Beware the ‘Walking Closet’: Mistakes in Home Listings Bother Buyers

walking-closetIf a homebuyer comes across an online home listing with horrible photos (or no photos), odds are that buyer will move on to the next option. But what reaction do buyers have to home listings with bad grammar or misspellings?

It turns out that grammar and spelling matter to homebuyers. In fact, 43.4 percent of 1,291 people surveyed online said they would be much less inclined to tour a home if its online listing contained misspellings or improper grammar.

To commemorate National Grammar Day, Redfin teamed up with the grammar experts at Grammarly to see if grammar matters to those perusing real estate listings. We surveyed our online communities and, not surprisingly, all of those surveyed said photos were more important than the home’s description, but 87 percent said the description was either extremely important or very important.

“When buyers are browsing homes for sale, everything about the listing has an impact on their experience,” said Seattle Redfin agent Chad Dierickx. “Photos grab your attention, but the listing description fills in the gaps by helping a buyer understand what photos can’t.”

A home listing filled with misspellings or grammar errors sends a signal to potential buyers that details are not important,” said Allison VanNest at Grammarly, the world’s leading automated proofreader. (For more perspective, please take a look at Grammarly’s blog post on this topic.)

Our survey also found that the preferred length of a home description is about 50 words. That preference is backed by Redfin data, which found that homes with descriptions of that length are more likely to sell within 90 days and are more likely to sell for higher than list price. (A breakdown of word count data by market is at the bottom of this post.)

Agents usually write home descriptions, so sellers should work with their agent to ensure accuracy and readability.

“Some people gloss over grammar and spelling errors, but if you’re like me, you’ll evaluate the quality of the agent and the home when you read a property description,” Dierickx said.

So what kinds of mistakes might deter a buyer? Here are a few examples:

But I ran spell-check …

Spell-check is only helpful if your typo results in a non-word. In these cases, one little misplaced letter created an entirely new meaning:

  • Master bedroom with walking closet
  • Open trough Friday
  • Low grime area
  • Oak bra with brass accents
  • This is a real germ!
  • Perfect home for smell family
  • Fresh pain and carpet
  • Miner work needed
  • Curve appeal

It sounded right …

The English language is packed with homophones, or words that sound the same but have different spellings and meanings. Even the most word aware among us may occasionally type the wrong won (See what I did there?). Here’s a sentence with three homophones, all of which I’ve seen (separately) in actual listings:

New stares lead to finished basement with wreck room for you’re kids to enjoy.

Neglected punctuation

A simple comma can change the meaning of a sentence. For instance, in this sentence, the implication is that the home was built with shoddy construction and could fall apart at any minute:

New construction won’t last.

Here, though, we see that the writer meant that this home was newly built and will likely sell quickly:

New construction, won’t last.

Why are you shouting?

All-caps listings are hard to read, and are often accompanied by overuse of exclamation points.

THIS HOME IS A MUST SEE! NEWLY RENOVATED WITH NEWER ELECTRICAL AND BRAND-NEW ROOF! TRAVERTINE TILE AND HARDWOOD FLOORS!

Alphabet soup

There are a number of abbreviations used in the MLS, but the average homebuyer may not be able to interpret all of them. A confused buyer will likely move on to the next home. Can you tell what this is trying to say?

Spcs hm w/ EF, lg. FLR and FDR.

(Spacious home with entrance foyer, large formal living room and formal dining room.)

And here’s the data on home description length, by market.

Likelihood of Selling Above List Price, Compared with Metro Average

sold_above_list

Likelihood of Selling Within 90 Days, Compared with Metro Average

sold_in_less_than_90_days

Do mistakes in home listings bother you? Share this post on Facebook, Twitter or Google+ and tell us your biggest home listing pet peeve.

Discussion

  • Arden

    Nice list of malapropisms there!

  • http://www.exclusivelyrealestate.com/ Lara Knoerr

    Imagine not having a closet at all. For some odd reason, many of the properties available in Telluride, CO including properties built as late as the 1990s do not have closets in the bedrooms. Homes and condos alike! No closets. Properties that are selling at $500-$800 per Sqft.

  • http://www.amerispec.net/nernberg/ Old Guy Rules

    A comma could save a loved one. Example: Let’s eat grandma. Let’s eat, grandma.

  • Ruth

    My pet peeves are “hugh bedrooms” or “hugh back yard”; and “quite” neighborhoods. (quite what?)