The highs and lows of parenting and real estate.

Writing Listing Descriptions: Why I'm Bald On One Side of My Head

One of my many jobs as a real estate agent is writing those little 800 or less character blurbs about my listings that go into the Multiple Listing Service. I’ve written before about my theory that a description with a touch of flair will get more notice than the same claims of architectural perfection every other listing agent is making. I like to call this the Red Uniform Shirt Principle:

It’s fairly universally agreed upon that the color red is a standout and a power color. In a normal situation, your eye is automatically drawn to the person wearing red in any room. However, my oldest son’s school has a dress code of red polo shirts. At any given time most of the children in the room are wearing the same shade of candy apple red polo. So instead, red becomes neutral. It’s invisible and the norm of the situation. The standouts are any other color besides red.

I wrote a description of my new Tatum Highlands listing for the MLS last week that included a list of Pros and a list of Cons about the house (which I would completely print here if I hadn’t already rewritten it and now it’s gone from the planet and I can’t find it anywhere. *DER*). I felt comfortable doing this because it’s honestly a house without a lot of faults. My theory was that pointing out the fairly minor issues about the house would create a sort of goodwill with the reader (potential buyer) that would allow him to give more credence to my positive claims about the house (Well she admitted the house has carpet in the master bath, so she’s probably telling the truth that it’s otherwise updated and move-in ready, right?).

Not everyone is in agreement with me that different is better. My client, the seller, was not totally convinced this was the way to go. He wondered: Do we really want to point out faults a buyer might not see as faults until they read it and risk them not wanting to view the house at all? I talked to another agent I know and trust and she was on the same page with him. Creative and clever – YES. Pointing out what’s wrong with the house to the public – NO.

I’m still not on board with the idea the original was a detriment to the listing. I think the general public is intelligent and they will respond positively if you treat them as such. Pointing out things they would have seen within 30 seconds of entering the house anyway, is an honesty that could potentially save everyone a lot of time and get buyers in the door of my listings who are more likely to write an offer because the house has what they want. It’s all about quality, not quantity, right?

However, I am an advocate of changing things up on my listings to see what works (and I’m also an advocate of keeping my clients happy), so I rewrote the description last night. I think I actually like it better now. I was inspired by a girlfriend on Facebook yesterday who was discussing her online dating life and the do’s and don’ts of writing an online ‘Looking For Love’ profile. I don’t think I sacrificed the stand-out factor when I compromised by pulling out the ‘Cons’, in fact, I might start doing all of my listing descriptions like this:

Sweet Tatum Highlands single (family home) looking for love. She’s a youngish (12 YEARS OLD) brunette (NEUTRAL PAINT THRU-OUT) and likes to keep in good-shape (MOVE-IN READY). She has a desirable figure (LAYOUT WITH LOFT) with fabulous assets (WALK-IN CLOSETS IN MOST ROOMS AND LOFT). Her hobbies include having swimmers in her lovely GATED PEBBLE-TECH POOL and hosting cooks in her REMODELED KITCHEN. She also enjoys a thorough rubdown of her GRANITE COUNTERS with a nice natural stone cleanser. This cutie has a lot to offer a good partner (buyer). Come out and get to know her a little better. You may just find she’s that special someone you’ve been looking for.

I would love some feedback on this one, though. What do you think?

If you’re another agent, do you think it’s bad form to point out the flaws in your listing? What do you do to make your listings jump out at the buyer?

If you’re a potential buyer (or have ever been one), do you even read the descriptions, or do you block them out like we do because they’re BS (baloney spit. This is a family-friendly website)? If you read that a house is more realistic than THE BEST HOUSE EVER ON THE PLANET EARTH, COVERED WITH GLITTER SHAVINGS FROM THE HORN OF A UNICORN AND CONSTANTLY FRAMED BY A DOUBLE RAINBOW, does it make you cross it off the list? Is there anything you’d like to see done with the descriptions as a consumer?

14 Responses to Writing Listing Descriptions: Why I'm Bald On One Side of My Head

  1. I would totally go see a house is the agent actually said in the MLS “glitter shavings from the horn of a unicorn and constantly framed by a double rainbow” because that would mean to me that the agent listing the house has a sense of humor and will be easier to work with.

    I don’t think I remember reading ANY of the MLS listings. I just looked at the pictures. So, creative writing is fun, but the pictures are what always sold me one way or the other.

  2. Very clever.

    But the primary thing I saw was “12 year old with desirable figured looking for love and a rubdown”

  3. I like your idea of telling them about the negatives.
    1. It may act as a filter. If they aren’t going to buy the house because of the carpet then save the effort of showing it to them.

    2. I am a proponent of the ‘Give them something negative to find’ theory. When they walk into the house and see the carpet in the master bath they will have already mentally dealt with it. When they see the negatives they are not so likely to go looking for more.

    That’s my theory anyway.

  4. I, on the other hand, would totally NOT go look at the house covered with glitter shavings from the horn of a unicorn, because where there are glitter shavings from the horn, there is probably unicorn poop in the back yard and not even unicorn poop smells like roses.

  5. Huh, Wendy, that’s actually an angle I hadn’t even considered. So you’re saying I should make my listings more like:

    This house has diamond encrusted door stops and toilets that flow with Evian. Wild hummingbirds gather at the master bedroom window at sunrise every day to greet the owner hello. No one who ever enters this house will ever have cancer or embarrassing gas ever again.

    I might have to try that next time…

  6. Jill – EW! ok, now I’m disturbed. I admit it would have been better for the joke if the house was built in 1988 instead.

    Dave – thanks for the feedback! I think that’s a good point about finding flaws.

    Dad (JT) – Good point. I make my unicorn go in the litter box.

  7. Jill,
    I’m with you, those were the standout features for me too. Maybe that says something….

  8. I think Dave’s totally right. I’ve played that same game here at work with people who I KNOW are super picky. I create a few errors on purpose for them to find, then they feel like they’ve accomplished something and they live the rest of it alone.

  9. I wrote a listing once that was from the house. It talked about the lonely front porch waiting for someone to use the rocking chairs, the family room where their former family had watched movies by the FP…etc. The owners liked it and other agents called it clever. The house sold but I think it was the price not the description 🙂

  10. As an agent, I hate the description! I actually wonder if anyone reads it! I don’t read them, I look at the photos and decide if the home fits my clients criteria.

    Let’s say I was looking for my own home and the kitchen had to have white cabinets (ps I like white kitchens- they look clean), I would check out the photos, I generally think the description is complete FLUFF!

  11. Have you seen the agent who names her houses and say they are looking for their forever family? She at one point had Hank, his cousin Harriet, and other family members in Coolidge. They were all bank owned. She’s a riot and would totally point out their flaws. She would say something like, “Hi, I’m Hank! My cousin Harriet around the corner is MLS# 1234567. I have been a bit neglected, but Fannie Mae promises to give me a good cleaning. Someone took all my appliances, but the bank says they will get me some brand new ones.”

  12. Elizabeth this is genius. Not in the watered-down meaning of the word either.

  13. I like your blog, very cute. I have been an agent for 22 years and only a parent for 5. I appreciate your honesty about running both simultaneous. I also say I am a full time agent and a full time MOm. My time is full.

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