One of the most famous books of the noughties was the American work Freakonomics, by Steven Levitt and Stephen J Dubner. The duo looked for economic patterns and explanations in bizarre and wide-ranging subjects, from sumo wrestling results to drug dealing and the effects that a name can have on a child.
In one chapter the duo concentrated on the effect that descriptions of homes by owners or estate agents have on their likelihood of sales, comparing descriptions of thousands of homes with the eventual sales success or length of time for the sale to proceed.
In their studies Dubner and Levitt found that certain words correlated with higher sale prices, and others correlated with lower prices.
And the reasoning was quite simple – words that correlated with sales success such as granite and maple are descriptive and specific. While fantastic and charming – words that correlated with lower prices - are subjective and loaded with opinion.
Who is to say what is charming? A quaint Devon cottage might be charming to one person and Hellish to another. With granite, there’s no room for confusion.
If subjective words can sometimes be off-putting, there are numerous other words that are downright negative and should be avoided at all costs. They include small, outdated, cramped, needs work, ugly but with character, and anything else that sounds awful. Put yourself in the mind of the person looking for a home and staring at the screen, and ask yourself if you would bother looking at a property with such negative connotations embedded within its description.
Another consideration is the order of the words. A recent property listing we saw contained a number of buzzwords which made it a seemingly attractive proposition: An impressive six bedroom house… handsome grade II listed building…. five reception rooms… and other interesting sounding descriptions.
Upon digging a little deeper something else was revealed, which could potentially have been missed by anyone who stopped reading at halfway. The penultimate paragraph read: “Within the grounds is a Grade I listed Temple building which is the remaining part of the Church of the Order of the Knights Templars believed to date back to 1308 AD.” This one statement instantly brought the property from the desirable to the incredible – should it have been higher?
Of course, any description will accompany pictures, which will tell much of the story of the home. Any words that conflict with or contradict the pictures will immediately raise alarm in the reader.
So here’s the plan; use descriptive words, but only those that conjure powerful and positive images without ridiculous exaggeration or false hyperbole. Make sure that a high percentage of the words used are actual physical features – number of bedrooms, porch, patio, etc. If there are any associated promotions, nearby attractions, or possible discounts, include them. Above all, be truthful and to the point – and do your home justice.