The Power of Words When Selling a Home

red_contemporary_kitchens The Power of Words When Selling A Home This article was also published on Inman News on 3/9/2015

What are the ten most important words needed to make a home sell?  It all depends on what the market desires.  How do you know what the market desires?  Either through a lot of hands-on specialization in one neighborhood or some customized artificial intelligence software.  One costs you time and effort, the other may set you back several million dollars.

Let’s first talk about what a neighborhood is.  I don’t see it as a geographical location.  What I see is a collection of people with similar values and desires.  You have to define your market by values and desires and not by demographics such as age, income, or education level.  (For you marketing aficionados we are leaning toward using psychographic segmentation now.)

There are reasons a lot of people want to live in an urban loft.  And there are reasons a lot of people want to live in rural areas, or suburbs, or on a beach.  Using our urban loft example you can easily have 20-somethings living next to 60-somethings, with one making $200K a year with no college education, and another making $50K a year with a PhD.  They don’t care; they are drawn to the neighborhood by similar values and desires. Those values and desires are the keys to the words you need to know and use.

My theory is that these “values and desires” are driven by two major emotions: Pride and Fear. Pride factors are publically driven.  For instance, why would someone be very excited by slab granite counters and cherry cabinets in their kitchen?  Formica and oak work fine, so would plywood counters and particle board cabinets.  You can chop up anything you want or store anything you wish using any of these materials.

Pride factors are emotionally driven by envisioned future life events.  Mr. Home Owner may be driven by the emotional benefits (pride) when the in-laws come over for Thanksgiving dinner and remark on what a wonderful home their daughter lives in.  This goes deeper than the immediate superficial pride and goes down into demonstrating that he’s a “good provider” for his wife and family; it establishes that he’s a success in life.  The same goes for when Mrs. Home Owner has friends or co-workers over for some event.  Positive comments equate to success—public acknowledgment of success—Pride.

These Pride factors sparked by envisioned future life events are what home buyers desire when they look at a home.  Therefore focus on the most vital emotional triggers and ignore everything else. And Pride does not necessarily mean fancy possessions.  If you want to live in a cabin on 500 acres and all of your friends think it’s the coolest thing in the world that you can all sit on your back porch and target shoot with your pistols, then that’s a hot Pride factor for this particular market.

I believe that what makes one home stand out from the others is based on these emotionally charged envisioned future life events as triggered by aspects of each home; in one example the granite and cherry would be part of those triggers.  Whereas Pride for our loft-dwellers may come from telling their friends that they’ve sold their car and can accomplish anything they wish via light-rail, subway, or bicycle.  Their Pride comes in their friends’ eyes becoming wide in astonishment with perhaps the hint of envy in their expression. These are the aspects, emotional triggers, descriptions—words— you must discover and use.  Forget everything else.

So if the property you are selling has granite and cherry these must be in the top ten words, right?  Perhaps, but maybe not. Pride motivations are on a sliding scale.  So let’s jump back to defining neighborhoods as a collective of people with similar values and desires.  If we are in a $200K neighborhood our granite and cherry may have a huge emotional Pride impact relative to other homes viewed.  If we take this exact same $15,000 of granite and cherry to a $1 million neighborhood they may have almost zero emotional impact.  It’s the exact same features but causing a completely different impact.  Each neighborhood is a collective of people with definite values and desires. To get the same Pride impact in our million-dollar neighborhood perhaps we need custom-built cabinets, ideally by a well-known provider of such workmanship. Our loft-dwellers may see granite as passé and demand concrete or steel counters.

You can discover the major Pride factors of any neighborhood through experience or custom AI software.  However, once you know what they are you must specifically present as many of these as possible in your advertising, ideally in order of emotional impact to your market.  Use concrete terms such as brand names if you have them.  Come on, Viking or Subzero creates an envisioned dinner party in your mind and you are already receiving the emotional Pride benefits this moment.

You have that similar kind of impact in every neighborhood and price range, it’s just the emotional triggers vary—based on the values and desires of people drawn to each neighborhood. Use these terms in tangible descriptive form and don’t use fluffy, meaningless terms like “pride of ownership” or “wonderful family home”.  These descriptions take up space and trigger no Pride-based emotions for buyers.

Now do the same with your pictures and videos.  Nobody wants to see another standard bathroom with a panning shot of a toilet—stop it.  The vast majority of bathrooms and bedrooms, even in nice homes, are b-o-r-i-n-g.  Ignore them.  Focus your visual presentation on the same areas where your words had the highest emotional impact and stop there.

Once your buyer is head-over-heals in love with the property that you are selling—all emotionally driven, based on envisioned future life events, then a twinge of Fear sets in.  They are compelled to test out their decision rationally for just a moment.  They are afraid they may make a mistake.

Again through experience or expensive software you can discover why some homes sold for much less than others physically very similar to your own and in your same neighborhood.  Often times it’s because they lacked the volume of Pride triggers the higher-priced homes had.  But sometimes they had problems—negative factors which scared the home buyers. Once you determine those Fear triggers you can either remove or fix those problems, or acknowledge your lower value based on market actions.

It will do you no good to embellish your description: your words, pictures, and video; the market will find out through their visits and you’ll start that lengthy decline of price-reductions and ever increasing time on the market.

And don’t panic, filling your descriptions with meaningless fluff terms.  You’ll just embolden your seller before the lengthy decline of price-drops and ever increasing time on the market. Know what the market desires the most and excite them with concrete descriptions matching their desires.

If your home seller won’t work with you in preparing their home to best meet the desires of home buyers, politely walk away and let another broker learn this lesson the hard way.  The home owners will appreciate your research and honesty.


  1. Joan Quirico says

    You are so very, very right. I have been doing real estate marketing for 17 years and I can tell you for a fact that the agents who give me pages upon pages of detailed information and then blend in the “emotional triggers” are the top producers. The sellers love it and the buyers eat it up. It’s a huge amount of money being exchanged and both parties want to feel smart and satisfied after the deal is complete. Handing out that weak and pitiful mls sheet and expecting that to be enough just doesn’t cut it anymore.

    • Demon says

      Hi Joan, thanks for your feedback. You are absolutely right on all points. I think proper comments will very soon be taken to a higher level as the Automated Valuation Models and Buyer Search Tools will be capturing those key words to help all parties on the internet. The brokers who take the time and effort to write emotionally driven and accurate descriptions and focus their visual efforts on the same will differentiate themselves in the marketplace and be in even greater demand.

      Take Care

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