Tag Archives: Listings

Top 10 Listing Phrases Might Not Attract Highlands Home Hunters

4-7-16-listingphrasesIt’s small wonder that with this spring’s selling season underway, Highlands’s house hunters can afford to be a discriminating bunch—they have the luxury of picking and choosing from a crop of truly inviting offerings. And it doesn’t hurt that today’s low mortgage interest rates have enabled more Highlands properties to fit within more family budgets.

For those of us who get to translate those home offerings into words for the Highlands listings, the job is to find phrases that draw attention to each given property’s uniquely attractive features.

But there’s another dimension that complicates things. English is a rich and powerful language, but when it comes to marketing lingo, it’s also true that these days everyone is being deluged 24/7 by vivid advertising claims. We’ve all developed callouses when it comes to the ballyhooing we get from every quarter.

Today’s house hunters have developed sales resistance. Times 10!

So what’s the answer for cooking up language that helps a property jump out from among the others? One way is to find out Highlands’s Top 10 listing phrases—and avoid overusing them! Same ‘ol, same ‘ol isn’t what works when the object is to attract Highlands prospects. True, some truly accurate descriptors can’t be totally avoided—but emphasizing them isn’t likely to fire many house hunters’ imaginations, either.

Here are a group of most frequently appearing Top 10 listing words and phrases—with some alternatives more likely to spark more attention from Highlands house hunters:

1. Beautiful (‘gorgeous’ ‘spectacular’ or ‘captivating’ bring more energy)
2. Hardwood floors (what kind of wood—and what hue?)
3. Stainless steel (at the very least, add ‘gleaming’ or ‘lustrous’)
4. Updated (‘renovated’ ‘remodeled’ ‘renewed’…or maybe even ‘reimagined’)
5. Private (this one is actually okay as-is…it may be a cliché, but it’s a desirable one!)
6. Spacious (puh-lese! How about ‘cavernous’ ‘commodious’ or ‘enormous’?)
7. Landscaped (another okay one, but in need of a boost—like ‘lusciously’ ‘stunningly’ or ‘exquisitely’)
8. Custom (‘tailor made’ ‘individualized’ ‘unique’ ‘personalized’ or ‘specially crafted’)
9. Clean (this is close to Top 10 listing phrase malpractice: if it’s clean, it’s surely also ‘spotless’ ‘flawless’ or ‘immaculate’)
10. Brand new (could be ‘state of the art’ ‘untouched’ ‘mint’ or ‘just completed’)

Even after a bit of polishing, those Top 10 listing phrases and words need to have a credibility boost via listing photography that illustrates what’s being promised. Putting the whole package together is just one part of the service you can count on when you give me a call!

Something Worth Keeping in Mind: Listings Don’t Wilt!

It’s probably inevitable (and may have something to do with the way our brains are wired) that when most people start looking for a home in the area, they’re automatically drawn to the new Highlands listings first. Let’s face it: all things being equal, who wouldn’t choose a new car over a used one? That’s not to say experience hasn’t taught us that ‘new’ isn’t always the best choice. Last year, NBC’s ‘new’ live version of “The Sound of Music” is one example where the new model couldn’t hold a candle to the original (even if we had seen that one a half dozen times).

Yet the impulse to look for the latest, freshest product is as automatic as going to the fresh vegetables instead of the ‘day old’ bin at the supermarket. When you’re in the hunt for a Highlands home it’s just as likely that you will opt to check out the new Highlands listings before those that have been on the market for weeks or months.

Now, there is really no reason why that isn’t a perfectly reasonable way to proceed. There is always the possibility, for instance, that a new Highlands listing has just come on the market, that it’s the most fantastically great property out there, and that by jumping on it immediately, you will steal a march on the other listing watchers—get the first showing, make the first offer, and wind up in the house of your dreams (it happens!).

If you have an energetic Highlands agent (hint: like yours truly), you may be contacted as soon as a new listing in Highlands appears that meets your requirements. Or you may have set up an internet contact alert to produce a similar heads-up automatically. These are all good ideas, as any worm-gorged early bird will agree.

But the point is, the brand new listings are not the only game in town. Even if you have already combed through the Highlands listings so often that some of them have details you can recite from memory (oh, that’s the one with the “charming entry hall cathedral ceiling”), it’s worthwhile to occasionally revisit all the listings that fit your basic criteria. Among other reasons, Highlands listings that have been on the market for a while can undergo asking price reductions. Some which you haven’t paid attention to in the past can suddenly appear when they drop into your search price range. Others which had been listed as under contract may reappear when a buyer was unable to close the deal…In short, although it’s perfectly valid to review the real estate listings with the new Highlands listings at the head of the pack, thinking of them as intrinsically superior isn’t necessarily the case. Listings aren’t lettuce. In fact, there should be a bumper sticker:

Listings don’t wilt.

An alert and energetic real estate agent is an immensely valuable partner to have when you are on the prowl for a house of your dreams. So…call me!

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!

Highlands Listing Author Reviews Listing Language Critique

Anyone who creates listings can’t help but be drawn to critiques of real estate writing. There aren’t a whole lot of those to be drawn to, so when a respected national media titan like The Wall Street Journal comes up with an essay on real estate listing language, this is one Highlands listing writer who considers it a must-read.

The poetic analysis in question appeared just last week. From the outset, it presented itself as a less than flattering critique: “Real-Estate Pros Pen Purple Prose” was the headline—with an explanatory blurb to the effect that higher-priced real estate listing lingo tends to get a little bit flowery. Never mind that the Journal put a hyphen between ‘real’ and ‘estate’—this was clearly going to be an authoritative commentary!

Bottom line: astronomical listing prices get more poetic language. In some cases, extremely poetic:

“Majestically poised along the shimmering Gulf of Mexico” was the first example quoted, for an $11 million beach home listing. The critic didn’t bother pointing out that ‘poised’ indicates that there is at least a possibility that the beach home will eventually topple into the shimmering Gulf of Mexico. Instead, the point was that the example 222-word listing includes such lyrical descriptions as the ‘unique harmony’ of this ‘haven of serenity’ suitable for ‘undisturbed reflection’ (we are left to imagine how undisturbed the serenity will be once the place pitches into the Gulf).

Unlike most literary commentators, the Journal’s critic relied on science and mathematics to underscore the evaluation. The Gulf house listing, for instance, registers at the “12th-grade reading level based on the Flesch-Kincaid scale.” (Who ever heard of that?) Mathematically, an analysis of recent samples of 1,000 listings found that the language used differed greatly depending on the listing price. For homes priced below $750,000, there were 13 words in an average sentence. Above $10 million: 18 words per sentence. Average syllables per word? $750,000 and below: 1.55. High end? 1.7 syllables. Average characters per word? –well, you get the idea!

As someone who is more than peripherally involved (there’s a 5-syllable one right there!) in creating Highlands listing prose, I feel I really should point out that the number of words per sentence, characters per word, etc., really isn’t what makes an effective listing. It needs to be attention-getting, quick and easy to read (prospects don’t dawdle over listing language, most of them scan quickly), positive—and accurate! When a buyer is attracted enough to request a property showing, it better live up to the prose (purple or not).

In case you were wondering, this blog registers a solid 8.9 on the Flesch-Kincaid. But in case you are soon to need a level-headed real estate agent to create an appealing Highlands listing that describes your own home in a way that pulls in buyers, you can call anytime!

In Search of the Most Accurate Sapphire Listings

Have you ever wondered about the way Sapphire listings appear on your screen when you search for houses for sale through one of the search engines? If you have already found a local Realtor’s® website (like this one!), it’s easy to search the Sapphire listings right from that site without bothering further. You’ll come up with the most current accurate information because it represents direct updated information from Sapphire’s multiple listing service.

But whenever you go searching for Sapphire listings through Google, Bing, or any of the other search engines (there are scads of them), you will see that what comes up will be quite different. You may find individual house listings, alternating with real estate agency home pages, mixed in with aggregators like Zillow and real estate magazine ads. Depending upon which search engine and the way you phrase your inquiry, you might actually come up with an interesting listing…or one that’s peculiarly inappropriate—like a listing from another town or state—or one that’s been out of date for months.

There are reasons for such disorder. They have to do with a historical scramble that has been going on ever since computers and the web started making house-hunting something you could do from your own living room. The logical first stage came about rapidly, as local realtors everywhere started putting their listings on their websites, then working out the technical details to allow the whole area’s MLS listings to appear.

Then came the original aggregators: Trulia, Zillow, Realtor.com—the deep-pocketed media companies that worked out ways to combine web data from all over to make listings into one gigantic national database. Except for house-hunters who weren’t set on moving to a particular area, the advantage to nationalizing the listings did not really go to the consumer—it went to the aggregators (also called ‘syndicators’). Since they could offer their information to a nation-sized audience, they could afford nation-sized advertising budgets to attract more views. Since they got more views, the search engines automatically found them to be ‘more popular’ than mere local agency sites, so their listings moved to the top of the search engine results pages.

It was a self-perpetuating cycle, especially once the aggregators started selling ‘spaces’ for local listings back to my colleagues, who were watching their own sites lose out in the race to attract web searchers. The aggregators were actually charging real estate agents to place their own listings on the aggregators’ pages! Realtors did not see the humor in this—and there are some ongoing legal challenges to illustrate their lack of appreciation.

The reason that this makes a difference to you, the, is that the original purpose of the big aggregators was to make searching easier for you, the Sapphire homeowner or listing searcher. One problem is that keeping listing data current and error-free has always been a problem for anyone with a nation-wide database to administer. Another is that data from other sources (like Craigslist ads) has been known to appear mixed in with verified listings. Since their authenticity is a sometimes thing, that can be downright misleading.

The upshot is that for serious house hunters, the best place to look for Sapphire listings is right here, on a site like mine—where I have a daily local connection with the properties that appear. Then, when you find the homes that look like they could be what you are looking for, all that’s left is to give me a call!

Highlands Listings Fare Best with Sparkling Vocabularies

10-23-listingsIf 90% of home buyers use the internet at some point in their search, the percentage who go to the Highlands listings has to be close to the same ballpark. It’s hard to imagine anyone NOT wanting to take at least a peek at the current listings. Even if they have already settled on a target property, curiosity would send most of us to check out the way it’s described in its Highlands listing.

When you begin your house-hunting project online, the chances are you just scan the listings’ major features to narrow down the candidates, leaving out the majority of the finer details until later. Some of that information might turn out to be decisive—but most likely not until you’ve settled on the major contenders, and possible already toured them in person.

What can be more important than you’d think might be the descriptive language that describes the overall property: the ‘blurb’ that’s up there at the top of Highlands listings. Just as a good salesman in any field strives to present the most attractive facets of their product, a Highlands listing’s descriptive paragraph can be as important as the glamour photo that accompanies it.

In pursuit of facts that might support that idea, Zillow’s writer Catherine Sherman took a look at some research that dissected the language used in some 24,000 listings. They all resulted in sales—but some brought higher sale prices than did others. Her summary of the findings is pretty interesting:

Luxurious, Captivating, Impeccable (and Spotless) were among the adjectives that appeared most often in listings that resulted in above-average sale prices. That stands to reason: adjectives pointing to higher-end features would be apt to set a superior tone.

Less obviously, some of the nouns that accompanied larger price tags were Basketball, Pergola, and Granite. “Granite” will surprise no one who has been exposed to home design over the past 20 or 20 years—granite counters are the default go-to material that’s come to symbolize quality in kitchen décor. And pergolas are landscaping plusses…


Apparently for lower-priced homes with listings that mention ‘basketball,’ selling prices are 4.5% more than expected. You have to suspect that the word gives some color to a run-of-the mill listing—yet I’d be surprised if just setting up a hoop over the garage door made much of an impact. When Author Sherman writes “Among lower-priced homes…an indoor basketball court is a huge selling point,” I have to think, “DUH!” How many Highlands listings for lower-priced homes have indoor basketball courts (or bowling alleys or soccer stadiums, either)?

More practically, Upgraded and Updated were listing words that coincided with slightly higher sale numbers—at least in mid-priced homes. And Gentle was a surprising winner, too, as in “gentle rolling hills.”

I think ‘gentle’ highlights the most important take-away that I believe is relevant and true. Thoughtfully composed, accurate descriptions are what give Highlands listings a working advantage over cookie-cutter summaries—especially those weighed down by cliché-studded vocabularies. I work hard to insure that my clients’ online presence stands out from the crowd. If you plan to be listing a Highlands property soon, I hope you will give me a call to demonstrate what I mean!

History of Sapphire Listings Started Centuries Ago

7-30-mlsWhen you put your Sapphire home on the market, your most effective marketing mechanism isn’t the front yard For Sale sign—although that sign is certainly one way to generate valuable neighborhood awareness. It’s not the well-designed ad your Realtor® publishes, even in the most well-read Sapphire newspaper or magazine—although those expensive insertions can draw valuable inquiries.

Without a doubt, the most powerful marketing mechanism at your disposal is the Sapphire Multiple Listing Service. Through it, your home’s listing in the Sapphire MLS is far and away your most potent advertising tool. Although today this seems so obvious that it’s barely worth restating, in important ways that’s a relatively recent development. The Why and the How of today’s listing availability provides an interesting peek ‘under the hood’ of how 21st century real estate works.

Back in real estate’s medieval past (before the Web reached everyone—say, 20 years ago), Sapphire “listings” took the form of printed sheets distributed between cooperating real estate brokers and agents. They were headed by mug shots of the properties, sometimes—when there were printing issues—less than flattering reproductions.

But even that practice was a modern development. Early in formation of the United States, groups called “Real Estate Exchanges”—the antecedents of today’s Boards of Realtors®—would meet on appointed days to exchange lists of properties their clients wished to sell. In practice, these meetings would often become auctions, with brokers bidding on behalf of their principals for properties they wanted to buy from other brokers.

It was only at the beginning of the twentieth century that the word “multiple” was sometimes applied to the “listing” of properties; but by the Roaring Twenties, the advantages of “multiple listings” were widely accepted. The difference was that now brokers cooperated to combine their separate portfolios of client offerings into integrated master lists…which usually translated into all those sheets of paper in the “orderly collections” of binders on the shelves and in the briefcases of real estate pros. Orderly or not, it took a lot of diligence to keep everything current…

It was a far cry from today’s Sapphire listings, which can be summoned up instantaneously on computer screens in homes and offices anywhere. Actually, on phones and tablets, no matter where they are! When you think about it, the technology has fundamentally changed the nature of how listings are used. Instead of being information that had to be gathered and shared by real estate professionals who would physically gather for that purpose, today’s MLS listings are available to be inspected and compared by you, the client, yourself—with your Realtor acting as expeditor rather than limiter. It’s the real estate professionals who make sure the parts of the listings on public view are as accurate as possible, and who guide clients all the way from their discovery of the most likely candidate properties through visiting, negotiating, and closing on their next Sapphire home.

The upshot is that today’s Sapphire listings are all right here, right now. And as soon as you find the ones you’d like to look into further, I’m right here—standing by for your call!

Sapphire Listings Might Echo U.S. Trend toward Less Luxury

5-20-housefeaturesJust as with movie credits, the features you find in Sapphire listings have a “billing order.” The “stars” may not be printed in gigantic superstar type—but the order in which they appear do reflect changes in current buyer priorities. For a homeowner soon to add their property to this spring’s Sapphire listings, it’s important to learn which features currently tend to attract the most favorable attention from prospective buyers. It’s of more than marketing interest, as well: knowing what’s in and what out can also help determine where improvement dollars should go.

The question is, which features are most desirable, and which formerly popular features have become passé: “so Twentieth Century!”

New answers to these questions usually appear a couple of times a year—and 2015 is no exception. The latest one I found was on the Realtor.com website. It went into recent history, describing in detail how listings’ features for newly-built homes have been undergoing rapid change over the past few years. In general (and probably as a reaction to the difficult economic times that only lately have seen improvement), over-the-top luxury details are fading, being replaced in favor of features centered on efficiency, organization, and pragmatism.

Examples of the kinds of details less likely to be found in today’s listings are two-story foyers, master bathrooms with whirlpool tubs, and luxurious details like outdoor kitchens. (“NOPE” in capital letters is shown stenciled over a picture of one of those outdoor kitchens…which, I have to admit, really does look like it belongs in a hotel). Whereas ten years ago, those outdoor kitchens with fancy wine racks might have been found near the top of a listing, today it might be replaced by ‘walk-in closets’ or even, simply, a ‘laundry room.’

“It’s not sexy,” says one industry executive, “but that’s what people want.”

The most extensive survey of home builder trends is conducted by their national association, the NAHB. By quizzing nearly 400 builders, they concluded that other features on the decline include outdoor fireplaces, sunrooms, and media rooms. Taking their places (and likely candidates for what we’ll soon see creeping toward the tops of some of our Sapphire listings) are the walk-in closets (since people want to get out the door efficiently first thing in the morning) and well-organized and well-lit laundry rooms (to improve the efficiency of the household).

As part of a “post-recession cultural shift toward pragmatism,” this makes perfect sense. But that word “post-recession” may offer a clue to what could be the temporary nature of the NAHB’s 2015 findings. For example, granite countertops—once a ‘luxury’ item in Sapphire listings—are now more popular than the laminate alternatives. And those supposedly unpopular media rooms are not vanishing totally. They’re simply being replaced by spaces that are “more flexible.”

If you’re soon to be scrutinizing your own home to determine which of its best features to emphasize, I’d be pleased to furnish an opinion—it will be based on the results we’re seeing from today’s Sapphire listings!

Inquiring Minds Want to Know: When to Publish Sapphire Listings

2-4-whentolistIt is a good bet that the first place the public will spot your house for sale will be the Sapphire listings. If 90% of those who actually do buy a home go to the web during their search (researchers at the National Association of Realtors® say so), they will either go directly to the Sapphire listings or find them through a Realtor’s site.

If you think like an advertising director, you might wonder when, exactly, the best time would be for your new listing’s premier? Is it in the dead of winter? Springtime? Summer? And is there a perfect day of the month, or (come to think of it) day of the week?

The NAR® has weighed in with some concrete answers. Well, actually, not really answers per se—more like information to help satisfy our curiosity. It turns out there really is no single best time for Sapphire listings to debut, for a couple of reasons; nonetheless, in case you’re curious (I was) about the findings, here they are:

The most popular home listing debut last year was Thursday, May 1, 2014. Second, April Fools’ Day. April and May were sprinkled liberally through the Top 25; but June, and March were all up there, too. But although the 20th was one of the top days of the month for listings launches (as well as the 24th through 30th), the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd ranked often enough to tilt the overall results toward early in the month.

As for the most favored day of the week, there really wasn’t a clear winne­­r—though there were definitely a couple of losers. Saturday and Sunday were all but ignored as days anyone first listed their homes, possibly because most real estate professionals are out in the field most weekends. Launching listings is a job best performed at an office desk.

Closings—the days that home sales are signed and sealed—­­­had the same unpopular pair of days: weekend closings were predictably rare, as were Federal holidays. Two strange exceptions did pop up last year: Sunday, November 30, and Sunday, August 31. That has to be because of the natural inclination for people to pick the end of a month when they need to come up with a deadline. Often enough, we have to scramble to meet any deadline…if it happens to fall on a Sunday, too bad!

But although we have all this information about what the most common days to inaugurate a listing or finalize a home’s sale, that ­­really doesn’t answer what’s the best time to do either. After all, just because more people pick similar dates, that doesn’t mean it is necessarily advantageous. You might even argue that the best day to begin Sapphire listings would be the least popular one, since your listing would be more likely to stand out when it’s the newest. Lonely, but brave!

There is one good answer to when is the best time to list your home: it’s whenever you’re ready. There are plenty of prospective buyers at all times—and as has been well-documented, a lot of them start looking in the dead of winter, when outdoors activities are at a minimum. As for when is the best time to give me a call? Anytime!

One Key Element that Distinguishes a True Glenville Luxury Home

12-3-luxury homesWhen you are selling your Glenville luxury home, you are marketing to a narrow niche of the home-buying public. They’re high-end customers, certain to be very smart, business-savvy—and they will know their own mind. They will be hunting for value, of course, because the asking price warrants it. But they will also be looking for a property that has elements that are unique—that appeal to buyers who hope to find a residence not duplicated elsewhere.

Because of that characteristic of the market, there can be no one-size-fits-all, cookie-cutter approach that will be uniformly effective as a sales approach. There are, however, a few hallmarks that the most successful Realtors® have discovered are shared by the most appealing luxury homes. They boil down to value, exclusivity…and to story-telling.

The exposure element is the more straightforward. It used to be that the only important element was to be had in print media: magazine, newspaper, brochure and flyer. Still important, today the much wider reach is had through internet and social media. Like all Glenville real estate prospects, buyers interested in the current crop of luxury homes are most likely to investigate using at least some online research before scheduling an in-person visit. And what they experience on the web will be influential in how eager they will be to make time for that visit.

It goes without saying that for every Glenville luxury home web presentation, the quality of the imagery has to be first-rate—Professional real estate photographers do more than highlight key room features shot from eye-pleasing angles. The best know how to paint with light—to shape viewer experience by selecting the time of day and color of light and shadow that will convey mood. Sometimes a true online video tour, complete with well-produced music and narration tracks, can also be the most effective tool—as long as the online viewing experience is brief, intuitive and easy to navigate. But no matter which medium and format is pressed into service, the goal is always to create a viewer experience that is unique and memorable.

And it should have a story.

That ‘story’ could be anything from an interesting history to a setting or view that is, literally, unique. It can be an overpowering constellation of luxury home features, or a history of owners that includes prominent community or cultural luminaries. It can be standout architectural innovations, landscaping worthy of a Homes and Gardens centerfold, or a layout that just happens to be perfectly well-matched to a particular client’s family—any and all can qualify. The single indispensable part of the mix is that the property’s unique character comprises a story worth retelling. It’s human nature, after all every Glenville luxury home buyer, whether they realize it or not, would like to be able to tell friends and colleagues about their new luxury home!

If you have a Glenville home with its own luxury story waiting to be told—or if you’re in the hunt for one—I hope you will give me a call!