How can I write terrific real estate copy?

Researcher Paul Anglin, who teaches real-estate and housing trends at the University of Guelph in Ontario, Canada, studied the wording of more than 20,000 Canadian home listings from 1997 to 2000. His aim was to see how the language of the ads affected the speed and price a property sold for. Here is some of what he learned:

Buyers go for style over substance: words like “curb appeal” or “beautiful” made homes sell faster than cut-and-dried terminology like “value” and “price.”

Homes described as “beautiful” moved 15 percent faster and for 5 percent more in price than the benchmark. A home pitched as a “good value” sold for 5 percent less than average. Another dead-in-the-water phrase is “must see!” which had a statistically insignificant effect on the number of days homes took to sell.

If you’re selling, it’s important to think about how words that sound good can be misunderstood. Here are some commonly used ad words and how buyers and/or their agents often interpret them:

Motivated Seller – Please low-ball
Good Value – Not much to look at but definitely a bargain.
Must Sell – Possible short sale
Starter Home – Itty-bitty, teenie-weenie
Handyman Special – Money pit.
Quiet and/or Tranquil – Possible lightwell views

When I write about my listings, I try to help someone imagine living there. I also focus on the lifestyle a property offers and use words that will draw in the appropriate buyer — for example, copy for a SOMA loft should differ significantly from copy for a Noe Valley single family home.

When moving into details, I like to augment my descriptions with language that helps a buyer picture the space. ”Big walls for art” and ”Rooms you can roller-skate in” are two examples of how words can affect a home buyer’s experience of the property.

Dreaming of San Francisco? Cece Blase offers local advice to San Francisco buyers, sellers and owners– and feeds the dreams of those who wish they could live in Tony Bennett’s ‘City by the Bay.’ Call 415-577-0809 or email