Did you see the new Acura? With the clean lines, sophisticated engineering, leather seats, and real wood trim? What I just heard was “clean” and “sophisticated,” not because I want to drive those two things, but because I want to be those two things. If I hear “hybrid,” I’ll be as green as Al Gore. If I hear “Cadillac,” I’m feeling McConaughey. Otherwise it’s just transportation, four tires and a trunk, plus maybe a 3.57056 liter Hemi under the hood…feeling powerful yet?
Real estate promotion is similar, but residential re-sale involves almost as many individual marketers as there are homes to sell. Like five blind guys touching an elephant, each realtor might describe a different beast of a home depending on their personal perspective. Otherwise, it’s just shelter, four walls and a roof, plus maybe a fancy alarm system…feeling safe yet?
In the D.C. metro area, our Realtor Multiple Listing Service (MLS) allows us a maximum of 400 characters with which to describe a home we’re marketing and, unfortunately, “this home has lovely granite countertops and stainless-steel appliances” only uses 71. So what else is an agent supposed to say to get sellers to agree that we’re painting a proper picture of their homes, or to make that right buyer look twice, or just to eat up the daunting 400 characters?
Thanks goodness for hyperbole (and puffery):
“Chef’s kitchen!” (15 characters) But really, what is a chef’s kitchen? The last time I saw a chef’s kitchen, I was in the basement of the White House. That was long enough ago that they still let guys like me into the White House basement. I wonder how often chefs have Indian food delivered.
“Amazing back yard!” (17 characters) This is a tall order, even on Capitol Hill where I’ve seen folks do amazing things with limited yards. But I haven’t seen a coconut grove yet, which would be truly amazing indeed.
“Great buy!” (only 10 characters) “Fantastic buy!” would have used up 16 characters, but who’s counting. I think the secret is out. If the guy crying “best buy” stands to make a buck on the buy, one needs to explore further. If he is at a loss for filler, he can say, “this house is a really great buy!” and BOOM, he just bought 33 characters!
Then there’s the ever-inspiring “handyman special!” (17 characters). But if the agent is promoting the poor condition of the house, then the place must be missing its roof. Besides, handymen are becoming as rare as WWII vets. How about “call the architect quickly!” (27 much more honest characters).
“Incredible location!” (an even 20 characters). But sounds a bit too South of France.
“Bring an offer!” (15 ridiculous characters) What with the sign, balloons, flowers, and cookies…I believe it’s understood that the seller would like to receive an offer.
Adjectives and redundancy help these listings a lot. Apparently, exclamation points are a must. Unnecessarily repeating the number of bedrooms and baths can eat up space. If the front door is a blue (5 characters), we are apt to put it in writing. If not, at least it can be a “lovely door,” “lovely blue,” or an agent can go for broke and use “this home has a lovely wooden deep blue front door,” and BAM, 50 characters knocked out of the park!
What agents are effectively doing in an MLS description is “pitching” the home.
In Hollywood, producers allow less than 10 minutes for television hopefuls to pitch a plot. The pitch is a dynamic verbal description of the show. The key is to keep it short, focus on the highlights, steer clear of too many details, and sell, sell, sell. I like the “elevator pitch,” where an idea must be sold to a potential buyer in the time it takes to ride from the 10th floor to the lobby, give or take a couple of stops.
When pitching your home, try to find its soul, personality, and disposition. Is it a party animal or a bookworm? What would you name it if it were a pet? When I’m pitching a home I take the 400-character rule seriously, which can throw punctuation out the window (the clean, clear, bright, shiny glass window = 45 characters!)(add a few semicolons and you’re up to 48!). But mostly, I try to avoid describing anything that buyers can touch or see with their hands or eyes. I try to aim straight for the heart because that’s where the wallet is located, and yes, occasionally I’ll take a bit of poetic license.