Sep 13, 2010

Real Estate Ads: An Editor's View

Yes, I can get a bit nitpicky about words, and have been known to deliver tirades to anyone within earshot about my mixed horror and triumph upon finding a typo in, say, The New York Times. Okay, so we've gotten that little disclaimer out of the way.

Now, about the real estate ads. I've been receiving postcards from a local real estate agent, whom I've never met, excitedly telling me about houses she has just sold. The card enticingly tells me:

Originally price upon request

 Huh? When did she last look at the copy on her postcards? (It's got other errors, too, such as "Please call me for a complementary appointment." But getting the complimentary/complementary distinction right is becoming so rare that I'm too bored to dwell on it.)

These postcards are going straight into my file of "Real estate agents never to hire." She may have other fine skills, but if I were selling my house, I'd want someone whose ads wouldn't inspire snickers. And sure, potential buyers can look past the spelling, but carelessness about typos is often an indicator of carelessness in other matters -- like, say, about double-checking the address before you place an ad.

Sound like an unlikely error? It's not. My neighbors' agent put the wrong address on newspaper ads for their first open house. Oops, better luck next week.

I also see regular typos and other problems in our neighborhood free weekly newspaper, which has a thick real estate section.

Like in last Friday's edition, where one ad by a respected agent, which was headlined "Just Listed!" and "Open Sunday," gave plenty of glowing information about the house, including its street address, but failed to mention what city it was in. We're in an area where househunters may be searching in Oakland, Berkeley, Piedmont, El Cerrito, and Albany, so mentioning the city -- or better yet, the neighborhood -- is more than relevant for people who've narrowed down their search.

Or how about this one: "Quiet, Sunny Backyard w/A Jumble of Flowerso Great Location."

Hmm.

Anyway, may I recommend that before you hire a selling agent, you check his or her listing ads, to make sure they're clear, complete, and accurate? Then, even after hiring someone, insist that you cast your eyes upon every written word concerning your property that will be made public. Even the best real estate agents can miss something, or be mistaken about a factual matter. You don't want your ad to appear in my next blog entry!