The common saying “location, location, location” is often but not always true. Though location does affect a property’s value, this value can also shift up and down depending on how the property is described. Especially when it comes to real estate listings, word choice can mean the difference between tens of thousands of dollars.
Research conducted by economist Paul Anglin at the University of Guelph shows how. Anglin and his colleagues surveyed over 20,000 real estate ads to determine which words and phrases had the greatest effect on time until sale, effect on listing price, and effect on selling price.
They found that word choice in a real estate listing could increase the selling price by more than 6% and negatively impact the selling price by as much as 10%.
That means that the selling price of a house listed as $250,000 could fluctuate by more than $35,000—selling for $275,000 if described as “landscaped” and $225,000 if described as a “starter home.”
A summary of Anglin’s most impactful real estate words and phrases. (Source)
The point is that words do matter. In this article, we’ll show you how to use the best words to attract the three most important buyer segments: the luxury buyer, the middle-class buyer, and the buyer in lower socioeconomic brackets.
We’ll walk you through which words to use for each buyer segment and explain how they will cut down on your selling time and boost your selling price.
Words that cater to the luxury buyer
The luxury buyer, someone earning above $418,000 (as defined by national tax law) comes in many shapes and sizes. They might be anyone from a business owner looking to retire in a country estate to a youngish tech employee interested in a modern, sleek New York City apartment. Though this diversity means that the luxury buyer might have vastly different interests and priorities, research has illuminated one important trend:
Luxury buyers are interested in luxe amenities. These luxe amenities are features that serve the sole purpose of entertaining the owner. Tennis courts, movie theaters, and arcade rooms are all great examples of the kinds of luxuries that attract the wealthiest buyers. Research conducted by Zillow, an online real estate marketplace, found this to be true with the following key real estate phrases:
1) Movie Theater
By simply using the word “movie theater” in the listing, you can improve the value per-square foot of your home by over 70%.
Wealthier home buyers are particularly interested in amenities like movie theaters. (Source)
This is a clear indicator that luxe buyers are looking for homes with features that middle- and lower-class buyers just can’t afford—personal home theaters.
2) Heated floors
Including the phrase “heated floors” in an ad can increase the closing price by as much as 4.3%. This phrase can also expedite the time it takes to sell a property by up to 28 days sooner than expected. Like the term “basketball,” the popularity of a phrase like “heated floors” is indicative of the wealthy buyer’s interest in amenities designed to enhance their lives—amenities that buyers in lower-income brackets might consider gratuitous.
Heated floors are particularly attractive amenities to luxe home buyers. (Source)
Trulia, another online real estate marketplace, recently conducted research to determine words and phrases most commonly associated with the priciest housing listings. Though not unanimously, many of these words also echo features that simply aren’t available in middle-class housing—formal gardens, a parlor, powder rooms, just to name a few.
Words and phrases most commonly associated with high ticket real estate. (Source)
Whether a property has a motor court or not, however, is beside the point. What matters is the general trend—that the wealthiest buyers are looking for amenities in their homes that aren’t common anywhere else—at least not for the average home buyer.
Case Study 1:
Buyers in the highest income brackets are not only attentive to these amenities, but are attentive to how the amenities are described. One word, in particular, seems resoundingly successful in getting the luxurious buyer’s attention:
The word “luxurious” can increase the selling price of a home by over 8.2%. That means a property like the one below, with an asking price of 2.8 million, might, in fact, sell for over 3 million—all because of the inclusion of the word “luxury.”
A luxury home listing can boost the property’s selling price by over 8% simply by including the word “luxury.” (Source)
That increase, compounded with words like “basketball” and “heated floors” —or any other words that accentuate the home’s luxe amenities, might bring the selling price well over 10% the listing price.
That’s a welcome increase—one you can also achieve in knowing what attracts the middle-class buyer.
Words that cater to middle-class buyers
Like the luxury buyer, the middle-class buyer makes up an extremely diverse group of people. They can be single, married, with and without kids. This means, again—like the wealthiest buyers—the middle-class buyer is going to have varying interests and priorities. Ads for these buyers, who we’re defining as those earning between $91,000 and $191,000 (according to national income brackets), also show one key trend: an interest in amenities.
What (perhaps intuitively) differentiates these amenities from those of the luxe buyer, however, is that these amenities are less pricey. These kinds of features are simply add-ons to what would already exist in most houses: things like cabinets, sinks, and tiles. Listings show that middle-class buyers like these features when they are designed with high-end materials including granite and marble. Below are a few of the most successful words used in boosting the selling price and minimizing the time to sell:
1) Shaker Cabinet
Originating during the 1970s, Shaker cabinets have become popular for their “simple and functional aesthetic.” With few embellishments, they offer a sleek, “no-frills” wooden design.
Shaker cabinets are one of the most popular amenities attracting middle-class home buyers. (Source)
2) Farmhouse Sink
Farmhouse sinks are similarly popular. Modeled after British apron sinks during the late 17th century, these sinks started out as buckets that homeowners used to carry back and forth between their kitchens and wells outside. Though this was a less-than-luxurious activity, it created an aesthetic that now attracts many modern homeowners.
Farmhouse sinks can increase a property’s selling price by nearly 8%. (Source)
In fact, the farmhouse sink can increase the closing price by up to 7.9% and decrease the selling time by more than 58 days.
That’s a great deal for the real estate broker, considering that the average farmhouse sink costs anywhere between $400 and $800. It also reveals how middle-class buyers are willing to pay big bucks for nice, updated, attractive amenities.
3) Subway Tile
Subway tile is another one of the middle-class buyer’s most sought-after amenities. As might seem obvious, the tiles got their name from tiles originally installed in the New York City subway during the 1900s. Since their installation in the New York City public transit system, these tiles have become domesticated and are now commonly found in home kitchens and bathrooms.
Subway tile is commonly used in kitchens and bathrooms. (Source)
Like the farmhouse sink, subway tiles also offer the real estate broker a great deal. With a maximum cost of around $13 and minimum cost of around $6 per-square-foot, they can increase the closing price by as much as 6.9%. They can also encourage middle-class buyers to close the deal 63 days faster than they otherwise would.
Case Study 2:
Like luxury buyers, middle-class buyers are attracted to nice amenities. The house below was recently sold for the second time for $267,435.
The house features subway tiles in the kitchen. (Source)
Particularly notable is that this house sold for $47K more the second time than it did the first. Its listing, which described the tiled kitchen, could have accounted for a significant portion of that price increase, offering yet another salient example of how best to market towards middle-class buyers: feature words that focus on the home’s finest amenities and fixtures.
Words that cater to buyers in the lower socioeconomic brackets
You can also maximize ads for properties with the lowest selling points. An important trend appears in the listing for these buyers, those who earn between $37,000 and $91,000. Because homes that are particularly low-priced are often older than newer homes, these buyers are attracted to listings that have been “updated” or “upgraded” in some way. These words are, in part, so popular because they indicate to the buyer that they aren’t going to need to invest a ton of money into a property they’re already buying. The numbers are also pretty telling:
By simply adding in the word “updated,” a listing can increase a property’s closing price by 0.8%. Though this might not appear as significant an increase than others we’ve mentioned, it can help the seller pocket several hundred more dollars than they otherwise would—putting $520 more into the pocket of someone selling a $65,000 house, for example.
“Upgraded” also increases the closing price, oddly enough by a bit more than “updated.” The inclusion of this word can reign in about 1.8% for a listing than if it were left out.
Research done by Trulia offers insight into just why words like “updated” and “upgraded” might be so attractive to buyers in lower-income brackets. As the table below shows, common phrases associated with cheaper homes—phrases like “city inspection, septic repairs, and repair plumbing system”–are nearly all related to some kind of repair or damage.
Words and phrases most commonly associated with less expensive real estate. (Source)
Because these repairs and damage are going to make the price of a property go down, buyers are particularly attracted to cheap homes that will remove the work and money needed to fix up their newly purchased property.
Case Study 3:
The property below offers one example of the value of a word like “upgraded” in a listing. Listed originally for $179,000, this ranch home could potentially sell for over $3000 more than it otherwise would have.
Words like “upgraded” and “updated” make homes in lower price ranges particularly attractive. (Source)
It offers yet again another important example of what strategy to use when attracting buyers with lower incomes: use words that focus on improvement, rather than on repair or damage.
Words do matter
Words do matter. Though it’s important to keep in mind that they aren’t everything—and won’t necessarily make or break an ad—they can save you a ton of time and money.