Real Estate Code Words.

by Alex Stenback on May 5, 2005

Secret_code We’ve always thought of most real estate listing blurbs (short ‘property highlights’ puff-pieces) as horribly unimaginative, group-think writing at best, and exclamation point (!) riddled assaults on the language at worst. Only in Real Estate can "Cozy Home in a Demand Neighborhood" mean "Overpriced Shitbox the Neighbors want Condemned."

Turns out, there’s actually data to back that up. According to a recent study/article from Wired [via Freakonomics] there’s more to real estate "prose" than just brutal writing (something we dabble in here, from time to time) and bombast. When given a closer look, a subtle code emerges in real estate ads, where certain words strongly correlate with the final sale price of a home. 

So what are these Fantastic! Stunning! and Gorgeous! words that will have you stuffing sweaty fistfuls of cash into your pockets? The answer, and other Charming! details from the article on the other side of the link below, with Pottery Barn Decor!

The terms that correlate with higher price are, not surpisingly, those that convey actual information or have specific meaning, like: Corian, Granite, Maple, State-of-the Art, Gourmet, etc.

Terms that correlate with lower prices are ambiguous and subjective terms like "fantastic," "great neighborhood,"  "stunning," "charming" and the like.  In fact, these phrases often carry a hidden meaning:

"These words, it turns out, are real estate agent code for a house that doesn’t have many specific attributes worth describing. "Spacious" homes, meanwhile, are often decrepit or impractical. "Great neighborhood" signals to a buyer that, well, this house isn’t very nice but others nearby may be. And an exclamation point in a real estate ad is bad news for sure, a bid to paper over real shortcomings with false enthusiasm."

Not that any of this is particularly shocking news. After all, it’s advertising, a world where words started to lose their meaning about the time the printing press was invented.

Go check out the article – lots of other good information, as well as some insight as to why you might be encouraged by your agent to take the first offer, rather than the best offer.  Hint:  $10,000 might be a lot of money to you, but typically represents about $150.00 in additional commission for your agent.

Cracking the Real Estate Code: Is your agent really working for the enemy? A user’s guide to home economics (and how to beat the expert industry).[Wired via Freakonomics]

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May 9, 2005 at 12:46 pm
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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Kelly May 7, 2005 at 6:46 pm

I was really wishing to see the open houses again! That’s my favorite part of the blog.

Jane N-B May 9, 2005 at 12:47 pm

Hi Alex – thanks for the link to the Wired article. Since after I read it I disagreed with most of what the authors had to say…I’ve spent a little time fisking the article on my blog. Had to break it into several parts *grin*

Jane N-B

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