Sapphire Agent Examines WSJ Listing of the Year Contest

A key step in preparing a home for sale is creating its listing for Sapphire’s online MLS. It’s part science—getting all the physical details exactly right (trickier than you’d think)—and part invention. The goal is to devise phrasing that accurately portrays the property’s unique appeal without relying on clichés.

So it’s not surprising that when The Wall Street Journal sent out the email plea for all its Mansion magazine readers to “vote for the listing of the year,” it struck pay dirt around here. Oh boy! We’d be able to compare our Sapphire listing efforts with the best-of-the-best from around the globe! Visions of an online Academy Awards-type show for real estate listing writers materialized…

But from the start, there were issues. For one thing, there was the actual ‘ballot’ itself. These best-of-the-best listings: there were 65 of them. It made for one of those bottomless web pages. You keep going down and down and down through listing after listing, yet the slider on the side of the screen barely moves. Then there were the listings themselves. They all seemed to be for multi-million dollar estates…

Then there were the photos that illustrated the entries; they weren’t exactly typical. In our online Sapphire listings, all the photos are on an equal footing: the curbside glamor shot has to fit into the prescribed thumbnail space. None is larger than any other; fair is fair, after all. But here, these best-of-the-best listings seemed to have gigantic, travel poster-sized blowups…some taken from helicopters (or, for the larger estates, perhaps satellites) …and all of them looked like they’d been lifted straight off the cover of Architectural Digest…

As for the part of the contest that should have been most relevant—the language—there was little of use. “A PENTHOUSE WITH BUILT-IN PARKING” read one headline. It appeared above the photo of a contented-looking Ferrari, which seemed to be parked in a gleaming marble hallway. The car looked to be enjoying its own panoramic view of The City. Below it, the copy started out, “This Manhattan residence features a ‘sky garage’” (which turns out to be an elevator that the car can take from the apartment down to the street). The text leaves to your imagination whether or not the auto might decide to tip the concierge at Christmas. The asking price (clearly set to appeal to the economy-minded) was $19.9 million.

Then there was the South Carolina home, illustrated with a “listing” photo that must have been taken from orbit. It bore the understated headline, “A SEASIDE ESTATE ON KIAWAH ISLAND.” The descriptive text began, “The South Carolina home features 5,000 square feet of verandas, walkways and porches…”

In fact, all of the candidates for Listing of the Year were like that. It was pretty clear that the skill of the listing writers was not what was on display here. In fact, the contest’s small print admitted that the ‘ballot’ was simply a way for the Wall Street Journal to reprise their paid ‘Listing of the Day’ ads.

I’m happy to report that our own Sapphire listings do their job without having to rely on ‘perks’ like penthouse car elevators. I hope you will give me a call when the time arrives for putting together your own Sapphire listing!

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