardner Realtors in Metairie, LA. “I usually say, ‘Come and see this beauty and make an offer’ or something like that. But if we’re really in a bind, we might use them.”
“These phrases do tend to bring out the buyer that is only looking for the deal and will lowball you,” adds David Fry, Realtor and co-owner of The Fry Group in Vadnais Heights, MN. “The flip side of that argument: The idea is to get buyers into the home and fall in love with it. In a market with a strong amount of inventory, it can be a way to get attention.”
The key takeaway? Ask your Realtor if those negotiation-ready words are a good idea. If in doubt, steer clear.
Renovated? Mean it
The terms “well-maintained” and “renovated” can have a positive impact on a listing. But don’t throw them around casually.
Let’s get real: Slapping on a new granite countertop doesn’t quite qualify as a “renovated kitchen,” Reynolds says, and she advises sellers to use the term only if they’ve included new appliances and cabinets. If they’ve done just a few cosmetic updates, stick to the phrase “updated kitchen.” Likewise, use “well-maintained” instead of “renovated” if you haven’t put in some serious work.
“If I see ‘completely renovated,’ my head would tell me that the home was gutted and there was all new everything,” says Chastin Miles, a Realtor with Rogers Healy and Associates in Dallas. “But in actuality, too many agents will put that and simply mean new carpet and new paint.”
And that can be a big turnoff for potential buyers.
“If you give an inaccurate description or oversell your description of the home, you’ll lose the buyer the minute they walk in the door,” Fry says.
Don’t embellish your home’s condition
“’Excellent condition’ means it needs to have updated everything,” Reynolds says. “I went into a house labeled as ‘excellent,’ and there was rotten wood on the structure on the back porch. You’d be surprised how often that happens.”
Keep your agent in the know of any details you can’t see—like if the home might need some plumbing work or foundation work. If it does, it’s not in “pristine” or “excellent condition.”
“An agent sometimes will take a home that is decorated or staged nicely and say it’s in excellent condition,” Miles says. “Most times they don’t even know about issues because they don’t ask the right questions.”
Why does it matter? A home inspector will suss out those flaws, which will almost assuredly affect your profits from the sale, and prolong its time on the market while you and the buyer start a new round of negotiations. Don’t hide your home’s flaws—own up to them.
“If buyers are expecting imperfections, they will generally look past them if they are warned ahead of time,” Fry says.
Leave out useless words
While you can write your listing, it’s still best to let your Realtor do it—she has the know-how.
“A Realtor is familiar with the market and the lingo,” Miles explains.
Of course, it’s your house—you can influence as much of the listing as you like. But your agent should ask enough questions to get a seriously thorough picture of your home, Miles says. So give her as much information as you can, and highlight the positives.
Just make sure to leave out excessive words. Phrases such as “spacious,” “large,” and “must see” can become useless due to their ubiquity, Miles says.
“Let the description tell about any special features in the home, anything important that buyers want to know,” he says. “To me, that’s a more effective listing description than just fluff.”