Property language: time to think again?
You might have noticed recently that one of the UK’s most unmistakable properties has been put on the rental market. Relatively unassuming until you see the roof, the three-bedroom cottage in Oxford has a 7.5 metre fibreglass shark embedded in the tiles, installed to mark the 41st anniversary of the Nagasaki atomic bombing.
It fell to one plucky letting agent to create the property write up, and he chose to embrace the unusual feature rather than brush over it, using the line ‘a period cottage with stylish modern interiors forming part of a famous city landmark’. Makes it sound like an iconic, unmissable opportunity, doesn’t it? The photographs spoke for themselves, however, leaving the prospective tenant in no doubt what they were taking on.
The very same week while browsing The Sunday Time’s Style magazine, I came across a ‘what they say versus what they mean’ snippet, this time focusing on estate agents’ lingo. Apparently, when you say ‘well presented’, it means ‘they hoovered before a viewing took place’ and an ‘increasingly popular area’ translates to ‘horrible but lots of people are as desperate as you’.
This got me thinking about the language agents use when describing a property. We know that Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading regulations (which took over from the 1991 Property Misdescriptions Act) prohibit misleading write ups but not every home has roses round the door. With as much emphasis now on what you might omit, as well as how you describe features, agents need to be creative enough to draw attention yet accurately represent what’s on offer.
It’s now not enough to say the property is set in a peaceful location, when actually there’s a graveyard just the other side of the garden fence. Is it better to be blunt and say there’s a graveyard next door? Should agents employ humour and say an undisturbed sleep is guaranteed? Or should there be more flair, with phrases such as ‘final resting place’ and ‘historically-rich burial site’?
There have been cases of agents writing blunt, honest and no frills property descriptions but they seem to serve more as PR fodder that a useful marketing tool. After all, people are being sold a lifestyle and often buy into a property based on the wording and photographs. A little flair can go a long way, especially at the initial search stage.
Why not have a read of your property descriptions to see if you rely on stock phrases and words. Do you over use CAPITAL LETTERS to emphasis a facet? The skill is in creating fresh and compelling text without straying into the ‘pompous, flowery’ category, or misleading clients to the point of breaking the law.
* Simon Duce is the Managing Director of the ARPM Group, which provides national outsourced lettings and property management services.