It takes a special talent to create compelling real estate copy. The highly specialized genre requires the writer to seamlessly mix legally required disclosures about a property's flaws with ebullient and frequently exaggerated claims that quickly forge an emotional connection with potential buyers. It's kind of like writing a profile for an online dating service — not that I'd know anything about that — except you have to mention things like plumbing and delinquent property taxes. Like satire and clever limericks, it's not easy to pull off. Especially when it comes to Flint.
Take this eBay offering — "Charming 2 BR House in Flint MI, Good Area for family" — for a classic Civic Park home at 1610 W. Jackson Avenue.(Disclosure: I once hauled ass through the backyard of this house approximately 35 years ago after an unfortunate misunderstanding involving snowballs and a motorist who clearly didn't have a sense of humor.) Let's set aside the obvious big-picture discussion of whether Flint, in its present state, is indeed a "good area" for families and get right into some of the classic elements of real estate writing skillfully employed in this listing.
Bad News First: Some things are simply impossible to nuance, and it's best to just get it over with: "Unfortunately, thieves have entered the property and taken the furnace, hot water service, kitchen sink, and fittings."
Turn That Frown Upside Down: But it's always best to quickly counter this potentially negative information with something positive: "Luckily the property has poly water pipes and they are still all there. The ducting for the furnace is still in place, and the only damage done to the property is to the door knob and door jamb of the side door, minor damage to the bathroom wall and mud trampled over the carpets. The front, side and rear doors are all new aluminum clad security doors and all have been secured. The carpets, although soiled, are still in excellent condition and will clean up well. The house is currently winterized." (Note: This may be one of the rare instances when the use of cheapo polybutylene plumbing paid off; if the owner had used copper, it would be long gone by now.)
Get Inside Their Head: Anticipate potential buyers questions and concerns and reassure them. For example, people might be wondering why the seller is willing to part with this fantastic property for under $2,000 on eBay: "I cannot undertake repairs as I live too far away. This is the ONLY reason I’m selling it." Note the use of ALL CAPS for emphasis, which enhances the believability of the claim. It also distracts the customer from asking the obvious question: Why do you live so far away from Flint if the city is as wonderful as you claim?
Aspirational Thinking: Prompt the potential buyer to start imagining the fun projects they could undertake once they own the property. "Don’t be put off by the external color of the house. It’s only a coat of paint from being stunning."
Get Back to Nature: Take advantage of natural attributes that have an emotional appeal and are difficult to steal while hinting at the long-term potential of the property: "There is a large shade tree in the back yard and room for a garage."
Avoid Too Much Information: Finally, real estate writers know that while they shouldn't actively deceive, there's no law that says you have to provide every piece of pertinent information: "The home's location provides convenient access to schools, parks and churches.
With less than two days before the auction closes, the house has 36 bids. The current high bid is $1,336.