Tag Archives: description

What Sam did

How viewings can go wrong

Last weekend, my partner and I went house hunting. We move house around every two years, so it isn’t entirely unusual, but it did highlight for me (yet again) the problems faced by viewers today. Our method, like many buyers, was to compile a shortlist of properties worth considering in Rightmove, then with printed list of saved houses to hand, to drive round establishing the areas and positions of each property. If we liked the look of a house, we would call the agent and see if we could book a viewing there and then.

These are the problems we came up against:

No for sale board – it’s so frustrating to be driving around an area trying to locate the house in question, when there’s no for sale board to guide you. We really struggled with a cottage down an almost hidden driveway, and also one house that was almost impossible to discern from the photograph. Which brings me onto the next issue:

The front photograph so misleading you don’t recognise the house – this was the case on several occasions. One particular house was completely unrecognisable from the main photograph and we are still none the wiser as to whether we actually found it. On two other occasions we just gave up and drove off, frustrated at not being able to find it.

No address given – in these days of sat nav and smart phones, finding properties should be so much easier, but estate agents need to accept that we need a property address to start with! I know that they are worried other agents will try to poach their clients if the address is too evident, but surely this is less of a problem than genuine buyers not being able to find it?

The estate agent doesn’t call you back in time – one house we quite liked had a for sale board outside, so I called the agent to see if we could view sometime the same day. This was around 11am on a Saturday, so I figured my chances we good. However, a call answering service took my message, and the agent didn’t return my call until 5pm, by which time we were ready to call it a day. Given that she would then have to take my details, and call the vendor, a same day viewing was by then impractical.

The estate agent can’t give you directions – because there was no sale board for the cottage we were trying to locate, which ended up being down a ¼ mile long track, and through a farmyard, I called the agent to ask for directions. She then had to put me on hold for ages whilst she went to locate the property details, then read the directions out to me. However, as neither she nor we were familiar with the area, we were actually coming from a different direction, and so ended up impossibly off course for several miles. Had she had a map to hand, or someone who knew the area to advise us, we could have been spared this unnecessary and annoying detour.

The seller doesn’t let you view on spec – when we finally found the cottage (almost thwarted yet again by the similarity of its name to another cottage a mile away) the owner happened to be outside in the garden, and greeted us in a friendly manner. After telling her that we were interested in her house, and pointing out how far we’d come, I asked her if we could possibly view. “Oh no”, she protested, “it’s in a right old mess. I’d need to tidy up for you”. I later learned that her cottage had been for sale for almost 9 months: is it any wonder when she deters potential buyers in this way? Why not just make sure the house is ready for viewings, even if just at weekends, for spontaneous viewers like us. I’m sure we’re not unique.

This is a difficult market for sellers, there are no two ways about it. Demand is low, mortgages are hard to get, and many of us are choosing just to stay where we are. So if a genuine buyer in a good position (we’re in rented accommodation until we find the right house) happens to show an interest, the agent and seller both need to do all they can to keep them interested and facilitate a viewing. All the barriers that were put in our way this weekend did the opposite; they left us feeling undervalued and frustrated. In fact, out of the 20+ potential properties we had on our list, we only viewed one, and that’s because someone we asked directions of just happened to be the seller’s daughter-in-law, and she and her husband couldn’t have been more eager to accommodate us.

If you are trying to sell your home, make it easy for your buyers:

  • Have a for sale board, and if your home is very rural, two or three with arrows and your house name
  • Make sure your main photograph online is the front of your house
  • If the directions on your property listing aren’t comprehensive, write them yourself, one from each direction
  • Have the full address listed online
  • Make sure your home is ready for viewings at all times, and especially weekends
  • If you see a potential buyer loitering outside your house, invite them in!

Otherwise, your buyer is doing all the work, just like we did. Given that we know statistically, at least 12 – 15 potential buyers will drive past your house for each viewing booked, make sure you and your agent are being as encouraging and accommodating as possible.

We haven’t bought yet, obviously, but when we eventually do, you can bet it will be a house where the agent and the seller both made us feel special by making it as easy as possible for us to buy the house.

If you’d like my help to sell your home more effectively, please answer a few short questions here and if I think I can help you, I’ll be in touch.

What Sam did

What to read next: Best of the Best – The Scarlet Hotel 

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Copy that crackles

When an estate agent describes a house he’s selling, in a brochure or online, you’ll see he uses words that are found almost nowhere else in the English language: “benefiting from”, “dual aspect lounge” or “located in a premier turning” are all commonplace phrases for today’s estate agent. Surely learned in estate agents’ school, along with the capacity to spell the room we eat in as the “dinning room” and accommodation with only one ‘m’, or one ’c’, or even one of each. Oh dear…….

I’m on holiday as I write this post, in beautiful and windswept Northumberland. Staying in a cosy retreat of a cottage, that sold itself to me via some appropriate images (log burner, super king-sized bed, coffee machine), and also, importantly, the right words: “squishy sofas”, “great jazz cd collection”, “secret garden”.

The whole quirky, fun-sized brochure is beautifully written, and – unlike most property descriptions – really draws the reader in. Listen to this description: “This architect designed house brings you the sound of the waves, mesmerizing coastal views and sand between your toes, just steps away from a spacious and light-filled contemporary interior splashed with vivid artwork.”

Or this: “The fitted gourmet kitchen blends together oak and leather furniture and a cosy ‘snug’ with flat screen TV and piles of reading material, leads of the living room.”  This one really sets the scene: “The patio is the perfect place to watch the harbor activity and the changing sea from sunrise to sunset.”

Now compare the above descriptions with those used by local estate agents to describe beach-front properties:

“A 3 bed semi-detached house located in the heart of the village with coastal views to the front.”

“An attractive three bedroom detached bungalow occupying an enviable position on Harbour Road, enjoying superb views to the sea.”

“The apartment is situated within the attic space of the central building with direct sea views to the Farne Islands and along the beach towards Bamburgh Castle.”

These are beach-front homes, for goodness sake!

Which style works better in painting a picture for the reader? Can a buyer really become enthused by these agents’ descriptions? Despite the fact that I’m a professional property expert who has herself, moved home more than thirty times, I’m still a sucker for the kind of emotive language used by the holiday rental company in question, and the combination of such romantic words and atmospheric images wins me over every time.

The lesson here is this: if estate agents employed the same attention to detail in their copy as the best travel companies do, they too would win over their audience – the buyer. If you’re still not convinced, take a look at the website of the company who got my business:  www.coastalretreats.co.uk and lose yourself in some holiday dreaming.

If you’d like my help to sell your home more effectively, please answer a few short questions here and if I think I can help you, I’ll be in touch.

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When a house is being described in print or online, the words used can either have the effect of making a reader switch off, or else making the house lift off the page, and come alive.  The difference between telling the reader all about a property, in terms of bricks and mortar, and the way a good writer can draw you into the detail of a home, full of welcome and memories, is a profound one.  Look at these examples:

‘A beautiful detached family home, set in pretty gardens extending to about an acre, with a wonderfully secluded swimming pool, far reaching views and well planned accommodation.  No onward chain.’

‘On a warm, summer’s morning Mark and Anne Clarke like nothing better than to take a dip in their heated, outdoor swimming pool, before enjoying their breakfast al fresco on the terrace, overlooking the back garden.
The pool is actually at the side of the house and not overlooked by anyone. “That side of the house gets the sun all day, so we often like to take an early morning swim,” Helen explained.  “The minute we first saw it we knew we were going to buy it,” she added. “There are wonderful views from every single window in the house.” ‘

Would you believe these two passages are actually describing the same house?

How about these two; which house sounds more appealing?

This one…. ‘A wonderful country house situated in an enviable position within this hamlet. The property, which has been well maintained and improved by the current owners for over 30 years and is presented for sale in excellent decorative order throughout.’

Or this? Wandering past the glorious roses in full bloom, and on through the Japanese and Italian gardens, Ian and his wife Sophie soak up the wonderful tranquillity of their exquisite English country home.
They have lived at the expansive four-bedroom house in this picturesque hamlet for more than 30 years now.  There they have created an attractive and comfortable family home, which sits beautifully in its magnificent grounds of almost 6 acres. The property is overflowing with delightful features that include intricate plasterwork and open fireplaces, while the fabulous grounds incorporate a tennis court and a number of outbuildings, including converted stables, as well as a semi-walled garden with pond, and an arboretum.’

Beautiful prose and evocative words written in a stylish and nostalgic tone, can really capture a reader’s imagination.  Dull, flat copy full of clichés and ‘estate agent-speak’ can have the opposite effect.  Here’s my 5 point checklist to make sure your home sings on the page:

1. Create a snappy headline.  ‘Executive five bed home with luxury fittings and well-maintained gardens’ isn’t enough to get anyone excited.  ‘Are these the best views in Sussex?’ will get your property noticed for all the right reasons.

2. Supercharge your adjectives.  Is your copy sprinkled with adjectives that evoke homely warmth and comfort?  Words like cosy and welcoming are very appealing to buyers, and will pull at their emotional buying strings.

3. Ban all agent-speak.  Scour your descriptions for words that are clichéd and typical of the worst kind of property description. Make sure you take out offending phrases like ‘double aspect’ or ‘benefitting from’ and eliminate any mention at all of power points, telephone points and radiators.

4. Room-by-room descriptions are old hat.  Much better is a well-written opening paragraph, followed by a written ‘tour’ of the house, including the garden, and peppered with pretty quotes from the owners.

5. Dimensions belong in floorplans; not in the written description.  They interrupt the flow of the writing, and are very difficult to understand when taken out of context.  As part of the floorplan they are useful because they make sense.

Of course, it’s not always a straightforward process, persuading your estate agent to add such imaginative and attractive style to your written description, but even if you can get him to use some of your words, it will make such a difference to the way your buyer understands what your home has to offer them.

Image courtesy of Andy Marshall at FotoFacade

If you’d like my help to sell your home more effectively, please answer a few short questions here and if I think I can help you, I’ll be in touch.