A well-written listing is the best marketing tool to get your house looked at, loved and sold. Real estate agents devote extra effort to include the best selling points of houses on the market in order to attract the attention of potential buyers.
"In this slower market, we are off-peak of our usual annual sales of 6 million homes, so it's important for any house on the market to stand out from the crowd," says Alison Rogers, author of "Diary of a Real Estate Rookie."
To make your home's listing stand out from the many other listings out there, shine a spotlight on elements that bring to mind what the buyer's lifestyle would be if he or she were to buy your home. That means mentioning that your house is located close to a park with biking trails so the buyer registers that your home location supports an active lifestyle. Homebuyers looking for a serene place to walk their dogs or have family picnics will flock to your open house. If your home is located close to a train station leading into a major city, it may attract a buyer who loves the energy and culture available in a metropolitan area. Revealing that it would be easy to hop in and out of the city could add a checkmark in that buyer's mental "plus column."
When attempting to load your listing with attractive lifestyle elements, you have to be careful not to violate the Fair Housing Act (Title VIII of the Civil Rights Act of 1968), which the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development summarizes as prohibiting "discrimination in the sale, rental, and financing of dwellings, and in other housing-related transactions, based on race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status (including children under the age of 18 living with parents or legal custodians, pregnant women, and people securing custody of children under the age of 18), and handicap (disability)." This means you cannot try to sell your home by mentioning that it's close to schools or to religious centers. Doing so is simply against the law because these elements apply only to certain demographics.
"You can't say that the home is near an 'ample playground,'" says Rogers, illustrating that your listing cannot give the appearance of favoring any demographic. You're not being a good marketer, and you're breaking the law by unintentionally discriminating.
So, to avoid any brush against the Fair Housing Act, it's far better to illustrate lifestyle elements by listing that your house has a pool, a garden, a roof deck, a tennis court, water features, a home theater and any other on-property attractions. Descriptive wording enables potential buyers to imagine themselves enjoying these very elements as the home's new owners.
Illustrating lifestyle elements may catch potential buyers' attention, but don't forget the basics. "People may appreciate the wrapping paper," Rogers says, "but they need the present, too. It's far better to provide the essential details that are truly going to attract the ideal buyer, such as the number and sizes of rooms." What buyers really want to know is whether the house or condo is large enough for them, how many bedrooms there are, how many bathrooms there are, whether the heat is electric or gas, when the roof was redone, whether there is a security system, etc.
These may not be fun topics, but they're the ones that carry the most weight when it comes to selling your home. So be sure that your house's inner details are illustrated fully and that photos of your rooms are high-quality and plentiful for showing on online media players.
"You want your ad to be attractive to the right kind of buyers," Rogers says. "A comprehensive listing with the essential details plus those attractive lifestyle selling points -- such as the pool, the deck and the nearby biking trails -- will attract the right people you're looking for, not wear you out with endless appointments made by those who didn't get the most important details of your house from the listing. That can make you tired."
The adage "truth in advertising" applies greatly when listing your home. So tell the truth: You've got a great home to sell, and its lifestyle-enhancing attractions can be found both in your ad and at your home.