Wanna hear a secret? Few potential home buyers actually read agent descriptions when viewing a listing online – at least according to a university study that tracked their eye movements.
Home buyers take in the photo first and then they view the property’s statistics. This leaves the listing description for last, according to a study by researchers at Old Dominion University.
In fact, more than 40 percent of study participants didn’t even get past the photo to look at the agent remarks. This lead the authors to question “In an actual setting, we wonder if the agent remarks ever get read if the home searcher doesn’t like the initial home photos.”
Key takeaway? Ensure your photos are impeccable.
Once that’s done, it’s time to write a brilliant description for that listing. Start here.
Who is the likely buyer?
When you understand which pool the likely buyer will come from, you can write a more focused description.
For instance, if the home is larger-than-entry-level (a move-up home), your most likely buyer in 2018 will come from Generation X.
Do some research and you’ll learn that these buyers crave a home close to good schools and within a reasonable commute time to work.
They need extra square footage for the kids and a bit of privacy for Mom and Dad. In addition, their lifestyle includes keeping fit (parks and trails are worth a mention) and time spent with friends and family (that outdoor deck is great for entertaining).
Remember the law
Later, I’ll show you an example of a common problem I see in listing descriptions. If the mention of the “family neighborhood” doesn’t set off your Equal Housing alarm, perhaps you should brush up on the laws before diving into an explanation of your listing.
While proofing your listing description, ensure that nothing you say can be construed as steering (describe the property, not the neighborhood). Although you should know who the buyer may be for the home, resist describing the ideal candidate (family, young couples, etc.).
And, although the rules about “forbidden” words are common-sense, refresh your memory with a quick glance over a list. The State of Massachusetts Department of Consumer and Business Affairs offers a list on its website.
Don’t waste valuable space
A whole section of the typical MLS listing is devoted to a home’s basic features, such as the number of bedrooms and bathrooms, square footage, lot size, the number of fireplaces and more.
Remember, by the time the viewer gets to your carefully-written description, he or she already knows the basics of the home.
Don’t waste valuable description space by repeating what the buyer can find elsewhere on the page. For instance, here’s an actual description I found today:
“Remodeled 4 bedroom house with 2 Full Bathrooms, Approximately 1,739 square feet of living space, with Separate Family Room, Formal Dining Room, and Formal Living Room in an excellent family neighborhood.”
Thirty of the thirty-one words in that sentence are wasted. The fact that the home has been remodeled is a huge selling point. The agent could have done better by replacing that redundant information by describing the upgrades.
Speaking of descriptions
While I haven’t space here to teach you how to channel Hemmingway, I can offer some bits of advice on how to craft the one piece of prose that confounds most listing agents.
Take a look at the listing description I mentioned earlier as an example.
By ridding it of the redundancies, there’s room to describe the home’s fresh landscaping in both the front and backyards. Plus, the laminate and tile flooring that blends seamlessly with the existing hardwood and the new granite counter-tops and stove in the open-concept kitchen.
Plus, there would be room left over to let potential buyers know that shopping and schools are within walking distance to the home. And, in addition, that the park and golf course is a less-than 5-minute drive.
Think back to when you took the listing – do you recall any positive words or concepts that popped into your mind? Chances are good that buyers will feel the same way, so use these in your description.
Then, let your reader see what you’re describing by using rich, descriptive imagery. But, don’t go overboard.
Proof and then proof again
Gone are the days when the only people to ever see your listing descriptions are other agents and appraisers. Today, they are available to the entire world, so spelling and grammar are important.
And, no, that’s not just the writer in me waving her red pen. A Redfin/Grammarly study finds that 45 percent of home buyers would think twice about touring a home if its description contained spelling and grammar errors.
Yes, they will notice that you think the home has a thankless water heater, a walking closet or a remolded bathroom.
If you’re selling a $1 million or higher home, be extra careful with the listing description. A similar study from a few years ago found that high-end home buyers and sellers don’t trust descriptions with spelling and grammar errors.
In fact, this group of listings takes longer to sell and “have the lowest percentage of homes that sell over list price,” according to the Wall Street Journal’s Sanette Tanaka.
There may be several reasons behind this statistic. The chief among them is that many of us believe that taking the time to check spelling, punctuation, and grammar shows an ability to attend to small details.
When proofreading your descriptions, fix the following:
- Spelling errors
- Grammar errors
- Punctuation – watch your commas. “Let’s eat, Gramma” becomes sinister without the comma – “Let’s eat Gramma.” Avoid the use of exclamation points.
- Never use all caps to describe a home.
- Don’t be boring.
Send at least 100 St Patrick’s Day postcards from the Holiday Series to your Sphere, Farm and anyone else you want to make sure knows you’re there for them.
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