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Magic Words That Make Homes More Valuable

Survey shows how the right descriptions of amenities translate to higher sales prices

large luxury bathroom with steam shower

Tony Giammarino/Alamy Stock Photo

Can you spot the magic words in this description? Extra-large luxury bathroom with crown molding, steam shower, freestanding tub and shiny floors that connect to a walk-in closet with open shelving.

Want to sell your home for more money? Two words: “steam shower.” Also: “pet shower.” And, yes, “wine fridge.”

Listings mentioning these and other key words sold homes for up to 29 percent more than expected, according to a new survey by the online real estate site Zillow.

Analyzing listing write-ups from nearly 4 million homes sold between January 2016 and December 2017, Zillow found that specific phrases describing certain features, as well as others related to a home’s design style (see “craftsman”), provided major boosts to sale prices. The key phrases were also associated with homes spending less time on the market.

As Zillow explains on its website, advertising "open shelving," "dual flush," "subway tile" and "mid-century" features shortened the time houses spent on the market in the past two years by more than 10 days. 

And while, yes, you have to actually have a “pizza oven” or “radiant floors” to net the extra dough such phrases brought in (between 24 an 26 percent more than otherwise expected), some of the descriptive magic seemed to offer some wiggle room.

Do you have a sunlit attic space that might be cleared out, save for a Buddha statue and a yoga mat? Bingo: You’ve got a “meditation room,” which boosted sale prices by 24 percent, especially in the Los Angeles area, the survey data shows. “Shed or garage studio,” offering the same sale-price assist, might also be a descriptor to aspire to — should you be up for some serious purging, cleaning, and staging to turn the detritus of the boomer family home into the housing ideal of a minimalism-loving millennial.

In releasing the survey, Zillow’s chief marketing officer, Jeremy Wacksman, stressed how it shows the value of “being specific and strategic with your listing.” If you have today’s much-wanted spa/house-party features — others from the list include  “freestanding tub” and “home theater” — take care to highlight them in your description as well as in accompanying photos, he adds.

And keep in mind that while “new carpets” brought no boost in sales price, listings mentioning “hardwood floors” translated to a 10 percent greater home value, and ads offering “herringbone patterned floors” led to a 21 percent higher sales price.

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