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Would You Buy a House With This MLS Description?

Interesting choice of words

For those of you that don’t know me, I’m not a Realtor (nor have I ever been), but until 2009 I was the Marketing Director at an independent brokerage here in Austin. I came across a listing today online and the MLS description’s first sentence is, “This is a doll house.” A doll house? Seriously?

In my days at a brokerage, I actually marketed this home before it had ever been purchased and have personally been inside nearly 75% of the homes in the rest of the subdivision, so I’m extremely familiarized with the area. I suppose the reason for the claim that “this is a doll house” is that it’s one of the smallest floorplans available and has three bedrooms (one that is smaller than the others) rather than the four that most homes on the street have, but the description is immediately limiting and indicates that it’s a kitchy pink grandma house which it is not.

For entertainment purposes, I posed this question on Twitter:

twitter real estate question

I was less than surprised at the answers I received:

twitter real estate responses
twitter real estate responses

The moral of the story

I won’t go in to why this is terrible copy, you all have common sense, but I will say that the moral of the story is that real estate agents didn’t study copywriting in college and that’s okay, your MLS copy doesn’t have to be perfect. If you have a marketing director in your office or someone with writing experience, if they’re willing to read and make suggestions for your one paragraph MLS description, take advantage of that.

You can handle the rest of the listing on the MLS, but this one paragraph can make or break a deal, as shown by the people who answered on Twitter indicating they wouldn’t even visit a home based on this first impression, much less buy it. If you don’t have a marketing director, ask one of your buddies with copy experience (via Twitter or Facebook) if they’re willing to read your MLS descriptions, or simply put it out in your public timeline for opinion. Trust me, one simple paragraph isn’t a major inconvenience and I find people on Twitter to be highly willing to share their opinion and help!

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Lani is the COO and News Director at The American Genius, has co-authored a book, co-founded BASHH, Austin Digital Jobs, Remote Digital Jobs, and is a seasoned business writer and editorialist with a penchant for the irreverent.



  1. Matt Wilkins

    February 20, 2010 at 8:52 pm

    There’s an agent in my area that uses terma like “Bring a dat and don’t be late” in MLS comments. I REALLY wish more MLSs would ban marketing fluff from comments and make them about conveying FEATURES of the property.

    • Lani Rosales

      February 20, 2010 at 8:55 pm

      @mattwilkins “bring a dat” or “bring a bat”… ?

      I recently saw a description for a property that ended with the age old “I’m never too busy for referrals.” wth? Sell the property already, jeez.

  2. Matt Wilkins

    February 20, 2010 at 9:01 pm

    OOPS… meant “Bring a date and don’t be late” laptop keyboard FAIL. Other interesting terms I have seen recently in our MLS are “Healthy Sale” “Slip through the front door” and “Sweet as a pea in a pod”

    • Lani Rosales

      February 20, 2010 at 9:41 pm

      LOL “bring a date” how lame. “Hey hot lady, wanna go out on a date some time?” “Sure, handsome man, your place or mine?” “How about we go tour a house?” “How romantic. Actually, I’m washing my hair that night.” “But I didn’t say which night.” “Yep, I’m busy that night too.”

  3. Nanette Labastida

    February 20, 2010 at 9:13 pm

    i confess to actually sitting around with people snickering at some of these, it causes great hilarity, amusement and bonding with my buyer clients

    i also confess to over reading them when i am writing one to make sure mine isn’t too cheeseball. it’s always more of a lesson of what not to do rather than inspiration!

    maybe i’ll start a habit of copying and keeping the great ones to use as inspiration

    • Lani Rosales

      February 20, 2010 at 11:10 pm

      I think having inspiration is a really smart way to go!

  4. Michelle DeRepentigny

    February 20, 2010 at 11:07 pm

    After that I had to share this: “WIFE HATES FRISBEE, IT HURTS HER TEETH! Westside whoopertunity! Ooffers a better than new dollhouse loaded with extras”.

    This is an honest to G, actual remark in our mls right now.

  5. Mike

    February 21, 2010 at 10:11 am

    How about, “I close all of my short sales”. Then when I look up the agent history in the MLS, it is littered with a plethora of expireds and withdrawns.

    • Lani Rosales

      February 21, 2010 at 1:12 pm

      Mike, maybe they meant “I close the doors when I leave all of my short sales before they expire” ??

      You’re right though, sometimes people use tag lines that are not misleading, they’re totally false.

  6. Ken Montville

    February 21, 2010 at 10:34 am

    The flip side of this is when the seller wants to write their own marketing copy because *they know* what will sell the house.They wax poetic about the oddest things.

    • Lani Rosales

      February 21, 2010 at 1:15 pm

      Yeah, in that case, I’d have to tell them that we’d use their copy if it doesn’t sell in 30 days (or whatever the local average is, minus a week). Homes are so personal, I totally understand some people trying to micromanage the process.

  7. Dan Connolly

    February 21, 2010 at 11:57 am

    Another one that I think is pretty lame is “trendy”, as in “Located close to trendy East Atlanta”. Who would actually want to live in a “trendy” area? Other classics are: “cute” or “cozy”. I see these two all the time. Might as well say tiny, or cramped!

    • Lani Rosales

      February 21, 2010 at 1:23 pm

      I think that untrained writers don’t (and shouldn’t be expected to) understand that their copy comes with its own body language where “cute” or “cozy” is just as easy to spot as someone slouching- it’s defensive and shows a flaw right off the bat, no matter how masked a writer thinks it is.

  8. Jay Ferguson

    February 21, 2010 at 1:06 pm

    I loved this post. Lately i have been workign buyer sales and i am seeing a really common trend. Agents ignor the importance of the MLS posting. the remarks do not make sense and the buyers see this, at least mine made some off the cuff remarks. instructions were not correct at all, in fact even directions were off. I question if the agent even went to them home becuase if he/she did it not the same home we went too.

    I will be the first to admit, some of my listings were corny, “Gem in north Austin” yea i should have taken a copywritng class in college, but common sense would tell you to be honest and cut the fluff.

    This was a great post!

    • Lani Rosales

      February 21, 2010 at 1:25 pm

      Thanks Jay! 🙂 I think it’s an age old problem of poor MLS entries and one that may never change.

      But you hit one of my hot buttons- when driving instructions are wrong, it makes me wonder if the agent has even BEEN to their listing. Grr.

  9. Benn Rosales

    February 21, 2010 at 1:10 pm

    From a marketing perspective to pigeon hole a listing to a certain set of demographics is a disservice to the seller. If I were this seller I’d be furious. I’ve sold this same floorplan to single men, as well as men with beginning families, as well as older women, in fact, I’ve sold this floorplan probably 10 times to various interested home buyers several of which had fully grown children. Doll house implies many many things, but it doesn’t reach the broadest set of possibilities. It has a huge kitchen open to the living space, vaulted ceilings throughout, even the master, and a very large front porch among other features that appeal to a very broad base.

    • Lani Rosales

      February 21, 2010 at 1:26 pm

      You hit the nail on the head- one simple phrase alienates a huge audience and it’s totally unnecessary.

  10. Jay Thompson

    February 21, 2010 at 1:32 pm


    Ran across a couple today along this theme:

    “Hurry! This one won’t last!” (Days on market = 137)

    “Open house Nov 14 & 15 2:00 – 5:00”

  11. Gwen Banta

    February 21, 2010 at 6:00 pm

    Lani, “doll house” makes me think of that freako Bette Davis movie, “Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?” I picture a grown up woman in baby doll shoes serving rats for dinner. There are courses that teach the proper way to describe a house while paining a picture without hyperbole. The problem is ego: Too many people think they can write better than any expert on the subject, thus we get descriptions such as: “Enjoy a serene evening on the starlit front porch sipping sherrie while the lazy breeeze whispers your name. ” HUH?? If I hear voices in the night, I know I forgot to take my meds. And who the heck is “Sherrie”?

  12. Ralph Bell

    February 21, 2010 at 9:12 pm

    Actual Agent Remarks in Austin MLS:
    Great hoesite, close in, Live in 3-2 MH while you build your dream home.

    I swear, people proof read!!!!!

  13. ericaramus

    February 23, 2010 at 1:32 pm

    One in our MLS just listed: “Tenants are hoarders. Please ignore junk. No lease but good tenants.”

  14. Nashville Grant

    March 1, 2010 at 6:04 pm

    Lani, you have some really interesting people who follow you on Twitter…I’m not sure how many people would suggest that future nano-humans would be a good fit for a doll house!


    It come complete with a winky face. Wow.

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