Spelling and grammar count when listing your home

March 6th, 2014

When listing your home online, be sure to pay attention to spelling and grammar, as errors may deter some potential buyers.

There are a number of things that can cause prospective homebuyers to skip past a seller’s online listing, and the writing may be as much of a mitigating factor as the presence or quality of any photos.

According to a joint survey by online real estate portal Redfin and grammar resource Grammarly – conducted in honor of National Grammar Day – how a home is described in the listing is a big deal for buyers. The survey polled nearly 1,300 people via social media platforms, and 43.4 percent of respondents said spelling and grammar mistakes would lower their desire to view a home. Although photos were still a top consideration for respondents, 87 percent rated the description as “extremely important” or “very important.”

“When buyers are browsing homes for sale, everything about the listing has an impact on their experience,” said Chad Dierickx, a Seattle Redfin agent. “Photos grab your attention, but the listing description fills in the gaps by helping a buyer understand what photos can’t.”

Redfin noted that a few errors within listings on its platform that could be a red flag to buyers:

  • This is a real germ!
  • Curve appeal
  • Master bedroom with walking closet

Size matters
In addition to spelling and grammar issues, homebuyers are particular about the size of the description. The survey found that most respondents were fond of a medium-sized listing amounting to around 50 words. Redfin also reported that listings of that size on their platform tended to sell in under 90 days and for higher than list price.

Given that buyers are scanning many listings while searching for a new home, they want the most important details immediately. Too many unnecessary words or details can cause them to glance over a seller’s home without a second thought. If, for instance, the first sentence of a 75-word listing describes a home’s proximity to bars rather than the number of bedrooms, buyers may skip the listing for one that more quickly provides essential information.

Tips for crafting an effective listing
Most often, a seller’s agent is responsible for creating the listing. Sellers should review their listing with their agent before it is posted online to spot any errors.

“A home listing filled with misspellings or grammar errors sends a signal to potential buyers that details are not important,” said Allison VanNest at Grammarly.

Here are some things sellers should keep in mind when reviewing their listing:

  • Spellcheck functions only recognize misspellings that result in nonwords. However, if the description confuses loose with lose or lead with led, the errors likely won’t be detected by the system, especially if they are mistakes like the ones noted by Redfin.
  • All-caps writing and excessive use of exclamation points should be avoided.
  • The description should have proper punctuation use. A misplaced comma can make a big difference and alter the meaning of sentences.
  • Although buyers are picky about concise listings, there shouldn’t be too many abbreviations. Not all abbreviations are discernible to every buyer, and some individuals could be deterred if they run into what is commonly referred to as “alphabet soup,” which happens when a sentence has too many abbreviations.

Taking a few extra minutes to review a listing can be the difference between quickly selling a home and having it sit in limbo for months. The effort is worth the time and could result in a better sale.

“Some people gloss over grammar and spelling errors, but if you’re like me, you’ll evaluate the quality of the agent and the home when you read a property description,” Dierickx said.