Say the right thing: 6 things your home listing should include (© Stockbroker/SuperStock)

© Stockbroker/SuperStock

A picture may be worth a thousand words, but the right turn of phrase in a home listing can make a big difference in how fast a home sells and how much a seller can get for it. (Bing: What has sold recently in your area?)

The right description can get your home a second look; the wrong one can sour buyers on the property in a matter of seconds. So choose those words wisely, agents say.

"It's all about capturing an audience," says Cheryl Bare of Century 21 Comstock Earnest in Waldorf, Md. "I try to create something that will just get [buyers or agents] to take a look at it."

MSN Real Estate asked Bare and other top agents to pinpoint the six elements of a good listing, as well as the things that are better left unsaid. Here, in no particular order, are their tips:

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1. Highlight unseen amenities. The data fields on a listing can tell you how many bedrooms and bathrooms a house has, but they won't tell you the whole story. Neither will the photos, agents say.

"The description is the place for things that aren't obviously seen in the property details," says Jessica Edwards of Sea Coast Realty in Wilmington, N.C.

Important amenities such as an oversized garage or great views should be played up in the write-up. If you can see a picturesque vista from almost every room in the house, say so. Likewise, if a house is private because it backs up to an open space rather than a neighbor's property, that belongs in the description too, agents say.  

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2. Be specific. You don't just want to just say "beautiful remodeled kitchen" in a property description. Instead, point out features and brands that prospective buyers covet, says Don Moore of Better Homes & Gardens Tech Valley in Albany, N.Y.

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Drop brand names such as Viking, Sub-Zero and Bosch. Identify granite countertops and stainless-steel appliances. Mention appealing features such as those pullout shelves in the kitchen cabinets or the walk-in pantry.

"I try to hit [buyers'] hot buttons," says Julie Johnson of BHG David Winans & Associates in Dallas. "I give as many details or facts about a property as I can."

That could include updates such as a new roof, separate his-and-hers closets, a finished basement or a master bedroom downstairs.

A saltwater pool, or a pool that has been recently resurfaced or updated, is also worth distinguishing from its traditional counterparts.

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3. Use the right adjectives. Too much fluff can be off-putting, Johnson says, so use descriptors sparingly. And choose the words that pack the most punch.

A Canadian study conducted more than a decade ago – but to which agents still refer — found that homes described as "beautiful" sold for 5% more than those in "move-in condition." Likewise, homes that were described as "beautiful" or "gorgeous" sold 15% faster.

That doesn't mean that every house or room deserves that descriptor, but if it fits the bill, by all means use it, agents say. "Beautiful landscaping" is a good combination.

But don't exaggerate. The worst thing, agents say, is building buyers' expectations with a grand description of something only to have it fall far short in real life. Remember, "spacious" is a relative term. "Open floor plan" on the other hand, works for everyone.

Here's Johnson's makeover on a listing that went overboard with the adjectives:

Before: "Splendid, Sweet, and no other Equal! This one hits the sweet spot! Tons of hardwoods, gorgeous granite countertops, plantation shutters, 2 covered patios, crown molding, stone fireplace and fantastic fixtures. You will love the updated style Highland Home floor plan with the California kitchen. Both master and secondary bedroom downstairs. Massive master suite! Don't forget an awesome gameroom and fully wired media room. Exemplary Frisco ISD!"

After: "Highland home with ideal open floor plan including master and extra bedroom down, game & media room wired for surround sound, hand-scraped wood extended thru 1st floor including study, kitchen open to family room with granite, stainless appliances, double ovens, 5-burner gas cooktop, oversized master, larger than average secondary bedrooms, plantation shutters, sink in 3 car garage, pool-sized yard with covered patio, established neighborhood feeds to Exemplary Frisco ISD with quick access to major highways."

Johnson asks of the before, "What is a California kitchen anyway?" It's a good bet those reading it won't know either.

4. Good grammar is mandatory. Bad spelling and grammar can be as big a deterrent as hokey copy. It sends the message that a seller doesn't have good agent representation. If an agent can't take the time to spell-check the listing, what other corners is that agent going to cut?

Here's a good example of how bad spelling and ill-conceived content can put buyers off, followed by Moore's fix for it.

Before: "Seeing is beleiving! Foundation has new concrete/foam insluation skirting and all joints have foam insulation and are caulked. Owner will be painting exterior in the spring.'

After: "This distinctive ranch is located on a picturesque 1.4-acre lot in the heart of Slingerlands. There's a massive stone fireplace and wall of windows in the LR overlooking the private wooded lot. You'll feel like you are in the Adirondacks! The open floor plan is perfect for entertaining. It's sure to be a treasure once updated with your personal touch." 

Sounds more compelling than the "before" right? (Side note: While good insulation is important, it might not be the thing that gets buyers out in droves.)

Moreover, be careful with abbreviations that people might not understand. While agents might use "WBF" as an abbreviation for wood-burning fireplace, many home shoppers would have no idea what that meant and therefore can't be swayed by it, Johnson says.

5. Provide motivation. A psychology major in college, Johnson says that sometimes stating something is enough to make a large number of people believe it's true. And that goes for pronouncements on pricing.

The phrase "priced to sell" or "Great Deal!" can be more of a call to action for buyers, even if the home in question is priced on par with others in the area.

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Bare has used "Better Run!" and "Best Buy," but only if the home is priced relatively low.

6. Tout lifestyle. Buyers are also motivated by emotion. A home is a place where they will create memories. So give them a hint about what those memories might be. How will they enjoy the home and its features? Edwards suggests: "Relax with a glass of wine on the custom deck overlooking the well landscaped backyard" or "entertain friends in the gourmet kitchen." Does it have a front porch? How about "relax with a glass of lemonade on the front porch," Bare suggests.

If a community has great amenities such as a neighborhood pool or nearby walking or biking trails, mention them. If the elementary school is a short walk away, that should be featured prominently as well. Ditto for perks such as short commutes or proximity to highly desirable restaurants and shops.

Just remember to deliver the biggest selling points of a house in the first couple of lines, whether it's "tons of storage space" or "beautifully landscaped front yard."