The Right Words for Real Estate

The right ones used discreetly could help you sell your house for more money

This is the prime season for selling real estate. Is your house on the market?

Like every other seller, you’d like a quick sale at or above your asking price. Success depends on many factors, but one doesn’t get the attention it deserves.

It’s the quality and number of the words your agent uses to describe your property.

Listings that cite key characteristics — such as granite countertops and wood-burning fireplaces — tend to sell for a premium, according to a study by Longwood University.

Each verifiable characteristic increases the sale price by just under 1% on average and the probability of selling by an average of 9.2%, the study found. Thus, a listing with 15 key points might sell at a premium of up to 13.5%.

Note, however, that promotion of standard features such as bedrooms and baths doesn’t help.

The study also found that every additional positive opinion word — such as “beautiful,” “stunning,” “inviting” or “spacious” — boosted the sale as well. Ten positive words translated to an average 9% bump in the sale price, according to the study.

Here are a couple of actual sales listings in New York that meet the study’s ideal criteria:

“Architectural details include crown moldings, wainscoting, built-in cabinetry and an inviting archway separating the dining room from the spacious living room.”

If the study is correct, the two positive words and four property characteristics could lead to a 5.4% increase in the sales price.

“The open living/dining room has stunning east light and is perfect for relaxing or entertaining. A gallery hallway leads to two spacious bedrooms both with built-in closet cabinetry and custom doors.”

Here, three positive opinion words and two characteristics could mean a 4.5% sales price increase.

But don’t overdo it, the study’s author cautions. “You have one or two seconds to capture the buyer’s or agent’s attention, so you must carefully choose your vernacular and not become verbose."

"There can be some puffing, but too much of it will encourage the buyer to look elsewhere.”

Also, don’t give your agent a lot of private warnings to share with other agents — such as “no negotiations accepted” or “limited showing time frame.” Those could cause some agents and their clients to move on. Better to leave them with less information on such points — so they have something to call about.

Originally published in Inside Personal Finance March 2015

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