Writing Effective Property Descriptions

Services for Real Estate Pros with Zillow

For the last couple of months, we at Zillow have been encouraging agents and home owners to post their listings online for free on our site.  Obliviously this is great, free marketing for your home.  But how can you make the most of this free marketing vehicle - how do you get buyers from surfing your home online to physically make the trip to your house?  Photos, Photos, Photos is one important element.  Pricing your home right is also very important.  And finally, write an effective property description.  But what does "effective" mean?  Below is a great article written by Ann Brenoff for the LA Times.  Definitely a good read before writing your next home description. 


House that is `beautiful' sounds better to buyers

By Ann Brenoff
Tribune Newspapers: Los Angeles Times
Published December 17, 2006

Words matter. Wars have started over them. Civilizations have collapsed because of them. And it would appear that the speed with which a house sells might be determined by them.

As listings grow old on the vine in this flush-with-inventory market and frustrated sellers grapple for the slightest edge, the findings of several academics might offer some guidance.

For example, a Canadian professor, as part of a broader study on real estate sales patterns, found that homes where the seller was "motivated" actually took 15 percent longer to sell, while houses listed as "handyman specials" flew off the market in half the average time.

"It surprised even me," said researcher Paul Anglin, who teaches real estate and housing trends at the University of Guelph in Ontario, Canada.

The study dissected the wording of more than 20,000 Canadian home listings from 1997 to 2000. What surprised him most was how the buying public put style over substance. Words that denoted "curb appeal" or general attractiveness helped a property sell faster than those that spoke of "value" and "price."

Homes described as "beautiful" moved 15 percent faster and for 5 percent more in price than the benchmark. "Good-value" homes sold for 5 percent less than average.

Listings where the word "landscaping" was heralded sold 20 percent faster, and homes in "move-in condition" took 12 percent less time to sell than the benchmark, although the study showed "move-in condition" had an insignificant impact on the sales price.

Listings in which the seller said he was "moving" sold for 1 percent less in price compared with 8 percent less when the seller was "motivated."

Last year, the impact of listing language was covered in a National Bureau of Economic Research study. Descriptions of houses that indicated an obvious problem--such as "foreclosure," "as-is" and "handyman special"--drew substantially lower sales prices. Words that suggested desirable attributes--"granite," "maple," "gourmet"--translated into a higher sale price, the study found.

One problem discovered was that "superficially positive" words that, in effect, damn with faint praise--such as "clean" or "quiet"--had zero or even a negative correlation with prices.

The findings echo those made in a 2000 paper called "Real Estate Agent Remarks: Help or Hype?" researched by University of Texas professor Ronald C. Rutherford.




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Tim Maitski
Atlanta Communities Real Estate Brokerage - Atlanta, GA
Truth, Excellence and a Good Deal
Sara, Great information.  I'm going to print this out and keep it around when I'm working on flyers and ads.
Mar 21, 2007 05:12 AM #1
Rick & Ines - Miami Beach Real Estate
Majestic Properties - Miami Beach, FL

What a great study - this is great information to keep in mind Sara, thanks for guiding me over here!


Apr 19, 2007 01:25 AM #2
Donna Yates
BHGRE - Metro Brokers - Blue Ridge, GA
Blue Ridge Mountains

I was surprised to see that "move in ready" doesn't fare as well.  Guess I need to edit some listing descriptions.

Aug 21, 2008 07:35 AM #3
Brian Brumpton
Keller Williams Boise - Boise, ID
Boise Idaho Real Estate

Thanks for posting, it's an older post but still very helpful.  "Timless" you might say.

Feb 02, 2009 06:33 AM #4
Tere Rottink
CoastalVa Realty Inc - Virginia Beach, VA

Like Brian says, timeless information.  I think I am ready to write my description now. Great info.

Mar 23, 2009 07:26 AM #5
Keller Williams Select Realtors-Buy a home in Washington DC. Sell a home in Washington DC - Bowie, MD
I don't make promises.I deliver results.SOLD HOMES

Sara I found this blog because you posted the link to it on Rick and Ines blog. Thanks for sharing this one. Found it very interesting. Great post.

Nov 17, 2010 01:29 PM #6
Scott Cotton
Texas Inspected - Midlothian, TX
Texas Inspected

I realize this is a very old post, but I still found it very helpful. Thanks, Sara.

Feb 05, 2011 03:37 AM #8
Jodi Johnson
HomeSmart Realty - Scottsdale, AZ

This was very interesting, thank you for the information.

Jun 07, 2011 02:35 PM #9
Susan& Charlie Ahern
Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices California Properties - Coronado, CA
Owner & Broker, Coronado Real Estate 4 Sale 619-92

After all, price dictates everything.

One more note, only put "Handyman's special", "Foreclosure" in Confidential remarks so that general public doesn't read about them but buyer's agent knows what she/he is dealing with.


I googled property descriptions, your post came up very top. Congrats.

Jan 07, 2012 02:57 PM #10
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Sara Bonert

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