Neck puncher. That's what the state of Atlanta real estate listing descriptions has made me. With poorly written and ineffectual home listing descriptions littering the MLS like abandoned cheeseburger wrappers, within me has slowly risen the desire to punch myself in the neck. That's right---A couple of roundhouse rights would be a far nobler fate than slowly allowing my brain to break while suffering through these mind-numbing dumpster fires.
A little over-the-top? Maybe. But real estate agents have clearly lost sight of the purpose of a real estate listing. All the fluff and puff that was huffed and puffed for years is no longer applicable. Too much flowery language comes across as pretentious in a time of modesty, as opaque in a real estate market where buyers are yearning for transparency, and as empty and meaningless when real estate agents more than ever before need to show value to the fewer qualified buyers in the Atlanta real estate market.
Same Old Ineffectual Home Listing Descriptions
Let's take a look at a typical listing description:
"PERFECT HOME NESTLED IN A NICE & VERY QUIET NEIGHBORHOOD WITH INCREDIBLE SCHOOLS. 4 WONDERFUL BEDROOMS AND 2.5 BATHROOMS PUT YOU IN THE LAP OF LUXURY. UNBELIEVABLE KITCHEN WITH FANTASTIC FINISHES AND COMPLETE WITH BEAUTIFUL APPLIANCES. CHARMING MASTER BEDROOM WITH FABULOUS BATH THAT YOU WILL NOT BELIEVE!!!! ENJOY A GORGEOUS VIEW OF THE STUNNING NEIGHBORHOOD LAKE FROM THE WINDOWS IN THE SPACIOUS FAMILY ROOM. THE OVERSIZED DECK OVERLOOKS AN AWESOME BACKYARD. THIS IMMACULATE HOME HAS BEEN WELL-MAINTAINED BY OWNER. MOTIVATED SELLER SAYS SELL NOW!!!!"
I've read Atlanta real estate listings like this a thousand times and if you've searched for Atlanta homes for sale lately you've seen it too. What's that you say? You say the aforementioned home sounds great. Really? What do we actually know about it? Let's make a list:
- 4 Bedrooms/2.5 Baths
- It has a kitchen with appliances
- Lake view
- It has a master bedroom/bath and a family room
- It has a deck and a backyard
- The seller wants to sell
Aside from the deck and the lake view, this listing conveys nothing unique about the home to the home buyer. This is 95% of the listings out there right now. Sure, it is "awesome, wonderful, fantastic, perfect, and unbelievable", but what does that really mean to a buyer---nothing. It's like saying nothing at all. The problem is that real estate agents attempt to oversell the listing by filling in holes in the descriptions with superfluous adjectives---In their mind, the more superlatives, the better the description. Unfortunately, the reverse occurs, only weakening the appeal. The goal of a listing description is to not only expose the home to the most buyers possible, but also attract the buyers that are most likely to purchase your particular home. By attempting to elevate the status of the listings by describing it as the "perfect home" or with a "fantastic kitchen" or "wonderful Atlanta neighborhood", the agent's actions in fact cause the listing to further blend into the noise since many listings regurgitate the same vagueness. In my opinion, it also begins to slowly eat away at the credibility of the information and forces the buyer to not take the listing at full value.
Don't just take it from me...
Kill the Adjectives
Mark Twain once said, "As to the Adjective: When in doubt, strike it out." In another correspondence he cautioned against the overuse of adjectives because after too many adjectives, they cease to be impactful. Twain wrote, "God only exhibits his thunder and lightning at intervals, and so they always command attention. These are God's adjectives. You thunder and lightning too much; the reader ceases to get under the bed, by and by."
Not convinced? How about a little more insight from the popular author:
"Don't let fluff and flowers and verbosity creep in. When you catch an adjective, kill it...kill most of them--then the rest will be valuable. They weaken when they are close together. They give strength when they are wide apart."
With Twain's quotes fresh in our minds, let's put together some quick pointers to keep buyers engaged in your Atlanta home listing:
Limit your use of generalist superlatives
The top 25 "empty" superlatives are used in excess of 120,000 times in Atlanta home listings. That's way too many times. Here's the list of the superfluity that percolates through the real estate descriptions:
- great (24,837)
- large (18,132)
- huge (11,137)
- beautiful (9,732)
- spacious (8,663)
- gorgeous (4,280)
- very (4,144)
- perfect (3,873)
- nice (3,220)
- quiet (3,006)
- best (2,770)
- oversized (2,529)
- fabulous (2,448)
- wonderful (2,414)
- maintained (2,320)
- excellent (2,267)
- awesome (1,839)
- fantastic (1,760)
- stunning (1,752)
- immaculate (1,698)
- amazing (1,605)
- charming (1,579)
- incredible (1,578)
- lovely (1,505)
- cozy (1,407)
That's a lot of useless words. Sure, it's easy to use spectacular, awesome, and fantastic to generate excitement about the home, but it's also lazy. Listing descriptions should be well-thought out and focused on what makes the home special and then that distinction should be conveyed in detail to the buyer.
Don't use all caps
All caps descriptions are difficult to read and are perceived by many as yelling. Screaming doesn't solve anything.
Don't use exclamation points!
For such a "depressed" Atlanta real estate market, there sure is a lot of enthusiasm. There are 85,185 exclamation points in our real estate listings database. Over 36,000 listings had at least 1 exclamation point somewhere in the listing description. One listing in particular had 36 exclamation points in a 250-word description. The very purpose of a exclamation point is to show strong feeling or enthusiasm, but like adjectives it loses it meaning when it is bastardized. Its use creates a feeling of unwarranted exaggeration that can be perceived as an attempt to disguise a home's shortcomings. It is infinitely better to rationally organize the description highlighting the features and benefits instead of relying on some emotionally-charged diatribe that doesn't convey any value to buyers.
Include more facts that describe the features and implied benefits
According to a study by the Freakonomics guys, physical description terms correlate with a higher sales price. Therefore, writing better descriptions not only appeals to more home buyers, but it leads to more dollar bills in your pocket.
Home Listing Description Makeover
How could we have made the above listing description better? Let's give it a try.
4 Bedroom/2.5 Bath 3-side brick home zoned to the #7 ranked high school Georgia. Kitchen boasts granite countertops, stainless steel GE energy-efficient appliances, and maple cabinets. Master bedroom has separate sitting area while master bathroom with Jacuzzi includes marble sinks and custom tile work. Cherry hardwoods throughout main level. Enjoy a full, unimpeded view of the sunrise over 45-acre lake from the 15-foot high wall of windows along the back of the home. Deck has room for a table, chairs, and grill and overlooks a fenced and fescued backyard. This 4-year old home has been cared for by sole homeowner. Home has been priced based on current market conditions.
This revised listing reveals much more information about the home and therefore lends more value to the buyer. Provide more detail, not less. Less ambiguity in the listing description creates more interest from buyers---interest from buyers that are actually looking for a home like yours. More transparency in real estate listings makes for a better matchmaker, pairing up features and benefits with those feature seekers. Once you've overhauled your description, your Atlanta real estate listing may no longer include "spectacular and amazing", but the results will be truly "awesome."