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You DO want to sell your listing… right? [Writer Debut]

You DO want to sell your listing… right? Then, please. For the love of all that is right and holy, write like you want to sell your listing.

I’m a recovering Realtor, but when I was selling, few things (save those folks who referred to themselves as “real-a-tor”) were more maddening than the generic, misspelled, “been there, done that” language used by real estate professionals when describing their listings. OY.

Now, I’m not saying that each description has to show you off as the Ernest Hemingway of the real estate set, but penning something thats paints your wonderful new listing as a place that’s different, possibly an interesting place in which all of those pesky buyers out there might want to live? That’d be a good thing. Does any of this look familiar to you?

The Super-Excited Realtor!

“WOW!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! GREAT NEW LISTING IN SOUGHT-AFTER SUPER-AWESOME NEIGHBORHOOD!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! GREAT SCHOOLS!!!!!!!!!!! NEAR EVERYTHING!!!!!!!!!!!!!SERIOUSLY!!!!!!!! I’M SO HYPED-UP ABOUT THIS 3BR, 2.5BA LISTING THAT I MIGHT WET MY PANTS!!!!!! THIS IS THE HOME YOU’VE BEEN WAITING FOR!!!!!!!!! TOO MANY FEATURES TO LIST!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”

Let me get this straight. This house is jam-packed with so many unbelievable features that you couldn’t tell us what any of them are? And yet you were able to include no less than 97 exclamation points? Call me crazy, but some of that verbal real estate might have been better served by actually describing the house. Maybe, just maybe, some of those exclamation points could’ve been spared while you told me about the kitchen or the master bedroom or the features of the community. Or anything.

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Oh, and please turn off the “caps lock” button on your keyboard. Writing all in caps makes it seem like you’re yelling at me.

The Teen Wolf Realtor

“OMG! UR gonna be stoked when u see this GR8 home! Awesome kitchen w/stnlss, hdwd, grnt cntrs. Kewl! U will b sry if u miss this 1.”

Are you 12 years old? The last time I checked, using actual words to describe things actually did a better job than the shorthand that you copied from your daughter’s cellphone. I realize that using abbreviations like this saves space, but it makes you sound, well … less-than-smart. It also makes you sound unprofessional, and that can make dealing with your peers (and your clients, for that matter) pretty awkward.

The Soaked-in-Cliches Realtor

“Location, location, location. Must-see! This great home is just what you’ve been looking for. 4BR, 2BA, blah, blah, blah. This one is priced to sell, don’t miss out!”

This is the one that makes me give *facepalm* to end all *facepalms.*

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While it may, in fact, be the most important rule in real estate, if I never hear the expression “location, location, location” again, it’ll be too soon. And “priced to sell?” Give me a break. Every house is priced to sell … some are just priced to sell much, much later than others (that’s fodder for another post, though).

The point is that using cliches like this does absolutely nothing to sell your listing. They do nothing to make it shine! Say something that makes buyers think, “If I don’t see this house, I’m going to regret it for the rest of my life!” A little imagination can be a very good thing.

Please. Don’t be the agent that other Realtors make fun of.

Take some time to think about what you’re writing. You’re holding your sellers’ future in your hands (not to mention your paycheck). That’s worth a little extra effort, right? A few choice, well-placed words can take your listing from bland, boring “everyhouse” to something with ZING! They can make it something that other Realtors can’t wait to show, and something that their buyers can’t wait to see. In short, they can make all the difference.

Note from the Editor: Please welcome AG’s newest writer, Melissa Delgaudio who is obsessed with the power of words and whose skin crawls if you type “their” instead of “they’re.” Melissa will be writing about how to improve your copy in all aspects of your business be it MLS descriptions, classified ads, blogs or simply your about page. Melissa is a fun, crafty gal who is well known in the industry for her skill and as a recovering Realtor, she knows the challenge you’re up against. Please tell her in the comments what you think of her first article here at AG.

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Written By

Melissa DelGaudio is the voice behind Honeybee Consulting, a one-woman copywriting shop based in picturesque Shepherdstown, WV. A graduate of the University of Maryland at College Park (Go Terps!) with a degree in English Literature, Melissa is a rabid grammarian and passionate about writing. After a long tenure in PR with a firm in Bethesda, Maryland, Melissa worked for many years doing freelance writing of all kinds for customers in the fields of Real Estate, Video Game Technology, Theatre and many others.

63 Comments

63 Comments

  1. Lisa

    August 2, 2010 at 7:06 pm

    Good stuff! We were just commenting on the same thing around my office the other day – too many exclamation points, ALL CAPS and oddball abbreviations. Like all writing, though, listings take a certain finesse. Perhaps, Melissa, you could put together a short tutorial on the right and wrong way to do these things? And while we are on the subject, stop capitalizing every room, like Kitchen, Dining Room, etc. They are not titles! Okay, I’m done. Welcome!

    • Melissa Delgaudio

      August 2, 2010 at 10:45 pm

      Thanks a bunch, Lisa! And I’d be happy to do that. I think that most agents write that way because it’s the only way they’ve seen; they assume that’s what works. And I promise not to capitalize room names until I live in a house that has something like … The Grand Salon (which I think warrants a capital letter or two, don’t you?)

  2. Linsey Planeta

    August 2, 2010 at 7:08 pm

    What an incredible addition to AG! I’ll be looking forward to your unique, well articulated perspective, and that wicked sense of humor. Off to a great start! Dare I say, I’m ‘super excited’?! 😀

    • Melissa Delgaudio

      August 2, 2010 at 10:27 pm

      Thank you, Miz Planeta! I’m trying to craft a post in which I can liken brussels sprouts to effective writing. I’ll let you know how that works out.

  3. Anna Altic

    August 2, 2010 at 7:19 pm

    me likee!!! but please don’t read my stuff because I’m afraid…. Welcome!

    • Melissa Delgaudio

      August 2, 2010 at 10:29 pm

      I promise to leave my red pens holstered … as far as you know. 🙂 Thanks for the welcome, Anne!

  4. Julie Ziemelis

    August 2, 2010 at 7:27 pm

    I can’t wait for the day when Melissa puts this all together in a book and let’s me be one of the first to purchase a bunch to give to our REALTOR members of our Association! Snappy and funny, can’t wait for more!

    • Melissa Delgaudio

      August 2, 2010 at 10:58 pm

      Julie! As always, you’re one of my greatest cheerleaders. I thank you for that! And I hope to be snappy and/or witty, or at the very least, pithy. 🙂

  5. Stacey Harmon

    August 2, 2010 at 7:36 pm

    What a GREAT addition to the Agent Genius team! Great job Melissa.

    There is so much truth in all your examples. I’ve actually worked at brokerages where it was against the marketing policy to have all caps and any explanation points in the ad copy for homes. Obviously there was a high degree of marketing control at those brokerages – and also a very high perceived brand value in the marketing efforts. Coincidence? Not thinking so…

    • Melissa Delgaudio

      August 2, 2010 at 7:44 pm

      OH! Would that there was that sort of control at EVERY brokerage house. A great many agents are doing a terrific job — most of them are found here or amidst the discussion on Twitter, etc. — but the majority? OOF. They’ve a long, long way to go. Generic just doesn’t get the job done, and if you’re a seller searching for an agent? Never settle for bunk like that!

      • Brandie Young

        August 3, 2010 at 12:00 pm

        “Marketing Control” = music to my ears!

        Nice debut Ms. Honeybee! Welcome to AG.

        xo

        Brandie

  6. Lesley Lambert

    August 2, 2010 at 7:40 pm

    Melissa, great post and welcome to the team here at AG! We all struggle with writing home descriptions, so this is a great reminder to me to go check mine & rewrite!

    • Melissa Delgaudio

      August 2, 2010 at 11:13 pm

      I know that writing, in general, is a struggle for most agents. I hope to help with that, at least in some small way. Where’s your tiara? And thank you much!

  7. Erica Ramus

    August 2, 2010 at 7:56 pm

    Very good! I saw one today where the agent said “Offers will be looked at.”
    Really? Oh my god! Seriously? Offers will really be looked at? Ha!
    Did you mean ALL offers? Or just good ones? Hmmm.

    • Melissa Delgaudio

      August 2, 2010 at 11:02 pm

      “I’m sorry, *we* only look at offers in which no sentences are ended with prepositions, or those in which no participles dangle.” Puh-LEASE. When you read things like that, you understand where phrases like, “Really, Capt. Obvious?” came from. 🙂 Good to meet you, Erica!

  8. Erica Ramus

    August 2, 2010 at 7:57 pm

    PS–welcome to AG.

  9. Fred Romano

    August 2, 2010 at 8:18 pm

    To be fair, many MLS systems have a character limit of about 250, and one that I use actually transforms all characters to CAPS. so there is not much some of us can do about that 🙂

    I know one agent that uses * between all words like spaces! Its the most annoying thing ever. Here is an example of hers:

    WELCOME TO “WHISPERING ACRES”*1 OR 2 HORSES POSSIBLE*CHARM GALORE IN THIS WONDERFUL CAPE SITTING ON A SERENE, PRIVATE 4 ACRE PROPERTY*22X11 PARTIALLY FINISHED WALK OUT LOWER LEVEL WITH FIREPLACE*GENERATOR HOOK UP*DOG KENNEL*BABBLING BROOK*

    LOL all caps and **********

    • Melissa Delgaudio

      August 2, 2010 at 11:07 pm

      I’ve seen the asterisk thing … and while that is funny in and of itself, I’m silently giggling at “possible charm galore.” 😀

      I’ve spoken with people at various MLSes and asked why they have the auto-all caps thing. Thus far, no one has been able to give me an answer that makes any sense. I see that and I see YELLING!!! and I hate getting yelled at. I feel like writing lines or going to my room without supper after reading descriptions like that.

  10. Ricardo Bueno

    August 2, 2010 at 8:40 pm

    AgentGenius.com just got a little bit smarter 🙂

    Great addition to the team folks!

  11. Lisa Heindel

    August 2, 2010 at 8:43 pm

    Kudos to AG for scooping you up, Melissa. I can’t wait to see your quirky view of how we can improve our writing skills. Lord knows, most of us really need the help.

    • Melissa Delgaudio

      August 2, 2010 at 11:15 pm

      Thank you kindly, Miss Lisa! My views are nothing if not quirky … I hope that I’m able to help out, or at the very least, make some people laugh along the way!

  12. Teresa Boardman

    August 2, 2010 at 9:31 pm

    It would be best if I did not leave comments Spelling and grammar ate atrocious. I think the main reason realtors write bad copy is because they like to imitate each other.

    • Melissa Delgaudio

      August 2, 2010 at 11:18 pm

      I think that’s pretty astute. For the most part, descriptions like the ones I’ve lampooned are the only sort that most agents have ever seen. They just don’t know any different. And a few years ago, when homes sold when there was just the faintest hint of a new home for sale wafting in the breeze, agents didn’t really have to try all that hard. The tables have turned, though, and stepping it up a bit in the writing (marketing) department is a good idea.

  13. Brad Rachielles

    August 2, 2010 at 10:15 pm

    Welcome to A-G. I thoroughly enjoyed your first post here and look forward to more. The “all caps” issue has irritated me for years. I’ve even tried to change my hand printing style to get away from that tendancy in my own printing. Bet Mr. Ramos above could get action to cause change by going to his association “MLS representative”.

    Best of Success!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    • Melissa Delgaudio

      August 2, 2010 at 11:25 pm

      I know people who do the all-caps thing, no matter where they write. It’s positively maddening. I’m delighted that you enjoyed the post! I hope that I can write some things that are helpful and that we can have some fun along the way. Thanks so much!

  14. Jerry Reed

    August 2, 2010 at 10:50 pm

    Melissa,
    Read it all. Loved it. Yes a better written piece will help the seller get more showings for the home. Started to put “for their home” I know they’re was correct but in this case would their have been correct. I love it when I learn.
    Look forward to reading your articles.
    Jerry

    • Melissa Delgaudio

      August 2, 2010 at 11:10 pm

      So good to see you, Jerry, and to have your feedback! I look forward to lots of exchanges. 🙂

  15. Jerry Reed

    August 2, 2010 at 10:53 pm

    Should have read it before I hit enter. I should have said I know they’re wasn’t correct not was correct.

  16. debbycrane

    August 2, 2010 at 11:00 pm

    Very true and helpful It is so easy to fall into realtor lingo and forget we are doing is writting a discriptive ad that needs to quickly describe what is probably someone’s most cherished and expensive asset and is a call to action !

    • Melissa Delgaudio

      August 3, 2010 at 2:53 pm

      Darned right, Debby! I’m all for the abolishment of lingo. 🙂 Thanks for stopping in!

  17. Laura Monroe

    August 2, 2010 at 11:04 pm

    Melissa, you will be such an awesome addition to AG! This post is so timely too, as I write these descriptions all too often they start to sound alike! Just wanted to say congrats one more time:)

  18. Amanda Hall

    August 2, 2010 at 11:05 pm

    Melissa, just between you and me, I want to do my part to rid the world of agents that use the “I’M GORGEOUS INSIDE” ryders.

    • Melissa Delgaudio

      August 2, 2010 at 11:08 pm

      HA! I’m gorgeous inside … which you’d never guess, because I look like CRAP on the outside!”

  19. Mary Roberts

    August 2, 2010 at 11:08 pm

    Melissa:

    Awesome post! I am definitely going to share with my coworkers! Very well put! Can’t wait to see the others in the weeks to come. Congrats!

    • Melissa Delgaudio

      August 3, 2010 at 11:54 am

      Thanks, Miss Mary! Hoping to help and maybe even have a little fun while I’m at it!

  20. blcope

    August 2, 2010 at 11:51 pm

    Love it! My all time pet peeve statement: “Seller says sell!” Really, a seller says to sell it?

    • Melissa Delgaudio

      August 3, 2010 at 11:56 am

      That and, “This one won’t last!” are my favorites. 🙂 Really? This one won’t last? In a related story, now that the house has been on the market for 543 days, oughtn’t you update the remarks? 😀

  21. Trish Simonton

    August 3, 2010 at 7:09 am

    Wow! I’ve stumbled on to this AG thing, and it’s great and timely. I’m a new agent, less than a year, and have tried to get away from marketing like everyone else. Thank you, I hope to see and read more of you in the future.

  22. Ken Brand

    August 3, 2010 at 9:25 am

    Welcome. Looking forward to your sharing. Cheers.

    • Melissa Delgaudio

      August 3, 2010 at 11:57 am

      Always a pleasure, Ken. Looking forward to lots of exchanges with you, for sure!

  23. Megan Lust

    August 3, 2010 at 10:38 am

    This was great Melissa! I swear I was thinking writing a post similar to this after seeing quite a few less than stellar listing descriptions. Now I don’t have to! 😉 I’ll be sharing this around for sure. Look forward to reading more from you.

    • Melissa Delgaudio

      August 3, 2010 at 11:58 am

      Thanks much, Megan. 🙂 Not all of my posts will have to do with “Did they really write that?” though those are the kinds of things that make people sit up and think. Looking forward to being a part of things ’round here.

  24. Cliff Stevenson

    August 3, 2010 at 1:34 pm

    Awesome post Melissa.

    I’m amazed at the listing write-ups I see with spelling errors. Uhh….it is not a “dinning room”.

    I’ll concede that coming up with content for some listings can be challenging, but a simple spell check is not difficult.

    • Melissa Delgaudio

      August 3, 2010 at 2:54 pm

      Thanks! Like I said, you don’t have to be TS Eliot. Just THINK about what you’re saying and how you’re saying it. Many people view how you write as a direct reflection of your professionalism; it shouldn’t just be a throwaway. 🙂

  25. Andrew McKay

    August 3, 2010 at 3:36 pm

    I’m playing devils advocate here from a buyers point of view and as a relatively new realtor stand to be corrected and educated. Also writing very carefully although as a “Brit” I will justify any errors with the “this is how it is written/spelt in England ” card.
    Anyway how many potential buyers read all the description? I’ve just logged on to MLS.ca and the basic information ( number of bedrooms, address, sq ft etc) and the more photos link is above the description.
    I wager that the majority click the more photos before reading the full description and make a decision on that.
    I quite agree with Melissa that the writing should be as good or as great as you can make it for your seller’s sake but I wonder if we as Realtors are more likely to fully read the descriptions that a buyer????
    I need to add the proviso that my market is quite small so the local realtors will know the type of house from the address and don’t necessarily need the description to “make it something that other Realtors can’t wait to show.”

    • Melissa Delgaudio

      August 3, 2010 at 4:16 pm

      Hey, Andrew! Many of the MLSes have sections in which agents can provide descriptions for both other Realtors *AND* for the general public. In the first case, it’s good to make a solid first impression with your peers. In the second, once buyers have gotten past the photos — and I agree with you that those are the things that, generally, get looked at first — they’re gonna look for more information. Having a solid description paired with those terrific photos could really get people excited about a house. That equals more showings, and that equals happy sellers.

  26. Nadina Cole-Potter

    August 3, 2010 at 11:38 pm

    Thank you, Melissa. As a former English and Journalism teacher, dissertation and thesis editor, contract and legal brief editor, I, too want to get out my red pen when I read misused homonyms, misplaced apostrophes, incorrect spelling, nouns meant to be plural with no ‘s’ or ‘es’ on the end, subject/verb mismatches, etc.

    Everyone who disrespects grammar, punctuation, and spelling should read, “Eats, shoots, and leaves” (as in an NRA picnic/target practice event) for a description of how differently placed commas (and other mistakes you didn’t know you were making) will change the meaning, thus, “Eats shoots and leaves” (as in koala bears). None of this can be detected by spell- or grammar-checkers because only you know the context and meaning of what you are attempting to write. And isn’t meaning what it is all about? (Yes, I broke the rule — but I know when and how to do it for effect so I get a bye) ;-D

    I look forward to your examples.

  27. Beth

    August 19, 2010 at 11:24 am

    This was an excellent article and while I’m a prospective buyer, not a realtor, I totally agree, with some additions. Mind you, I get 40-50 listings in my inbox a day. I am seriously on a mission to find the right property at the right price. So here are my additions
    1.)A listing with misspellings is going to lose me. If I have to translate to figure out what is being said I will move on.
    2.)I agree with the writer of this article, I want to see more detail about the actual house and outbuildings. I also want decent pictures and lots of them, of high quality, of the interior of the the house and outbuildings with just a few pictures of the land so I get a feel for the whole property.
    3.) Realtors, please, will you persuade your sellers to get real for a change. Until houses are offered for what they are realistically worth rather than these uber inflated, over the top prices, you aren’t going to make a lot of sales. And then, of course, until banks start lending, that’s going to affect things. But honestly, most average Buyers don’t want to pay exorbitant prices. Call me old fashioned, but when I see a house that should go for $40-60K going for $400-$600K I get nausea and I get angry. Unless there is gold under the foundation, or something really of intrinsic value, the house just isn’t worth that much, no house is unless its a plantation mansion that has been perfectly restored. Forget the multi million dollar pricetags. In my opinion realtors who sell properties with those kinds of unrealistic pricetags are just perpetuating the problem. Let’s get housing prices back down to under $100K so people can afford them again and you will see fewer foreclosures and a lot more sales.

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