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By Tara-Nicholle Nelson | Broker in San Francisco, CA

What Sellers Say vs. What Buyers Hear

My doctor recently confided in me that physicians have a golden rule when it comes to getting an accurate estimate of how much alcohol their patients drink on a daily basis. They take whatever number of drinks you enter on the patient information form, then multiply it by a factor of three!

While comedic (if slightly troubling), this rule is not that dissimilar from how home buyers approach the art and science of translating home sale listing-speak into what they think is a more accurate understanding of the property’s characteristics and condition.

Just as property staging creates a somewhat contrived scenario buyers can imagine their own families taking part in, property listing descriptions have evolved into a sort of verbal staging exercise where sellers and agents may create an artificial ‘scenario’ that belies the true state of the property.  Fortunately for savvy sellers, there’s another parallel between physical and verbal home staging: it’s all about the edit.

Removing well-intentioned but counterproductive verbal clutter from your listing is simple, but not easy. It starts with understanding what buyers take away from your words vs. what you truly meant or intended to convey.  Here, to start building that understanding, are four common areas of big-time disconnects between what sellers say and what buyers hear.

Sellers Say:
  Comfortable, beloved, in the family for generations.

Buyers Hear:  Lots of room, but probably lots of broken stuff to fix, too. Things probably need to be jiggled or turned twice before you yank hard to get them open.  Think: scuff marks.

In all honesty, most buyers love to hear the story of how the sellers’ Great Granny and PaPa met right before the War, then built this house with their own hands and sweat when he came back, raising a family there and watching the town grow up around them.  But they generally like to hear those stories about spruced up, great looking, well-prepared homes they have already fallen in love with.  Leading with this material in a listing is like waving a red flag that warns of a serious probability that:

·         The kitchen surfaces and appliances were last updated in the 60’s (for some reason, it’s rarely the cute 30’s and 40’s machines that survive – families tend to get stuck on the marigold and pea green formica stage);

·         The furnace is so old it is powered by a team of chipmunks on a treadmill, and that the house has similarly ‘vintage’ electrical and plumbing systems (i.e., the same water pressure as a schoolyard drinking fountain); and that

·         You (Seller) will blubber with tears on closing day (which might actually happen, and wouldn’t even be the worst thing in the world).

Part of the problem is that when people hear “multi-generational family home” they tend to think of Tara from Gone with the Wind, or Hearst Castle – or the house from the 80’s drama Dallas. So when the first “Grandma’s house” they see turns out to be a little old house that someone took great care of for 50 years, but hasn’t been upgraded in the same period of time, it bursts their whole bubble and sours their expectations about similar ‘family’ homes. 

My advice is to avoid leading with these sorts of descriptors unless the place is also recently remodeled, and to be super realistic about pricing this sort of property in accordance with any system upgrades that are overdue.

Sellers Say:  Seller Will Carry, Some Seller Financing for Qualified Buyer, Seller will carry a 10% note.

Buyers Hear:  I’ll offer them $1,000 and they’ll give me their house, with low monthly payments!

This one is all about wishful thinking; there’s just something about a buyer on a mission to buy a home – especially one who has trouble qualifying – that makes many of them willing to suspend disbelief and come up with scenarios that are simply too good (for them) and bad (for you) to be true.  Part of the problem is that for years, many people were brainwashed by those guys on the late night infomercials into thinking that buying a home is and should be just that simple (the other part of the problem is that for a number of years, it actually was – particularly during the subprime era).

Sellers who are willing to carry financing on a home generally need a hefty chunk of change up front in order to pay off the mortgage, make their next move or simply feel comfortable signing any interest in their home over to someone who can’t come up with the down payment or the other qualifications to get a ‘regular’ bank mortgage. 

But offering some seller financing – especially in a market where homes are having a tough time appraising or many buyers are fresh out of foreclosure – is such a strong selling point, that it is worth touting in the listing, if you’re willing to do it. Talk with your agent about how to skillfully state the specifics of your seller financing terms in a way that makes clear you’re not ready to give away the farm and finance it, too.

Sellers Say:  Sweet, charming, darling, cute, cozy.

Buyers Hear: Tiny, shoebox, claustrophobic. Or, overly accessorized, with doilies, lace drapes and flowered/striped wallpaper over pink carpet.

Let me be clear, today’s buyers like a classic look just as much – maybe more – than ever before. But when you use these saccharine marketing terms the visual you paint is much more frilly than today’s popular versions of a traditional aesthetic.  Unless your home actually does feature lots of pink carpet and flowered wallpaper (in which case engaging a stager might be in order), consider going with keywords that trigger images of a sleeker, classic look.  One quick and easy shortcut to spark the visuals you want is to reference the popular stores, home improvement shows and décor magazines that are most similar to your home’s design aesthetic, like Shabby Chic, Pottery Barn or Restoration Hardware.  (Caution: if you choose to go this route, please do make sure that you reference the right brands.  Failing to do so is a quick way to create a disaster. Imagine the scene of a Mad Men-styled, Design Within Reach-loving  buyer being shown a linen-ruffled Shabby Chic home. Quelle horreur!)

And if your home is small – buyers will know it by the square footage entry on the listing!  Calling it cozy is not going to make someone interested in a 400 square foot home if they weren’t in the market for something that small in the first place, so ditch the diminutives.

Sellers Say: Up-and-coming neighborhood, upside potential, amazing investment, sweat equity.

Buyers Hear: This place is falling apart! (And you might just have to dodge bullets on the way in and out, to boot.)

Buyers read this marketing lingo for a place or an area that is not being all that it can be, and two things occur:

(1)    All but the most intrepid fixer-seeker-outer starts doing what my doctor does and multiplying whatever you said by a factor of three, awfulizing the property or neighborhood “issues” on the assumption that whatever is said in the listing is likely a vast understatement.

(2)    They start mentally adding zeros to the budget they’ll need for repairs and visualizing how they’ll negotiate down from the list price before they ever step foot in the property.

The Catch-22 for sellers is that if you actually understate the repairs needed or try to price the place high to account for negotiating room, chances are good you’ll have some very angry visitors come to the property, who will feel misled that you didn’t flag the property problems ahead of time. Or you’ll get no showings or offers at all.

So, what’s a seller to do? Most online house hunting searches are so sophisticated that buyers are searching by street, neighborhood, zip code, radius around a focal point or other geographic boundaries. Since buyers already know where your home is, I’d stay away from neighborhood descriptors unless your neighborhood has already up and come.  Instead, just use the name of your area or district without describing it – and let buyers opt in or out based on their own research into the neighborhood. (And talk with your agent about even naming neighborhood names; this is a sensitive subject in some areas.)

If your home needs a basic cosmetic makeover, do it before you list the home.  Do whatever you can afford.  If your home needs more serious work than that, though, don’t try to make your fixer sound like a fabulous deal unless its location, price or other characteristics actually render it a truly fabulous deal!  Call it like it really is; consider even stating factually, in the listing, what systems need repair, after you mention the strong selling points.  Omitting them in the listing is not going to trick someone who doesn’t want to do the repairs into buying the place, and if your place is a home only a serious handyman or investor could love, then you might actually attract the right people to the property by pointing out that the windows are new but the roof and water heater might need replacing.

Also consider some or all of the following steps – consult with your agent about what makes sense in your situation:

·         obtaining a home inspection report and repair bids in advance,

·         pricing your home to account for those repair expenses the buyer will have to incur (with an extra discount for their trouble, if you’re serious about selling), and

·         asking your agent to include in the agent-only online listing these documents and an explanation of the pricing strategy.

It might sound like a lot of trouble, but the extra work is one of very few options you have to differentiate your home from all the fixer short sales and foreclosures on the market.

Sellers: You may not have participated in writing your home’s description or been aware that it carries that much weight with buyers. If your home is on the market, make sure you visit its online listings around the web and review the listing description your agent has entered, if you haven’t before.

Agents and Buyers: What other home listing marketing lingo do you perceive as a signal of something negative about the property?

  • P.S. - You should follow Trulia and Tara on Facebook!   


By David Chiles,  Wed Apr 11 2012, 22:17
Great post. I love the way you use examples to explain what you mean. Every blog post you write is excellent. In this one I particularly like the advice you give about the word "cozy" because I have not met anyone yet who likes to hear the word cozy. It's a code word for undesirable.
By Taj Weldon 209-740-4176,  Thu Apr 12 2012, 09:13
Excellent post as usual.
By Timothy M. Garrity,  Thu Apr 12 2012, 09:16
Excellent post, Tara.

Timothy M. Garrity - REALTOR® | http://phillyurbanliving.com
By Sylvia Jonathan,  Thu Apr 12 2012, 09:22
"No homes behind" = backing to parking lot, rail tracks, highways, school
By Sandy Le Roy,  Thu Apr 12 2012, 09:34
I don't agree that property staging "creates a somewhat contrived scenario". Perhaps so, if done by the agent or other amateur stagers, but true professionals know that editing the contents of a house and presenting it so that attention is focused on its selling features creates a more honest product, rather than a fairy tale. I agree that editing is crucial, whether it's tangible or verbal, and that pre-listing cosmetic fixes and a home inspection are always a sound strategy, in addition to realistic pricing from the outset.
By Diane Kniskern,  Thu Apr 12 2012, 09:42
"Nestled" = .54 acres.
By Ssbluesky,  Thu Apr 12 2012, 09:43
"plenty of privacy and seclusion" = you can hear wolves howling at night
"too many upgrades to mention" = I don't know what's good about this home either
OR you can expect to pay dearly because the owner thinks it's better than any other home in the neighborhood
By Margaret & Martin Jackson,  Thu Apr 12 2012, 09:43
Here in Florida, we provide a copy of the completed MLS listing to the seller, and they sign that they have received it. This helps make sure that everyone is on the same page.
By Michael Messinger,  Thu Apr 12 2012, 09:43
when a listing says "Priced to Sell" or "Priced to Move" is a bad because does anyone intentially price a home not to sell? If the home lingers and has multiple price drops, it just looks ridonkulous
By Michael Messinger,  Thu Apr 12 2012, 09:46
Also, Designer or Chef's Kitchen that really isn't. Same with a spa bathroom, having a tub with whirlpool jets does not make it a spa bathroom. Move-In Ready when you really mean Move-in Condition. And please don't say steps to Metra/Train/Transit when it's more than a mile away.
By Mira Hornbeak,  Thu Apr 12 2012, 10:06
In GA "Price to sell" = on the market for too long!

You did it again Tara!! informative and comical.. love it
By Diane Kniskern,  Thu Apr 12 2012, 10:08
Here are some actual quotes I've saved from listings:

"Large Home On A Secluded, Wooded Hilltop Less Than 3 Miles From Wal-Mart."

"Wonderful metal home .... this BIG metal building has three garage doors on three sides... the other side is the house. (It is possible to add more living space on top of this home)."

"The land is beautiful. It sits at a level that displays the countryside."

"Living Room and Dining Room with gorgeous wooden windows!"

"luxury home in a 0.4 acre woodland setting"

"open home with extremly liveable plan"

And speaking of misunderstanding the meaning:

"a select opportunity to own a beautiful remodeled home, ajoining world class (name of state) stud"

"Ready to move into and use as a breeding facility 120'x 350' lit arena with stripping chute."

"creek for privacy"

By Ortrun Niesar,  Thu Apr 12 2012, 10:27
I agree with Sandy. A good property deserves sensitive and sensible professional preparation for the market. If done right, pre-listing cosmetic fixes and honest staging, simply bring out the best in a property at that phase of its life. This is great service to both sellers and buyers. We have all seen the amazing difference proper presentation of a home makes in the market. And we all know that the cost of the enhancement, if kept within appropriate parameters, is easily recouped. I hope that by now all Realtors consider pre-listing preparation of a property an essential service that should at least be offered to all clients.
By Katie Hateley,  Thu Apr 12 2012, 10:34
Love the blog...and the saved listing information in Diane Kniskern's post....love the breeding facility one..I was literally laughing at my desk rather loudly....
By Birdwatcher,  Thu Apr 12 2012, 10:49
Yes, I love the way realtors advertise property proximities. I well remember wanting to buy a home in Oakland, CA near Lake Merritt. I was shown stuff about 15-20 miles away "near the lake". And don't get me started on building contractors!
By Nirmala Caraballo,  Thu Apr 12 2012, 10:57
Great post. Well said. The most unsual written language I have seen in a listing is "Four family house, no kitchen"
By Monique Cole,  Thu Apr 12 2012, 10:57
Creating good listing text and photos -- just like staging -- is all about framing the perception of the buyer. You want to highlight the best features of the home and help the buyer imagine what it would be like living there. But you don't want to create unrealistic expectations, either. One of my least favorite phrases is "motivated seller," which to me translates to, "I'm desperate, low-ball me, please!"
By Shawn Hertzog,  Thu Apr 12 2012, 10:59
Great Post Tara!
I always remind my buyer clients that the Realtor adds normally start with the properties strong points.... if the house is barley mentioned - look for something else.
By Jeklo24,  Thu Apr 12 2012, 11:10
Michael...that's not always true. Many times people have job offers in different cities or states and need to move fast. A quick sale is not always one that needs to be regarded as "fishy"...Hell, I bought my first house last summer and it was priced below market by around $10k...I wondered why as I headed to go look at it and kind of expected to see some issues however, I found out the owner had it for over 10 years and had been renting it out. He was done with the rental and wanted out quick. Makes sense to me and I got a great deal out of it. Brand new roof, and a/c unit, new tile and wood floors, and walls freshly painted. Aside from an $8 fix to a toilet the day I got my keys my house seemed brand new. The house was built in 1995. Anyway, sometimes you just get a good deal.
By Katherine Trice,  Thu Apr 12 2012, 11:16
"original owner" or "one owner home" = outdated and in need of EVERYTHING!!
By John Stapleton,  Thu Apr 12 2012, 11:16
"Won't Last!" is one of my favorites. Agent means it won't be on the market long. Buyer may take it literally - the house won't last.
By Darlene,  Thu Apr 12 2012, 11:27
I have been looking at houses for the past couple of years and I won't even consider looking at a house unless there are pictures. The pictures, most of the time, appear to be trying to sell the furniture instead of the house. I sometimes can't picture what room I'm looking at because it's a corner and the focus is the chair. Also, homes that have walls painted with blues, greens, yellow says to me that #1, I'm going to have to paint before I can even move in. Let me see how the rooms connect, ie, kitchen... can I see the next room or where does the next room attach to it, at least let me see the doors. I'm also interested in what the back yard looks like. Is it a useable back yard or is it just sitting there as extra space. I was looking at a house and it was beautiful, serene, then I came upon a room that turned me off until I realized that if I didn't look at the bedspread and the matching everything else that was bright blue and red (it was a child's room) that the room without those colors looked pretty good and followed the rest of the house.
By Suet,  Thu Apr 12 2012, 11:37
Unique kitchen= Only the owner could love
Unique opportunity = Buy this and watch your money disappear
Also; In an area where there are many HOA's the NO HOA in a listing can be a red flag too, I checked out several NO HOA properties and found what would be the neighbors had cars on blocks, trash bags across the front yard, another house directly across from a property that was on market had several "shrines" on the front yard and a huge religious symbol on the front door, every car in the driveway had extremist bumper stickers and the man was yelling at what I assume was his wife. Did not go back with the realtor to check them out! Better to list the HOA fee(s) and be prepared.
By Karen Bremer,  Thu Apr 12 2012, 11:38
So true! But it's always what ISN'T said that I try to figure out. "Gorgeous newer home with amazing views" doesn't tell buyers that it's squished between two run down shacks. Look for the missing info...
By Cheryl A. Moorhouse,  Thu Apr 12 2012, 11:42
As usual, right on target Tara! One of my personal favorites is "bonus room" which usually translates to not permitted... improper wiring or plumbing... floors below grade...basically my Buyer would be taking the potential financial risk of having to produce engineer's reports, architectural plans and after-the-fact permits for someone's weekend DIY project. At worst, they could be required to totally remove an addition, reducing the square footage and value of their newly purchased home. I've been in this position personally and it cost thousands of dollars to correct. As a result, one of the first things I check for a buyer is the home sketch on the property appraisers website, the property card to verify the original footprint of the home, and THEN we read the Seller's Disclosure for mention of additions.
By Gordon Bowen,  Thu Apr 12 2012, 11:46
Pool-sized yard. Or Community pool. These are things that realtors / sellers add to get people who are looking for a house with a pool to consider their property. Eh, no: we want a swimming pool that is already built and operating. All "Pool-sized yard" or "Community pool" in the listing information does is aggravate me about wasting time reading a listing that doesn't have what I want.
By Kevin Olson & Jessica Laude,  Thu Apr 12 2012, 11:49
I think the blogs on Trulia are starting to become space fillers. Trying to use a brand in referencing the house is apparently the answer. I'm sure all of the homes in America that are Wal-Mart won't call themselves Target. Come on, I mean REALLY?
By Rjwlpw,  Thu Apr 12 2012, 11:51
Is it possible to have you look at a brochure and get your comments on it and any advise you can give me on advertising it properly?
By Olsenp,  Thu Apr 12 2012, 11:57
I've learned that "charming" means old, small, and usually run down. "Vintage" just means old, maybe run down. "needs TLC" means very run down. "investment opportunity" means it needs a lot of updating. "Easy access to town" means it backs up to a major highway. "Only 20 minutes to town" means it's way out in the boondocks, at least 30 minutes from town.
By jamiedee58,  Thu Apr 12 2012, 11:59
In the '70's the appliances were "Harvest Gold" and "Avacado"
By raymondlrussell,  Thu Apr 12 2012, 12:00
What about a unique setting on a pond with easy drive to the mall; and when we looked at the home the pond was a drainage run off borrow pit and high voltage power lines running down the side a block away with a 4 lane road behind the home.
By Thomas Pfeifer,  Thu Apr 12 2012, 12:13
My favorite is when all the pictures in the listing say below the pictures "exterior front" when you are looking at a kitchen or bathroom. I want to print these listings and send them to the seller and see what they think of their realtor who cannot take the time to change the captions.
By Dom,  Thu Apr 12 2012, 12:13
Realtors need to learn how to take photos too and also take a LOT of them. I don't want to waste my time driving around town looking at homes. Many are shopping online for homes. Loooong descriptions and photos are currently helping me look for homes from a distance. And please write descriptions for short sales and foreclosures also. Realtor.com, Zillow, and Trulia are where I am looking at homes. Don't put your full listing on your company's website. I am not going to visit each and every local realtors websites for better photos and descriptions.
By Laureen Fulton,  Thu Apr 12 2012, 12:27
Well said with great advice on verbiage. I had a fellow agent list a property with me and he wrote in comments "Good traffic flow." Another example of poor verbiage. Maybe something like Prize winning open floor-plan lends a spacious environment for entertaining or just relaxing.
By Stacy Erickson,  Thu Apr 12 2012, 12:28
"Tile in all the right places". Buyers from out of state always laugh at that and ask what it means exactly.
By Dan,  Thu Apr 12 2012, 12:37
I see that realtors and sellers are still in deep denial regarding the massive market of overpriced boxes. Price sells. All data is within the price. Want a real buyer? Get real on price decreases. Renting and loving it.
By Zzwoof,  Thu Apr 12 2012, 12:49
I had a (seasoned) Realtor send an (uninformed) associate to take pictures of my rooms for posting online -- without telling me he was coming. The guy took pictures of rooms with unmade beds, disarray, etc. - and I was HORRIFIED when I saw those photos online. I swear the guy even pointed the camera AT the bed, not concerned with showing the room's structure. I ended up having to take my own pictures for him and insisting they replace the bad ones. Then I had to correct errors in the text of the description. Locked in a commitment to this Realtor, I had to wait till it expired to "fire" him and sign with a new Realtor -- who got the house sold promptly. As a seller, I learned a lot about property descriptions, but it cost me dearly. (N.J.)
By Travinzo,  Thu Apr 12 2012, 13:12
Yes Suet, "No HOA" might be a red flag, but if I lived in an HOA neighborhood, I'd probably be in jail by now! Just kidding...kinda...by that I mean I have about a half acre, most of which is either hard, rocky soil (back yard), or prairie grass on hard, rocky soil (most of the front yard, except a "somewhat" landscaped area up by the house). I chose to leave the prairie grass because it's part of the natural vegetation in the area (somewhat rural, a few miles N of The People's Republic of Boulder, CO :). The backyard is the domain of my dog, and can only be seen from my neighbor's garage. An HOA would have me piss away thousands of dollars to "manicure" the yard, thousands more to pave my somewhat long, gravel driveway, rid the yard of anything and everything they considered "unsitely"....and I'm not talking about a washing machine on my front porch (got rid of that years ago...j/k again)....I'm talking about a shovel I might have left leaning against the garage, that kind of subjective, dictatorial bs. Never will I live in a neighborhood where I'm subjected to some snooty group's opinion of what's appropriate and what's not. I do understand the need to keep junk cars out of the front yards, but I'd like to think a little peer pressure and a guy named Gweedo with a bent nose might encourage a modicum of couth.
By lcomfy,  Thu Apr 12 2012, 13:28
I am currently perusing the multiples for homes in neighborhoods, yard sizes, and kitchens. We are planning to relocate back to CA after our current home is sold (we will list it next yr).

It really bothers me when the photos are of such poor quality that if we were to decide to look at any of them can't get a handle on what we would need to do for any renovations..that leaves a perfectly fine home off of our list just for that reason. It makes me think "hey this is too bad to work with" , As far with the yard size try and have the dimensions. There are a lot of us buyers that are down sizing and don't need a lot of grass!! If it doesn't have a yard just say so,,if just a patio, just say so. Sorry my 2 cents worth..;) Linda
By Tara-Nicholle Nelson,  Thu Apr 12 2012, 13:50
@Michael Messinger - I think the takeaway you're surfacing is that basically any misrepresentation of reality is bad 'verbal staging.' AGREED!
@Margaret Jackson - Smart strategy. Not a bad idea in any market.
@Ssbluesky and @Diane Kniskern: As a rule, wolves, metal buildings and breeding are not great selling points.
You all are in rare form today - smart and funny - thanks!
By Nancy.heagle33,  Thu Apr 12 2012, 14:46
By Buyer,  Thu Apr 12 2012, 15:16
I've noticed that some houses with roofs that need replacement, moss on the exterior, missing shingles, or other unfavourable aspects of the appearance will sometimes have listing photos with less resolution or even photos that are blurry. Also goes for the inside photos too in cases with scuffed up walls or other issues. Low resolution photos are a bad sign!
By Biggsales,  Thu Apr 12 2012, 15:34
The phrase that always gets my dander up is "great starter home". that is an insult to the seller and the buyer. If I were looking at the house and told it was a great starter I would wonder why I, as old as I am, could only afford what some youngsters could barely get into. It says you should be able to afford more. Don't ever list my home that way. I am a realtor and I believe it pigeonholes the home and says, You had better beware because you will fall into all kinds of problems you were too young to even think of. . .Not too mention, dumb". so for me, stay away from that phrase.
By Aaron J Ellsworth,  Thu Apr 12 2012, 16:22
I know when I see a listing say, "needs a little TLC", that really means "everything on this house is at least 20 years old and on the verge of breaking; at a minimum you'll need to redo all the flooring and paint inside and out." And that is usually what I find when I go in it.
By Kim Stanley,  Thu Apr 12 2012, 16:32
I think I will make this post required reading for ALL my clients - spot on!
By Jeremy,  Thu Apr 12 2012, 17:13
@ Diane Kniskern... whats wrong with wood windows? i prefer them over cheap looking vinyl windows, yea they may be less energy efficient but i prefer the look. same goes for vinyl siding, it looks terribly cheap and virtually every house on the block is covered in that garbage. i'll keep my wood siding and wood windows, thank you! you can keep your generic vinyl..
By Pamela Thomas,  Thu Apr 12 2012, 17:22
Great article! I agree Biggsales. I hate it when they say "starter homes". Many buyers today are downsizing from their McMansions because they want to retire and want less work! Aaron, a little TLC to me means add 50K for painting, flooring, updating and not to mention the differed maintenance from the last five to eight years of not wanting to put a dime into a home that they are never going to get back because their home is underwater! A kitchen has not be "remodeled" when all that has been done is new appliances and counter tops!
By Diane Haroutunian,  Thu Apr 12 2012, 17:57
Great article and comments. Bottom line is it really doesn't matter what anyone writes so long as the home is priced correctly. Pictures are equally important because the first impression is the photo, which generally attracts the buyer.. Usually a buyer will read the description ONLY after they LIKE the photos of the home. So my word of advice, invest in a good camera, or hire a photographer, and keep your descriptions short and to the point, because all the creative jargon will NOT sell the home, however a competitive sale price will :)
By Julie Schaefer,  Thu Apr 12 2012, 18:34
Love these posts!! I am a newer agent and even though I may lack experience, I look at some listings and can not believe the misspelled words, horrible pictures, as if the listing in the MLS was thrown in as an after thought. I know it takes time to get a listing together but I feel we owe it to our sellers to be accurate, concise, and honest.
By Julie Schaefer,  Thu Apr 12 2012, 18:38
Love these posts!! I am a newer agent and even though I may lack experience, I look at some listings and can not believe the misspelled words, horrible pictures, as if the listing in the MLS was thrown in as an after thought. I know it takes time to get a listing together but I feel we owe it to our sellers to be accurate, concise, and honest.
By Diane Kniskern,  Thu Apr 12 2012, 19:05
@Jeremy.... the topic was, "What Sellers Say vs. What Buyers Hear."
When you say "wood windows" or "vinyl windows," you are obviously referring to the material of which the sash is made. Perfectly logical. When I say I'm looking out of the "window," I am referring to the glass. So when I read in the listing, "gorgeous wooden windows," my mind momentarily envisioned wood in place of the glass. Totally illogical, I realize, but that was the picture in my mind.
By Jennifer Romiti,  Thu Apr 12 2012, 19:29
Love it...Great Blog :) Fun to read!
By Michael Javick,  Thu Apr 12 2012, 22:06
The banksters are keeping 'HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS' of properties off the market... They are trying to fleece the public with WAY WAY overpriced homes--duh
By Carlos A Cardo,  Fri Apr 13 2012, 05:34
Very interesting post and at times humorous. Staging to me is more important when you have a unique room that could be a den, studio, office, bedroom, etc... why not give folks an idea. In an empty room sometimes size can be deceiving. As far as the description, everything is local. There may be a place that people WANT to have a view or seclusion but still desire at least a shopping place within a few minutes. I have travelled this country extensively and what sounds ridiculous in one city is superb in another. Having said that.... I strongly agree with an earlier post. Just like recipes, start with the most influential aspect of the house in writing, pictures, and video!!!!! If it is on the beach, show the waterfront as as 2nd or 1st picture! I wish agents would stop taking pictures of toilets, crap on the counter, a blank wall, a very regular looking window, trash cans, dogs (I am a dog lover) and so on. A listing without the outside picture or no inside pictures is usually a killer! Also, if there is a unique color or feature such as dated retro bathroom, take a picture. Most people will hate it, but there is someone just like the owner that will love the retro look or color! As an Accredited Buyer's Representative let me say that Buyers hate to be fooled!!! I have had buyers that actually like the black and white checkered tile! People form thoughts about people and things alike. As long as you have all your senses, you usually start with appearance, first in pictures then in words, followed by a visit to the property, vision, odors, feel, sounds, (I wouldn't go tasting though), and then questions and answers to see if a relationship is possible and so on! Thoughts???....
By Carlos A Cardo,  Fri Apr 13 2012, 05:35
Very interesting post and at times humorous. Staging to me is more important when you have a unique room that could be a den, studio, office, bedroom, etc... why not give folks an idea. In an empty room sometimes size can be deceiving. As far as the description, everything is local. There may be a place that people WANT to have a view or seclusion but still desire at least a shopping place within a few minutes. I have travelled this country extensively and what sounds ridiculous in one city is superb in another. Having said that.... I strongly agree with an earlier post. Just like recipes, start with the most influential aspect of the house in writing, pictures, and video!!!!! If it is on the beach, show the waterfront as as 2nd or 1st picture! I wish agents would stop taking pictures of toilets, crap on the counter, a blank wall, a very regular looking window, trash cans, dogs (I am a dog lover) and so on. A listing without the outside picture or no inside pictures is usually a killer! Also, if there is a unique color or feature such as dated retro bathroom, take a picture. Most people will hate it, but there is someone just like the owner that will love the retro look or color! As an Accredited Buyer's Representative let me say that Buyers hate to be fooled!!! I have had buyers that actually like the black and white checkered tile! People form thoughts about people and things alike. As long as you have all your senses, you usually start with appearance, first in pictures then in words, followed by a visit to the property, vision, odors, feel, sounds, (I wouldn't go tasting though), and then questions and answers to see if a relationship is possible and so on! Thoughts???....
By Sharon Vest,  Fri Apr 13 2012, 08:32
Don't you just love the listings that detail the "fabulous kitchen", "gorgeous landscaping", "spectacular views" but nary a photo of the highlights or better yet, one photo of the home from the street?
By Pat Wilhite,  Fri Apr 13 2012, 09:40
I agree with a post by Rjwlpw that it would be very helpful if you would take a half dozen or so listing descriptions or flyers and show what can be done to create a better description. I always read your blogs and learn from them but in this case I needed to hear more about what works, as well as what doesn't. Can you do a follow up?
By Jamiejet,  Fri Apr 13 2012, 11:21
'Cozy' = comfort, homey, inviting. 'Remodeled' and 'updated' mean that charm and the best qualities have been removed and/or uglified. INSTANT TURN-OFFS are beige, gray, mucous green, kittylitter-colored walls, and other instant slum tones. Also, stainless steel kitchen appliances create an autopsy-room effect. Vinyl siding, aluminum siding, 70s wood paneling, w/w carpet, dropped-ceilings, chain-link fences are repellent. TURN-ONS: claw-foot tubs, bathrooms with vintage 30s-60s tile work, kitchens with older appliances, cabinets, pantries; wide window-sills, balconies, porches, trees.
By Ellisaana,  Fri Apr 13 2012, 16:03
As a buyer looking to relocate to another state, I spend a lot of time looking at online listings.
We have to plan trips to view actual houses.
In addition to realty listings, we also look at tax assessment sites, flood plain maps, long views on Google maps and, if available, we will even do neighborhood "walk arounds" to get a general feel for a location before we decide whether a property fits in our short list to be visited.
Good photos on a listing are essential.
-If a listing doesn't have any interior photos, or only has a few poor photos, it will probably land on the reject list.
-Photographs of the seller's furniture in place of showing the actual room are a real turn-off.
If, in a bedroom photo, the only thing I can see is a 4 poster bed, the room is probably too small for the bed.
-Close ups of cabinets, built-ins,, architectural detail, and quality woodwork are good.
-Photos CENTERED ON the seller's art choices, country quilts, animal trophies (ugh!) and other types of portable decor are a turn off.
-When photographing a garage, I want to see a long shot to give size/space perspective.
Unless the seller intends to leave his vintage sports car behind with the house, I don't need to see it.
Same thing applies to photos of horses and of workshop equipment.
Will they convey with the house? If not, showing photos of them is a waste of space.
We are looking for a house with some acreage (ideally 2-5, but maybe more)
So, please, please list lot size. (I can convert square feet to acres)
Other things that are good to know:
- which floor the master bedroom is on,
-where the laundry room is located (who wants to drag dirty laundry through a kitchen)
-length and composition of driveway
-It is nice to see good exterior photos but keep in mind, if the property has warts, i.e. it's next to a pig farm, a quarry, a junkyard or it has high tension wires running through the backyard, those problems can't be disguised. They will show up on satellite images and assessment maps.

By eleanor hartmann,  Fri Apr 13 2012, 22:45
Your imformation was great, however,how about the REAL ESTATE PERSONS who do the same thing?

Now I AM REALLY SCARED about selling my place,its small,millions of cats live nextdoor,needs fixing,dogs bark,neighbor has a motorcycle but he is good person,WELL maybe the person showing my place, will keep theirmouth shut and it will sell by price alone.

P.S. I have gotten my financing with a $1,000.00 down,offered a high interest rate and paid off mtg off in 10 yrs instead of 15given.
By Allan Erps,  Sat Apr 14 2012, 03:58
Great post as usual Tara!!
By Barry Magee,  Sun Apr 15 2012, 16:55
Part of the job of a realtor is to be a translator of sort - sellers often hear what they want to hear that is for sure. We need to be the devil's advocate in a lot of situations without coming across as negative. Very fine line!

Barry - http://vancouverpropertylink.ca
By Esther Pierre Louis,  Mon Apr 16 2012, 07:39
What does all those abreviations mean that sellers sometimes put in their ads?
By Judy Rauber,  Tue Apr 17 2012, 04:43
I'm a Seller - and a realtor.........and I hate the fact so many buyers think that because a home is over 20+ years, it's outdated, etc. Many of the older homes in Holiday Island were built with 6" walls and had REAL fireplaces and copper plumbing.............and some of the newer-built homes will look like they're falling apart in 20 years! The secret to owning any home at whatever age is MAINTENANCE/UPKEEP. That costs and buyers need to understand that fact. Updating and replacing items at certain points is what keeps a home looking younger......and that goes for the yard also. Take out those overgrown bushes - or better yet why not do some real landscaping.........if a seller doesn't have the talent, they better find someone who does - and do it!
By Sharon Paxson,  Tue Apr 17 2012, 22:36
Great post here and there are typically different messages from what sellers believe or say to what buyers hear.
By Curious Person,  Sun Apr 22 2012, 13:19
I have been in the home hunting scenario for almost 6 years. I have personally been on line viewing the photos as presented by the Agents, and believe you me, they ALL only present the BEST VIEW, and omit the unsightly back yard and the like. So, it is not only the sellers who fudge on the info, the agents are equally to blame.

So, home hunters, do your research, and even if you have to travel out of state to view the property, as I have and will continue to do, you just have to spend your money and DO IT.

Also, you really want to visit all these neighborhoods during the evening and dark part of the day so as to find out for certain how hard it is to navigate the roads and whether there are street lighting systems that work. There are literally dozens of things to consider, so MAKE A LIST and REVISE IT as time goes and visits mount.
By Heather Mcrae,  Mon Apr 30 2012, 21:27
I'll never forget a newspaper ad that began with "cute, cozy dollhouse", and I immediately read "small, small, small".
By Russell Grether,  Tue May 8 2012, 14:49
Great article. Sellers and buyers need to be aware of the affects of language to describe listings! Very fine line!

By Voices Member,  Tue May 21 2013, 13:16
I always find it so interesting how much different the goals of the buyer and the seller are... It is amazing.

David | http://aercmn.com
By Voices Member,  Wed Jul 3 2013, 13:35
I think that it is amazing how buyers and sellers see things so differently. Excellent insights, Tara!

David | http://www.abakhan.com/consumer_proposals.html
By Voices Member,  Wed Jul 3 2013, 13:50
Sellers can be so incredibly confusing. Thank you for explaining them a little bit more, Tara! :)

David | http://www.asapplumbingandrooter.com/asapdraincleaning.html
By Voices Member,  Tue Sep 24 2013, 14:37
I feel like the buyers rarely hear what I am saying! I am going to try and use this article to better myself! :)

David | http://www.endlesscatalogs.com/lingeriecatalogs.aspx

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