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Real Estate Ads, words that sell and words that fail

by Lucile Heydon (2020-01-19)

2016-03-20_15-13-51.jpg?type=w1id="mod_382354">Selling a house? What single word in your ad can add thousands of dollars to the selling price? Do you know which words work best? Do you know that some commonly used real estate ad words can backfire and harm your sale opportunities?

There are a lot of standard phrases used in real estate ads. Just because you see a phrase used a lot doesn't make it a winner. Some of those common phrases, like "motivated seller" can work against you!

Are you a FSBO? That translates to "For Sale By Owner", pronounced "fizz-bo". Do you use a real estate agent? Either way, you need to pay attention to how your home is marketed. The words chosen for your ad and flyer's can lure in prospects or can turn them off!

A real estate agent's experience can be valuable in marketing your house. But how about adding a little scientific research?

Paul Anglin, a professor at the University of Guelph in Ontario Canada is also a real estate economist. Professor Anglin led a study in two counties in Ontario to study the effect of real estate ad phrasing on sales price and time on market. The results showed that some common words had a demonstrably positive effect on selling price, and shortening the time to sell. The surprise, to me, was that some commonly used words can get in the way and cost you money!

What's the magic word?
One of the words that can put more money in your pocket is "beautiful". The study showed that using the word beautiful scored an additional 5% in the resulting sales price. That works out to $15,000 on a $300,000 house. I don't know about you, but my house is beautiful!

What are some of the other words that scored positively and negatively in the study?

___________________Words that sell____________________
Some words strike a positive note with today's buyer. Here are some words that have shown a positive effect:

Curb appeal

Move-in condition





must see

__________________Words that can fail__________________
Some good sounding words can double-cross you! Here are some commonly used ad words and how they can be misinterpreted:

Motivated seller - loosely translated as "I'll take less money so low ball your bid"

Good Value - loosely translated as "It may not be much, but it's a bargain."

As-is - loosely translated as "It's a mess and we can't do anything with it, are you dumb enough to try?"
Other words and phrases that can work against you:

must sell

good value

starter home


handyman special


__________________A note of caution___________________
It should go with out saying that the words you use must be honest choices. If it's a dump, then the word "beautiful" will get a snicker, not a sale. If you use "curb appeal" then the house better look good as the prospect drives up and gets their second impression. You ad is their first impression; and it should be as good as you can make it!

Professor Paul Anglin, a real estate economist in Guelph, Ontario
Checkout his web page at the College of Management and Economics, University of Guelph, Ontario Canada His research interests include: house price dynamics, economics of risk and uncertainty, economics of information and computer simulation.
Professor Anglin's study was covered in a news release that found it's way into several major newspaper articles. I saw the study result first in an article written by Ann Brenoff in the LA Times and reprinted in the Arizona Republic.

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What words work for you in real estate ads?
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7 years ago

Great article - I used it as inspiration in a blog post here: website and of course linked back. I'll be following your hub, excellent work!


7 years ago

like to see a layout on how to format the listing on paper do's and dont's wording


8 years ago

I find it interesting that you are giving people advice about writing ads that sell - yet apparently you don't proof your articles for errors! Check the fourth paragraph.


8 years ago

st lucia for sale

8 years ago from St Lucia

Really useful hub, thanks for the tips, it'll definitely help with my real estate blogging!


8 years ago from Manila, Philippines

This is an excellent hub. I'm about to write ad copy for a flyer for a developer I'll be marketing for, and I needed to find what kind of words will appeal to class A prospects. I'll keep these in mind as I craft the copy. Thanks very much.

Tom Bukacek

8 years ago from Austin, TX

Nice hub; there's a couple of words on the don't list that I use too frequently.

Richard Asajar

8 years ago

good article.. learned a lot.. ^^ thanks!


8 years ago

Also look at the pics. No inside pics? Warning! House cluttered? Might also be in disrepair or agent is not motivated enough on this property to have seller clean up.


8 years ago

Thanks. I needed this advice and shall use it wisely.


8 years ago

Greate article-very helpful thank you


9 years ago

Very informative. Thanks a lot

spruce squad the best realtor

9 years ago

Thanks for great Info. The information is complete and very organized.



9 years ago

thanks for comment. Keep commenting


9 years ago

Thank you for the great comment!

It is always nice to get real feedback from real people


9 years ago

Thanks everyone for your comments - much appreciated!


9 years ago

Nice article! What I find to be important is when we list the updates on the home. Lots of these folks out there don't want to fix a new roof, or spend extra money on new windows. These factors tend to draw in more buyers.

Mel F

9 years ago

Am I the only one that can see the flaw in the study? Of course houses that advertise "handyman special" will sell for less than those that say "beautiful". pretty houses sell for more BECAUSE they ARE pretty not cuz they SAY it.

Michelle Cesare

9 years ago from New York

Hi J,

I came across this Hub of yours. I enjoyed the read. Thanks.

real estate investing

9 years ago

No wonder copy writers are so expensive. I really believe that copy makes all the difference in conveying what the buyer wants to hear


9 years ago from Columbus, Ohio

Great article! I use a lot of Adj when describing properties in my advertising... Beautiful is one I like to use..

rajiv kaushik

9 years ago

very very interesting article


9 years ago from Carroll, Oh

What a great article!

You are so right! Thanks for reminding me how effective spoken words can be.


9 years ago

Nice post. I'm a firm believer in having your ad stand out and anything to differentiate it from "the crowd" is a definite plus.


9 years ago from Out there

impressive Hub, I learnt alot.


9 years ago from Hollis, New Hampshire

Good post. Don't forget the pictures, they are the most important.

Florida Property

9 years ago

Great post, very interesting concept. You make a good point that all the factors need to come into play. Selecting a good property agent is most important for property management who helps you throughout the buying process and beyond to completion.

Florida Property

Master Life

9 years ago

Great article-thank you!


9 years ago from Cave Creek

@Chris.Seder, thanks for your observations from the investor's perspective. From the seller's perspective those words might lead to quick but lower offers. @Lorne Park Homes, and "beauty is in the eye of the beholder"... thanks @mrfren.


9 years ago from Billings, Mt

Good information. Great if you are looking to sale a retail home. Investors love to see the words motivated, handyman and as-is. I know when I see those I am all over that house, so if you are looking for an investor to buy your house, I would use those.

Lorne Park Homes

9 years ago

Thanks for the tip. I'll be more aware of the word "beautiful" when it's appropriate. Thx

Rajesh Arora

9 years ago from Amritsar

good information


9 years ago from Cave Creek

chbartel, thanks for stopping by and leaving that nice comment. Welcome to HubPages.

Jan, that house sounds like a winner! Thanks for the visit and comment.

patriot1776, thanks for the link to this Hub! Glad you see $ value in the concept of word choice in real estate ads (actually any ads)


9 years ago from Indianapolis, IN

awesome article on how to use the right words to sell your home. It's all in the words that are used!


9 years ago

I shall DEFINITELY bear some of this in mind next time I try to sell my beautiful house with land-scaped gardens and incredible curb-appeal!! Many thanks.


9 years ago from Indianapolis, Indiana

Your article has put thousands of extra dollars in to whoever has read and follows your excellent advice.


9 years ago from Cave Creek

Hi Lady_E, just started testing Xomba for backlinks. Delighted that it brought you here!


9 years ago from London, UK

Saw this on Xomba. Very useful. The right words can make such a difference.


10 years ago from Laguna beach

Very interesting and informative post.


10 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

Great info and very interesting read!

Maggie Simpson

10 years ago

With respect, I say forget about all these words that describe physical attributes. Yes, folks need to know how many bedrooms and bathrooms, but they are really looking for things like community, safety, convenience, good schools, excitement, the chance to be part of a certain type of neighborhood, etc. Here's my ad for a downtown condo in DC. If you're around, stop by on Sat Aug.8th or Sun Aug.9th, 2-5pm! The AD: "GO GREEN! Enjoy convenience,vibrance of the West End. WALK EVERYWHERE! Trader Joe's, Bread & Chocolate, Metro, GWU, nearby gyms and pools,Rock Creek park, bike trails, Georgetown. YES! You can have it all. Urban living at its best (but w.o. the late night noise) in chic condo w. good security, XTRA STORAGE, cherry floors, gourmet kitchen, balcony."


10 years ago from INDIANAPOLIS

great info i sell a lot of real estate here in Indianapolis IN an i use different types of words for homes that i sell especially the fixer upper for duplex,cash flow properties an beautiful for high income homes that sell for $100k an up so according to what type of property your selling it would make sense to word it correctly.




10 years ago

When ever you write you must always consider your audience & your objective. The objective of my ads are primarily to get the phone to ring, to reach the most amount of buyers, so that I can actually get a chance to sell! It has been my experience, that buyers rarely buy the home from the ad! However, once I talk to them and discuss what they are really looking for, it is usually 180* opposite from what they originally called on. My most successful ads have always been ones that were creative, catchy & wherever I applied "less is more". You are right: 3bd/2 bath, bungalow is a lazy ad, and will not generate calls. You will lose everyone that is looking for a 4bd or 5bd or a two storey. I always explain this to my home sellers, just because I am not running their home in the paper...I have others that I can get calls on and redirect them to their home. One ad for one listing has the opportunity to sell anyone of my listings!

ambreen tariq

10 years ago

thanks for the wonderful advice

John Brown

10 years ago

Very interesting article.


10 years ago

Gret Post. Very informative as I am thinking of moving.


Covert Hypnosis 1

10 years ago

Pretty cool - it's all about the power of words!


10 years ago from California

"motivated" and "as is"? is that really being used?

Haydee Anderson

10 years ago from Hermosa Beach

nice hub, Thanks for the info, I'm not into real estate, just curious about it.


10 years ago from Houston, Texas

Great hub!

Green River

10 years ago from Henderson, Kentucky

This is excellent research, just a remind that "words matter," even with real estate :)


10 years ago

words can only work 2 a point after that "Beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder"


11 years ago from Bangalore

good post.

Lynn Byrne

11 years ago from Daytona Beach Florida

Great post and comments. My view is that marketing and advertising properties is to meet the goal of matching buyers and sellers. I've sold a lot of homes and condos and only once did someone buy without seeing the proptery.

The word list is great to entice prospective buyers to call about the property. At that point, the property, it presentation and value take over (with help from the RE agent). The home must match the promotion pretty closely.

Strengthening the process at any point makes the process stronger. These words used responsibly defininitely do that.


11 years ago from INDIA

hi it is an eye opener

real estate tips

11 years ago

Hmm, never thought that some of the words mentioned here are really helpful. But, you learn as long as you live :)

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11 years ago

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11 years ago from Cave Creek

Thanks cyndee. We are "creatures of habit" and that shows up in word choices regularly. In tough markets, all sales habits should be at least examined if not challenged. Glad you're still smiling!


11 years ago from Clearwater Florida

I was laughing today as I saw these same terms again used in listing information - more REALTORS need to read your hub! :)


11 years ago from Cave Creek

Denise, of course you can use my HubPage in your blog, link or quote.

Elleissa, I love the comments that come. sometimes you have to shake your head at the way others interpret the words, or spring off in odd directions...

Thanks to all for the great feedback!

Joanie Ruppel

11 years ago from Texas

In this market we can use all the help we can get. Thanks for the quick tutorial.

SavePress Editor

11 years ago

You're right. I have found that the right words sell anything faster. Thanks for the insight into real estate sales. Great Hub!

Denise Carlson

11 years ago

Loved the article, can I use it in my blog?

My only comment is on the "handy man special" & "fixer upper". I'd probably say that the property has "Beautiful Bones" but needs a bit of TLC to make it gorgeous! If I'm searching for houses for investors I pull those " negative" terms from the Remarks section of our MLS to find suitable properties. I want other realtors to bring buyers to my handy man specials and help me get them SOLD!


11 years ago from Clearwater Florida

Enjoyed this hub and especially elleissa's comment - great analogy!!


11 years ago from California

I read some of the comments from some posters and had to snicker. Some can't resist from seeing the glass half- empty, can they? As for me, Point well taken and not misinterpreted. It's really common-sense. If I try to sell my car you bet I'd use words like Elegant, Smooth Ride instead of words like Good value or decent paint job or the tires are only two years old. Words create images. People want to envision something that makes them feel they have attained something excellent. Yes, beautiful would create plesant images. I would buy a house from you. ;)


11 years ago

good one

Cyndee Haydon

11 years ago

What a great list and insights - as a fellow real estate agent I really appreciate the info. thanks.


11 years ago

Remember to qualify those adjectives. "Beautiful" is ambiguous. It's essentially empty. It can mean anything to anyone. It's in the eye of the beholder, right? The more clearly, (specific) descriptive you are, the better chance you have of actually reaching and holding the attention of the prospect. Honesty pays handsomely too.


11 years ago from Cave Creek

Just a visitor - no question that words have to be taken in context, and their meaning and value (good/bad) are affected by a persons perspective. The studies and this Hub were taken from the sellers perspective. The buyer wants to take advantage of weakness (motivated seller) and the seller doesn't want to portray weakness.

just a visitor

11 years ago

I'm not a real estate agent or even in real estate, but wondered by the article because I am studing words and the power they have in selling.

Not all words can be so easily categorized as good or bad as some of this list implies.

For example, "Motivated seller" is a great word IF the buyer is looking for properties to flip or resell, or fix up. -- also it can be a good word for a buyer who is not in great financial situation so they want a fixer upper so they can save money on the purchase and use sweat to improve equity.

My point, Knowing the possible double meanings of words is great, but don't be so quick to lump them as good or bad... it's the buyer whose going to determine if the words are good or bad... so listen to the buyer and use words that fit his/her motives


11 years ago

Great hub and great list. As an REI, I look for handyman special's and any words in the ad that indicate I can purchase at a deep discount, and handyman's special is one of them. So is motivated seller. To me, those mean offer 60% of the asking price.

I would guess it depends on which side of the coin you happen to be on, as a buyer, or seller, or even the agent. You have to write the right kind of ad that pull's responses, and wording is very very important. I can't tell you how many ads make every house sound exactly alike. To me, that's a sign of a lazy sales agent. 3bd/2bth, cute, cozy fixer in up and coming neighborhood, seller motivated, priced to sell quick!

That's the perfect ad, if you know how to swing a hammer or a good contractor, and can install great locks.

Thanks for 수원 지식 산업 센터 a great hub!


12 years ago from Cebu City, Cebu Province

Thank you very much for the tips. I hope I can sell more properties this time adopting your 'magic words".


12 years ago from Cave Creek

Misha, good catch. This is a word that works both ways, sort of. The study showed that handyman special sold quicker, but at a deep discount. I'm taking it out of the good list, as price out weighs speed for most situations.


12 years ago from DC Area


Nice hub:) Got a question, though. You have the words "handyman special" in both lists. How this should be interpreted? Usually helps to sell, but may backfire?


12 years ago from Cave Creek

Nobody is suggesting that you lie or miss-represent your house. That won't work; people are not stupid. It's about word choice. People do respond better to some words than others. They will certainly match your ad words against their own perception. The word "beautiful" has meaning. Most people have a positive connotation for the word. That's why it works!

Thanks for the comment Carroll; I'm adding a cautionary note to the HubPage.

Carroll Straus

12 years ago

How long do you think it will take for buyers to figure out "beautiful" has no meaning???

I used it-- but then, the home WAS beautiful.

This remidns me of the Ditech ad "People are smart." by wwhich they mean "we think you are stupid."

How long will BS sell, as the market wakes up? I cant wait to see!

Bill Gassett

12 years ago

The one that always gets me is "motivated seller". I wonder how many times this phrase was used by Realtors and their seller clients did not know. It is like saying "please steal me I am yours."

Mark Knowles

12 years ago

love it! Thanks for the advice.


12 years ago from London

i think 'must sell' might attract viewers; it means price is lowered in order to sel quickly.

Mark Sconce

12 years ago from Mesa

"Upgrades" wear well. "Prestigious" has snoot appeal. "Old world craftsmanship" warms our cockles. And, believe it or not, "lovely" is a proven winner!

This Realtor thanks you for raising the topic, Jack.

Boulder Real Estate

12 years ago

I love this. Here's another one we often see: "Cozy" translate as: 'small and cramped'...

This is a great topic. I'd love to see more of it. We get caught up in the same stuff over and over. I agree though, every one of my listings is beautiful from now on.


12 years ago from Sharjah

In addition to the real value of a property, it is important what the prospective buyer thinks about it. To improve the real value you may have to spend a lot of money, but by influencing the others thinking, the same result can be acheived without spending anything. Good Hub jstankevicz.


12 years ago from Decatur

Paul Anglin, is also sited at website


12 years ago from Cave Creek

Thanks for the nice feedback. Thanks also for the additional real estate ad terms with double meanings.


12 years ago

Other may-be losers: "park-like setting" (often equals overgrown, needs major trimming and cutting back) and "newer" [as in "newer roof" or "newer windows] equals "the rest still needs work".

Marye Audet

12 years ago

This is excellent. We restore old homes and use thema s investments and it is true that your ad can make or break you!

Jason Menayan

12 years ago from San Francisco

Another fail-word: "fixer upper". Translation: dump.