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May 27, 2011

Few Real Estate Agents Write "Just Right" Marketing Prose

Have you noticed how agent-speak, as seen in real estate ads, tends to be either over the top or underwhelming?

IMG_2954.JPGMore often the former, of course. Just looking at today's local real estate section, it's easy to pull out grand, sweeping, and did I mention grand, statements like:

  • "Spectacular views & magical sunsets!"
  • "Enjoy the spacious sun drenched living room with views!" and
  • "Truly an entertainer's delight and magical at night!"
(Does it say somewhere in the real estate agents' handbook that you must use lots of exclamation points and the word "magical?")

Oh, and here's my favorite: "This gracious, four-bedroom, two bath . . . Tudor emotes a bygone era."

I'll give the agent a small gold star for ditching the exclamation points, but what's with "emotes?" Sounds like the house has taken up method acting. I'm guessing she meant to say "evokes." Or maybe she just got tired of the same old words and decided to get, uh, creative.

Now, for the underwhelming bits of prose -- the ad language that makes you go, "That's supposed to appeal to me why, exactly?"

Again from today's paper, we've got, "Shows very well."

Okay, now that's something an agent might say to another agent, but if I were a prospective buyer, I'd wonder what it says about the house after the staging is gone. It's like saying that someone looks really good with makeup on. 

Or this one: "Grass covered back yard!" Whoa. Better put that one on your must-see list.

And my fave from this list, which isn't an ad for a house, but for a mortgage broker, which contains the following customer testimonial:

"Buying a house is stressful, but working with Sue was one of the most positive and least stress-inducing aspects of the process." Hmm. So how stress inducing was working with her, exactly? They should've stopped at "most positive."

Just for a last bit of fun, here's an ad from an agent who tried to do something a little different: "SWEET STARTER SEEKS SINCERE BUYER. Me: Mature 2BR stucco near shops and San Francisco express bus. You: Looking for affordable cottage in desirable area."

At least he left out any mention of magical sunsets.

P.S. Choosing a selling agent? Read their ads first. Some of the larger brokerages have a marketing person handling all the writing, which can add a layer of professionalism and quality control. In any case, when it comes to your house, ask to read the copy before it goes to press.


April 8, 2011

Weird News: Bats Take Up Residence in Foreclosure Home

It's Friday afternoon, an ideal time to take in some weird news -- with a serious message, namely, look carefully before considering buying a home that's in foreclosure!

Here's the Tifton Gazette article on a Georgia house in which approximately 10,000 to 20,000 Mexican free-tailed bats decided to, uh, set up housekeeping. Guano alert: I suggest not reading this while you're eating.


December 14, 2010

Grace Your New Home With a Holiday Wreath?

IMG_3181.JPGIs it just me, or is everyone obsessed with holiday wreaths, in all their variety, this year? And, I've just noticed that the former owners of my new house left a conveniently placed nail on the front door!

So, in order to feed that obsession (because you know, it only gets worse if you deny it), below are some fun online places to research how to buy or make a wreath that will welcome you back home in style.

While we're on the topic, if you happen to be putting your house on the market soon, a wreath is a non-sectarian way to add appeal to your entryway.
  • Article from This Old House magazine--don't miss the wreath made of antique tools
  • Lots of ideas from Sunset magazine--start collecting those eucalyptus pods now!
  • Purportedly eco-friendly wreaths from Good Housekeeping--though I'm not sure how fake, plastic apples got to be defined as eco-friendly

By the way, if anyone's looking for a present for me -- perhaps knowing all too well that those branches and berries piling up on my desk may never amount to anything -- I'm entranced with these succulent wreaths, made in Phoenix, Arizona.

November 20, 2010

Moving With Pets? Here's a Laugh (and Some Useful Warnings)

This blog artist at has created some seriously funny and insightful drawings and anecdotes of her two dogs as they suffered -- and I do mean suffered -- through a move. Here's the actual entry, called "Dogs Don't Understand Basic Concepts Like Moving."

And be sure to pack a squeaky toy.
November 17, 2010

Builder Concept Home 2010: It's Cute!

Check out this year's "Builder Concept Home," the National Association of Home Builder's annual model of what Americans want and need today. It's compact! It's got rooms that look like normal squares, instead of giant foyers and open areas with staircases meant for Scarlett O'Hara! They're calling it a "New Home for the New Economy."

Personally, I think it's a good idea. I've been a houseguest in some of the McMansions of the past, and they're usually drafty (hard to heat), full of vast areas that no one uses, and no doubt take forever to vacuum. And according to Carla Fried of MoneyWatch, I'm not the only one to think smaller is better -- here's her article, "Is the McMansion Era Gone for Good?"
October 4, 2010

Is the Right to Raise Chickens Part of Homeownership?

Raising backyard chickens is just one of the many home projects that would have given your landlord fits -- but may make for a satisfying use of your newly bought home. The catch is, raising chickens isn't legal everywhere.

Thanks to the good folks at, however, (and to This Old House magazine for mentioning this), you can find out your local chicken rules and regs.

Let's see, around me, both chickens and roosters are okay in Berkeley, but Oaklanders had better find a new home for that rooster. I had friends, in fact, who faced this very scenario -- apparently, telling the hens-to-be from the roosters-to-be when they're still fluffy little yellow puffballs is no easy task. The good news is, the hens will keep laying without a rooster. The eggs just won't be fertilized.

And that ends today's law lecture and biology lesson. Maybe next time I'll find a site dealing with backyard goats. 
July 27, 2010

Home Staging: Even Homer Simpson Can't Resist!

Continuing on with the theme of popular culture depictions of real estate (my last blog posting sent you to David Letterman's Top Ten List), I hope you took note that home staging has truly "arrived" -- it made it onto The Simpsons!
That's right, in the episode that aired last Sunday, the town of Springfield was in financial crisis, and the house next door to the Simpson's was put on the market -- by just one of the many families moving to Detroit "in search of a better life."
Bart and Lisa soon notice delicious aromas of baking cookies wafting their way. But sensible Marge assures them that this is just a ploy by the sellers to make people subconsciously want to buy the house. Bart wonders, "What kind of a big fat moron would fall for that?"
Enter Homer Simpson, zombie-like, moaning, "Cookies! Must buy house!" He follows that with a litany of lines like, "Get loan preapproved," "Offer over asking," and "waive inspections," but I may not have the lines exactly right, since I can watch this episode only so many times at the office without others wanting to trade their jobs for mine.
But you can watch the whole thing, at Hulu.
Be sure to hang in their for the next best line in the episode -- when Bart introduces himself to the neighbor, saying, "You've no doubt read about me on your nuisance neighbor disclosure."

If you're a seller looking for more information on staging, check out Nolo's article, "Should You Hire a Home Stager?". 
July 23, 2010

Uh Oh, Could Your New Neighbors Be Russian Spies?

It has happened to some homebuyers; the neighbors turn out to be NOT WHO THEY APPEARED TO BE. Luckily, late-night host David Letterman has supplied this handy list of Top Ten Signs That Your Neighbor is a Russian spy. Yup, if your mail carriers keep mysteriously dying of polonium poisoning, you just might want to investigate further.

On a more serious note, when home shopping, it's worth asking both the home seller and passersby you meet in the neighborhood about your neighbors' personalities and activities before you close the deal. Some states' disclosure forms will ask the seller to provide potentially neighbor-related information, such as local nuisances or legal disputes concerning the property. But others leave it to up the up to the seller's conscience as to whether they fill in the "Other" box.

There's nothing to stop you from knocking on your potential new neighbors' doors, introducing yourself, and taking your own measure of their personalities. In most cases, a Russian accent means you should look forward to some pleasant evenings over borscht, blini, or vodka. But, as Letterman warns, think twice if they hand you a business card where "Russian Spy" is crossed out and "Landscaper" is scribbled in . . .  .

For more information on checking out the neighborhood and the neighbors when choosing a new place to call your own, see Nolo's Essential Guide to Buying Your First Home.
June 10, 2010

Online Fun for Home Buyers

The sun is shining, you're hoping to buy a new house -- but you're stuck at your desk, and haven't seen an open house sign in your neighborhood in weeks. Here's some diversion while you wait: a new article on Nolo's website, "Online Fun for Home Buyers." 
February 16, 2010

Are Garage Sales Worth It?

This isn't an idle question on my part -- having just bought and moved into a new house with almost no advance planning, I've got piles of things that seem just a little too valuable to drop off at Goodwill (where I've already taken carloads of stuff).

So, I'll probably give them a try on Craiglist, and then have a garage sale one of these Sundays -- knowing full well that I'll probably get no more than $10 for any of the items in question.

If I work out how many hours I'll likely spend, first on posting the items online, answering emails or calls, meeting potential buyers, and then, for the garage sale,  attaching price tags, setting up, sitting outside in hopes of customers, and finally cleaning up afterwards, it's probably not worth the time at all. A savvy friend of mine likes to say that anything you can't sell for at least $50 bucks isn't worth the hours of effort (and sometimes aggravation) you'll put in. Probably sound advice -- which for some reason I probably won't take.

At least a garage sale might be a fun way to meet the new neighbors! And a few extra dollars wouldn't hurt right now, either.

In the meantime, I was interested to see Kiplinger's magazine provide a list -- in its March, 2010 issue -- of what items that might be sitting around in people's attics are selling best these days (particularly on eBay or

According to them, boys' toys from the '50s and '60s are a good bet, along with art pottery, sterling silver from famous makers, Griswold cast-iron skillets and other kitchen ware from the '30s to '50s. But don't try selling Hummel or Royal Doulton figurines -- the market is saturated.

Wouldn't you know it? The only one of those things that I own is a Hummel figurine.