Saturday, December 16, 2006

Words matter in real estate listings

Study offers advice on what to say — and what not to say.
By Ann Brenoff
Sunday, December 17, 2006

Words matter. Wars have started over them. Civilizations have collapsed because of them. And it would appear that the speed with which a house sells might be determined by them.

As listings grow old on the vine and frustrated sellers grapple for the slightest edge, the findings of several academics might offer some guidance.

For example, a Canadian professor, as part of a broader study on real estate sales patterns, found that homes where the seller was "motivated" actually took 15 percent longer to sell, while houses listed as "handyman specials" flew off the market in half the average time.

"It surprised even me," said researcher Paul Anglin, who teaches real estate and housing trends at the University of Guelph in Ontario. The study dissected the wording of more than 20,000 Canadian home listings from 1997 to 2000.

What surprised him most was how the buying public put style over substance. Words that denoted "curb appeal" or general attractiveness helped a property sell faster than those that spoke of "value" and "price."

Homes described as "beautiful" moved 15 percent faster and for 5 percent more in price than the benchmark. "Good-value" homes sold for 5 percent less than average.

Another finding in Anglin's study was that the plea of "must see!" was received about as enthusiastically as a dinner-time telemarketing call. Homes with listings using the words "must see" had a statistically insignificant impact on the number of days they took to sell.

Listings where the word "landscaping" was heralded sold 20 percent faster, and homes in "move-in condition" took 12 percent less time to sell than the benchmark, although the study showed "move-in condition" had an insignificant impact on the sales price.

Owners use listing language to convey how serious they are about selling. Some words work better than others, Anglin's study found. Listings in which the seller said he or she was "moving" sold for 1 percent less in price compared with 8 percent less when the seller was "motivated."

Real estate listings, not unlike personal ads, are crafted to minimize blemishes and maxi- mize perceived selling points. So if "enjoys moonlight walks on the beach and cooking together" means "I'm unemployed and am looking for someone who won't always expect to eat out," then

"needs TLC" might mean "this house will have you on a first-name basis with the clerks at the local hardware store."

Anglin's study isn't alone in efforts to determine what language moves the market.

Last year, the impact of listing language was covered in a National Bureau of Economic Research study that looked at whether real estate agents selling their own homes hold out for a higher price. (They do; the study found they take longer to sell but fetch a higher price.)

Descriptions of houses that indicated an obvious problem — such as "foreclosure," "as-is" and "handyman special" — drew substantially lower sales prices.

Words that suggested desirable attributes — "granite," "maple," "gourmet" — translated into a higher sale price, the study found.

One problem discovered was that "superficially positive" words that, in effect, condemn with faint praise — such as "clean" or "quiet" — had zero or even a negative correlation with prices.

Those findings echo those made in a 2000 paper called "Real Estate Agent Remarks: Help or Hype?" researched by University of Texas-San Antonio finance and real estate professor
Ronald C. Rutherford.

Rutherford found, among other things, that buyers read between the lines. If you can't find anything better to say than "new paint," perhaps it's best to say nothing at all.

Positive and factually verifiable comments such as "golf" or "lake" drew increased sales prices; other presumably positive comments regarding new paint or new carpet brought lower ones.

"What you say needs to be extravagant," Rutherford said, "or the signal that is received by buyers is that it's not worth talking about."

But what do sellers know? "New paint" appeared on 15 percent of the listings and was the most commonly listed comment.

Rutherford said sellers would be best served by a listing with "just the facts, ma'am."

"In today's market," he said, "if it's a good deal, you need to convey it with factually verifiable language."

An example: "Needs repairs," he said.

Of the information from his study, conducted between 1994 and 1997 of almost 60,000 closed residential transactions in Tarrant County, what surprised him most?

That homes with "motivated" sellers stayed on the market 15 percent longer than average and sold for 4 percent less.

His theory: "They overpriced the house to start with and eventually had to lower it. That explains the length of time on the market and the lower sales price."

Does he have any advice for today's sellers?

"Yes," he said, "avoid the word 'motivated.' "

Friday, December 01, 2006

Killing Deals? Try a new spin

In 20 years of real estate I've seen alot of real estate trainers and motivational gurus. By gummit one of the best is Mr. Howard Brinton. Enough flattery. This article is fromm Howard is pure Gold.

7 Phrases to Avoid with Clients

Change your words and you’ll change your results. Here’s a list of weak phrases to stay away from, along with more powerful alternatives.


Words are powerful things. When speaking with prospects, clients, and colleagues, your choice of words and phrases shapes their perception of you; it tells them if you're can get the job done effectively and responsibly.

However, many people don’t realize they have a habit of using weak phrases that undermine their professional image.

These phrases imply that you’re giving up control and accountability and are placing it on someone or something else. Consider using these more powerful phrases instead: “I am,” “I choose to,” “I can,” “I will find out,” and “I’ll create.” A subtle change in word choice puts you back in control and allows you to regain ownership of the outcome.

The next time you’re talking to a client, pause for a moment to listen to the language you’re using — are you subconsciously putting a negative spin on the situation and giving them a reason to doubt you? Or are you demonstrating that you can get the job done professionally and effectively?

Here are seven phrases that that can negatively affect the outcome of your conversations, along with some better alternatives. By paying close attention to the words you choose, you're taking control of your relationship with clients.

Phrase 1: “Here’s the Problem”

Your clients don’t want to hear about a problem associated with selling or buying their home; they’d rather know what you’re going to do to solve it. Instead, use words like challenge or opportunity. These words imply action, as in “Here’s our challenge — we need to fix up this house on a small budget! Let’s talk about where to start.”

Phrase 2: “I’ll Try”

This phrase is laden with doubt. It gives the impression that you’ve already concluded that you will not be able to help them. Instead, consider using I will. If you aren’t positive that you can deliver on the promise, explain what you’ll do to achieve the goal. Then provide a few paths you will take as an alternative approach, if necessary.

Phrase 3: “But”

This word is often an “I can’t” in disguise. For instance: “We’ll market your property at this price but I can’t guarantee it will sell.” Instead, use the word and, as in “I will market your property at this price for four weeks and if we don’t receive any offers, I’m going to ask you for a price adjustment.”

Phrase 4: “You Should”

This phrase kills marriages as well as sales. Down deep, you may want to say, “You should paint the exterior and remove all of these dead shrubs,” but instead consider ways to rephrase it so that you're creating a sense of empowerment. This is a better way to phrase it: “If we paint the exterior of the house and work a bit on the landscaping, we'll be in a better position to increase the asking price.”

Phrase 5: “You Have To”

As in, “You have to list at this price if you want to get any activity." Phrases such as this one often make people mad simply because it takes away their sense of control. Instead, say “You can position this property anywhere in the market that fits your needs, remembering that homes sell faster at one price compared with another.”

Phrase 6: “It’s Not My Fault”

This phrase is a quiet killer. Odds are good that you don’t say it out loud to your clients, but even when you think it they can hear you. If something goes wrong, forget whose fault it is. Instead, focus on a solution by affirming “I am in complete control of the outcome and responsible for what I do next.”

Phrase 7: “No Problem”

Sounds harmless, right? Not so fast. I’ve always believed that you should never answer someone’s request with “no problem.” It implies that the request could have been a problem, or that it was almost a problem. Indirectly, the phrase can evoke negative emotions, whether you meant it or not. Instead, try answering with a simple It’s my pleasure.

Simple But True

Some of these ideas may seem rather simple. The good news is, they are! It's really just a matter of understanding that the subtlest changes in your choice of words can produce the biggest wins. With a little practice, I'm confident that you will begin to see how a few subtle word changes can have a remarkable impact on your success.