Be Careful With Creative Listing Descriptions

Real Estate Agent with Keller Williams Real Estate RS301772

Yesterday at the office with my client, we noticed an ad for lakefront property in one of the real estate magazines.  I can not remember the exact words, but it was something like this:

"Beautiful home situated on a natural, eutrophic, glacial mountain lake..."

My client said "I'm not sure but I think eutrophic means marshy, doesn't it?"

While I do consider my vocabulary to be pretty extensive, I did not really know what eutrophic meant.  While I made a phone call to schedule an appointment for another property, our office administrator looked up the word to satisfy our curiosity:

Having waters rich in mineral and organic nutrients that promote a proliferation of plant life, especially algae, which reduces the dissolved oxygen content and often causes the extinction of other organisms. Used of a lake or pond.

My client said "Well, that doesn't really sound like a selling feature, does it?"

Uh, no.  Here is a picture of a eutrophic pond:

Eutrophic Pond

Wanna jump in for a swim?  Don't expect to catch any fish, cause they're dying off....

I really doubt that the listing agent meant to list eutrophic as a selling feature along with the words "beautiful" and "glacial mountain lake."

We wondered if it was an attempt at "truth in advertising" but I really doubt it...I don't think the lake is eutrophic at all....I suspect someone saw that word in a description of a lake and thought "Wow, I'll use that! What a great word! And I'll throw in glacial, and mountain, and the buyers won't be able to resist!" 

Conversly, if the lake truly IS eutrophic, the ad writer may have seen it on a report about the lake...I still suspect he/she didn't understand what was being written.

Tip: Keep descriptions simple, and stick to words you actually understand.


Photo Credit: Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Fred Hsu.


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Homes For Sale & Local Info for Pike County, Wayne County, & Lake Wallenpaupack in Northeast PA.


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Karen Rice (that's me!) lists & sells in Tanglwood, Wallenpaupack Lake Estates, Hideout, Indian Rocks, Masthope, Fawn Lake, Tink Wig, Woodland Hills, Walker Lake, Hemlock Farms, & more in Pike & Wayne County.

Comments (17)

Walter Grewe III
Long and Foster Realtors - Roanoke, VA
Realtor, SFR, A-REO, Roanoke Homes and Real Estate

Sounds like someone decided to get smart all of a sudden and use some big words they didn't understand.

Jan 17, 2010 03:13 AM
Debe Maxwell, CRS | The Maxwell House Group | RE/MAX Executive | (704) 491-3310 - Charlotte, NC
The right Charlotte REALTOR!

Hi Karen!  This is wonderful advice!  Some agents also attempt at descriptive terms and misspell them, looking even more ridiculous--the sad thing is that their sellers never catch that and it can be on the market for months looking foolish!

Have a great Sunday...

Jan 17, 2010 03:14 AM
Kevin J. May
Florida Supreme Realty - Hobe Sound, FL
Serving the Treasure & Paradise Coasts of Florida

Karen, I don't come across those too often but that was a good one.  I learned something too.  Thanks!

Jan 17, 2010 03:14 AM
Malcolm Johnston
Century 21 Lanthorn Real Estate LTD., Trenton, Ontario - Trenton, ON
Trenton Real Estate

Yum Yum, that looks like quite the little lake. I guess we should stick to the KISS principle in our listing descriptions. 

Jan 17, 2010 03:15 AM
Cory Fitzsimmmons
ReThink Real Estate Group - Golden, CO
Realtor - Denver, CO ReThink real estate group

Kinda funny and sad.  Good point, thanks for the chuckle, and "No, i dont want to jump in!".

Jan 17, 2010 03:27 AM
Rob D. Shepherd
RETIRED - Florence, OR

Great post, Big words are bad, especially if they are the wrong ones.

Jan 17, 2010 03:30 AM
Karen Rice
Keller Williams Real Estate - Hawley, PA
Northeast PA & Lake Wallenpaupack Home Sales

Thanks all for the comments! :) It was funny - we did laugh quite a bit over it...but I agree that it is sad too.  I would never use a word unless I knew the definition. 

On another note: I once saw a listing that described the property as being "right across from the water damn!"  LOL.  That made me laugh and cringe at the same time.

And I think "glacial mountain lake" is used too often anyway - it's become cliche like "cozy" and "nestled" and all the other typical buzz words used in listings.

Jan 17, 2010 03:36 AM
Loreena and Michael Yeo
3:16 team REALTY ~ Locally-owned Prosper TX Real Estate Co. - Prosper, TX
Real Estate Agents

Some words are just bad descriptions. It could give the listing a bad taste. TLC, cozy, etc. Means nothing. Clean, well-maintained and immaculate are also descriptions of the beholder.

Jan 17, 2010 03:36 AM
Maureen McCabe
HER Realtors - Columbus, OH
Columbus Ohio Real Estate

We have trouble here spelling Tudor.  I've seen Tutor homes listed in our MLS.  

Jan 17, 2010 04:24 AM
Karen Rice
Keller Williams Real Estate - Hawley, PA
Northeast PA & Lake Wallenpaupack Home Sales

LOL Maureen.  My mom used to talk about an old hotel in the area. When I was a kid, I thought it was called the "Two Door Manor" (always thinking, what a weird name for a until I saw the new owners describe their building in an ad as "Historical Tudor Style Bed and Breakfast" when they opened... then the light bulb came on. She always pronounced it "Two Door."  LOL

Loreena - I agree, so much is relative...I hate trying to come up with something that sounds honest, engaging, and interesting without sounding stupid.

Jan 17, 2010 04:34 AM
Ruthmarie Hicks
Keller Williams NY Realty - 120 Bloomingdale Road #101, White Plains NY 10605 - White Plains, NY

Hi Karen,
I've got a pretty good vocabulary, but I have to say that in general its a bad idea to use a property description that requires a dictionary!  Hopefully, for the sake of the seller, the public will be no better informed than the person who wrote the copy.

Jan 17, 2010 04:52 AM
Norma Toering Broker for Palos Verdes and Beach Cities
Charlemagne International Properties - Rancho Palos Verdes, CA
Palos Verdes Luxury Homes in L.A.

After location and photos I think descriptive terms are key in generating interest in a property--it's best to know what the word means before you use it.

Jan 17, 2010 05:14 AM
Monique Ting
INET Realty Honolulu, HI - Honolulu, HI
Your agent under the sun

Karen, thank you for sharing that! It made me laugh... We do get our share of misspelled or strange descriptions here too. The latest I came accross is a property described as "walkable"!!!

Jan 17, 2010 02:16 PM
Maureen McCabe
HER Realtors - Columbus, OH
Columbus Ohio Real Estate

I doubt  "walkable" is a mistake.  Hope it's OK to add that link Karen.  

Jan 17, 2010 10:13 PM
Karen Rice
Keller Williams Real Estate - Hawley, PA
Northeast PA & Lake Wallenpaupack Home Sales

The link is OK Maureen - though I have read so many times to avoid using "walk to" or "walking distance" in descriptions due to it sounding discriminatory against handicapped people....hmmm.   Interesting!

Ruthmarie & Norma - absolutely - a buyer should not have to consult a dictionary when reading listing descriptions.

Jan 17, 2010 11:07 PM
Maureen McCabe
HER Realtors - Columbus, OH
Columbus Ohio Real Estate

I remember when they used to say that but I have been in Fair Housing classes in the past 10 years where they've said that is "PC " cr*p from the 90's.  We do a Fair Housing class every 3 years in Ohio to fulfill our Civil Rights Requirement.  I am doing mine this month?  This week?  If appropriate I will ask.

Jan 17, 2010 11:28 PM
Virginia Hepp - Mesquite NV REALTOR
Desert Gold Realty - Mesquite NV Homes For Sale - Mesquite, NV
Mesquite NV Homes and Neighborhoods - Search MLS

The KISS principle is effective in listing descriptions - hard to portray a property when the reader doesn't understand - I do find myself being redundant at times - hope all my listings do not sound like the same property.  :)

Jan 28, 2010 05:21 PM