As more prospective buyers take to the internet for the home search process, an increasing number of builders and real estate agents are taking their products online. That’s fueling heightened competition when it comes to what offerings consumers see first. Though 88% of homebuyers in 2016 worked with a real estate agent to seek out the property they would later purchase, roughly half (44%) used the internet for research first.
While certain keywords can help give a listing more online exposure to potential buyers, better SEO can also help move homes at a higher price. In Zillow’s analysis of 24,000 home sales, lower-end ones labeled “luxurious” often outsold their expected price by 8.2%. Higher-end homes called “captivating” tended to outdo their expected price by 6.5%.
Word choice is critical when it comes to how businesses and their products are described to potential buyers. Zillow found that words such as “potential,” “fixer” and “TLC” tended to have a negative effect on listings’ final sale prices.
In an analysis of more than 1 million sales closed in 2016, CoreLogic found that certain descriptors had positive or negative effects on home listings and how much time they spent on the market. Phrases such as “fenced backyard,” “open concept,” “natural light” and “updated kitchen” had the greatest favorable effect on home sales. Words that suggested less-affordable properties, such as “gourmet kitchen,” “ceramic tile,” “golf course” and “custom built” spent more time on the market.
Check out the nine most dangerous listing descriptors below. (Zillow)
The word “fixer” implies “fixer-upper.” While a fixer-upper may not seem out of place among lower-priced homes, most buyers expect mid- and high-priced homes to be move-in ready. The numbers back this up. Among the 24,000 home sales analyzed, listings in the mid-price range with the word “fixer” sold for 11.1 percent less on average than expected.
“TLC” falls in the same camp as “fixer.” However in this case, both low- and high-priced homes took a hit when they were described as needing tender loving care. Listings in the bottom tier that mentioned “TLC” sold for 4.2 percent less, and homes in the top tier mentioning “TLC” sold for 8.7 percent less on average than expected.
While you may think you’re putting a positive spin on “needs work” by saying a home needs “a few cosmetic updates,” a buyer likely doesn’t want to hear this. On average, high-priced listings with the word “cosmetic” sold for 7.5 percent less than expected.
While someone looking to buy an investment property might like to see the word “investment,” for the majority of home buyers it signals a home has seen better days. Low-priced listings described as an “investment” sold for 6.6 percent less on average than expected.
Like “investment,” “investor” is a great word for attracting someone who is looking to flip or rent out a property. But for home buyers, it can imply a home is rundown and cheap. For high-priced homes, this might make buyers think there is room to negotiate. And data shows top-tier listings with the word “investor” sold for 6.6 percent less on average than expected.
You might see a home described as “having potential,” but this signals it isn’t a finished product. You don’t want to communicate this to buyers looking for a move-in ready home. In fact, lower-priced homes with “potential” in the listing description sold for 4.3 percent less on average than expected.
As soon as we hear “bargain,” we’re unfortunately wired to think the opposite. If you think your home is a great deal, a good rule of thumb is to let the price speak for itself. Mid-priced homes described as a bargain sold for 3.5 percent less on average than expected.
While high-priced homes may be described as an “opportunity to live on the water” or an “opportunity to live like royalty,” the context isn’t typically so positive in listing descriptions for low-priced homes. In this case, you might expect to see “house-flipping opportunity” or “investment opportunity,” which can have negative connotations for buyers. Listings in this price tier with the word “opportunity” sold for 2 percent less on average than expected.
Like “opportunity,” the word “nice” typically has a positive meaning in listings for high-priced homes — “nice view” or “nice wine cellar,” for example. But for low- and mid-priced homes, “nice” is highly subjective, especially if it’s used generally to say “a nice home.” The buyer is left to interpret what “nice” means. Likely because of this ambiguity, low- and mid-priced listings with the word “nice” sold for about 1 percent less on average than expected.