When Selling A Home, Do Words Really Matter?


Want to sell your house fast? It’s not what you say; it’s how you say it.

Houses that real estate agents describe as “move-in condition” sell 12 percent faster than homes listed without those words, according to a recent article in The Wall Street Journal.

According to the article, titled A Motivated Seller by Any Other Name … “starter homes” sell 9 percent faster. But be careful: A house called a “handyman special” sells about 50 percent faster, but the final price is 30 percent lower than listings that lack those words.

For the past decade, Paul Anglin, associate professor of real estate at the University of Guelph in Ontario, has been studying the effect of certain words in house descriptions.

One of the worst offenders is “motivated” sellers, according to Professor Anglin. He says this term may serve to both lower the selling price and slow the sale. Oddly, frantic pleas of “must sell” have no effect on selling time or price, the professor says.

In a 2005 National Bureau of Economic Research study, words that depict distinct attributes “granite,” “maple” and “gourmet” correspond with higher sale prices. Words deemed “superficially positive” like “clean,” “quiet,” “fantastic” and “charming” are either ineffective or even hurt prices.

A separate study by Thomas Thomson, a professor of real estate and finance at the University of Texas at San Antonio, found that words that describe specific attributes are more likely to boost the selling price: Mentioning “garage” increases the sale price by 9.8 percent, “fireplace” by 6.8 percent and “lake” by 5.6 percent.

View the full Wall Street Journal article here and take an online quiz to test your aptitude for choosing just the right words.

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