Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Four Elements of a Good Listing

We asked top agents around Raleigh-Durham to pinpoint the top four elements of a good listing, as well as the things that are better left unsaid. 

Here, in no particular order, are their tips:

1. Highlight unseen amenities. The data fields on a listing can tell you how many bedrooms and bathrooms a house has, but they won't tell you the whole story. Neither will the photos, agents say.

The description is the place for things that aren't obviously seen in the property details. 

Important amenities such as an over sized garage or great views should be played up in the write-up. If you can see a picturesque vista from almost every room in the house, say so. Likewise, if a house is private because it backs up to an open space rather than a neighbor's property, that belongs in the description too, agents say. 

Be specific. You don't just want to just say "beautiful remodeled kitchen" in a property description. Instead, point out features and brands that prospective buyers covet. Drop brand names such as Viking, Sub-Zero and Bosch. Identify granite countertops and stainless-steel appliances. Mention appealing features such as those pullout shelves in the kitchen cabinets or the walk-in pantry.

Give as many details or facts about a property as you can. That could include updates such as a new roof, separate his-and-hers closets, a finished basement or a master bedroom downstairs.  A saltwater pool, or a pool that has been recently resurfaced or updated, is also worth distinguishing from its traditional counterparts.

3. Use the right adjectives. Too much fluff can be off-putting, Johnson says, so use descriptors sparingly. And choose the words that pack the most punch.

A Canadian study conducted more than a decade ago – but to which agents still refer — found that homes described as "beautiful" sold for 5% more than those in "move-in condition." Likewise, homes that were described as "beautiful" or "gorgeous" sold 15% faster.

That doesn't mean that every house or room deserves that descriptor, but if it fits the bill, by all means use it, agents say. "Beautiful landscaping" is a good combination.

But don't exaggerate. The worst thing, agents say, is building buyers' expectations with a grand description of something only to have it fall far short in real life. Remember, "spacious" is a relative term. "Open floor plan" on the other hand, works for everyone.

Here's an example makeover on a listing that went overboard with the adjectives:

Before: "Splendid, Sweet, and no other Equal! This one hits the sweet spot! Tons of hardwoods, gorgeous granite countertops, plantation shutters, 2 covered patios, crown molding, stone fireplace and fantastic fixtures. You will love the updated style Highland Home floor plan with the California kitchen. Both master and secondary bedroom downstairs. Massive master suite! Don't forget an awesome gameroom and fully wired media room. Exemplary Frisco ISD!"

After: "Highland home with ideal open floor plan including master and extra bedroom down, game & media room wired for surround sound, hand-scraped wood extended thru 1st floor including study, kitchen open to family room with granite, stainless appliances, double ovens, 5-burner gas cooktop, oversized master, larger than average secondary bedrooms, plantation shutters, sink in 3 car garage, pool-sized yard with covered patio, established neighborhood feeds to Exemplary Frisco ISD with quick access to major highways."

4. Good grammar is mandatory. Bad spelling and grammar can be as big a deterrent as hokey copy. It sends the message that a seller doesn't have good agent representation. If an agent can't take the time to spell-check the listing, what other corners is that agent going to cut?

Here's a good example of how bad spelling and ill-conceived content can put buyers off, followed by a suggested fix for it.

Before: "Seeing is beleiving! Foundation has new concrete/foam insluation skirting and all joints have foam insulation and are caulked. Owner will be painting exterior in the spring.'

After: "This distinctive ranch is located on a picturesque 1.4-acre lot in the heart of Slingerlands. There's a massive stone fireplace and wall of windows in the LR overlooking the private wooded lot. You'll feel like you are in the Adirondacks! The open floor plan is perfect for entertaining. It's sure to be a treasure once updated with your personal touch."

In closing - all agents mentioned providing motivation to the buyers by using phrases like "priced to sell," even when priced on par with others in the neighborhood. Just reading the phrase markets the house as a gem at the right price to the prospective buyers.  

Do not underestimate the power of suggestion with a well written property description.

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