I know that number by heart.
In the “REMARKS FOR CLIENTS” section of the MLS listing, there is room for exactly 463 characters of any type, including spaces or punctuation.
And what’s crazy is that we used to write this out by hand!
Seriously. As recently as probably, if I had to guess, 2010?
Even more fascinating than the form itself is the fact that these are still in print!
See that perforated line at the top? That’s so you can tear this apart and take your copy as after you give one to the seller and turn in one at the brokerage. After all, carbon-copies are here to stay!
Actually, wait, even MORE fascinating than the fact that these are still in print is the fact that most brokerages have a cabinet full of them that looks something like this:
I’m not being mean here, but once in a while, I see our admin staff with a hand-written copy sitting at reception, as they try to decipher the hieroglyphics of whatever agent still uses these goddam things.
I know I still download MP3’s from Napster rather than using Spotify, so who am I to talk, but I digress…
That’s how many characters you, as a listing agent, have to make an impact on the market!
While an MLS listing may feature up to forty photos, a virtual tour, a floor plan, a series of pre-formatted or drop-down menu options (beds, baths, parking type, etc), I’ve always been drawn to “the blurb.”
It has many different names, and while TRREB calls it “Client Remarks,” we all know it as either the blurb, the caption, or the write-up.
So my question to the readers today is this: do you care what’s written here?
You can answer honestly, I won’t be offended.
Do you care at all? Do you even read it? And if so, do you go here first or last?
More to the point: how do you feel this impacts your idea of the listing overall?
I suppose asking that question infers that none of us think our perceptions of a product or service are altered due to marketing, so it’s not really a fair question. I also don’t think we’d get realistic answers, but you can still answer how you think it impacts your perception.
This week, I was looking at a new listing for a brick-and-beam hard-loft in a very popular building, and in addition to having no photos, the MLS caption was lacking.
The agent is from way north of Toronto so perhaps this explains the lack of effort here, but come on, read this:
I feature a blog series called “More MLS Listings” which I write every month or so, and if you’re a regular TRB reader, you’re used to seeing these captions and my associated comments.
But today, I’m not joking about spelling mistakes or stupid comments. Today, I want to talk about how some agents effectively use their 463 characters, or in the case of the above listing, don’t.
How little do you have to try to come up with “well taken care of unit?”
Or how lazy do you have to be?
“Upgraded With Cupboards And More.” Are cupboards really an upgrade?
“Great Location Close To TTC, Schools, And Shopping.” This is for a 1-bed, 1-bath condo. What are the chances that the buyer pool is made up of single parents with a child in elementary school?
“Close To Shopping” is a cop-out. Is there nothing better you can say? Not only that, this is kinda-sorta close to Dollorama and an Esso, so is that what you meant by “shopping?”
So be honest with me. Tell me if this actually matters to you.
I mean, I might also suggest that the agent who writes the above caption is also likely to use iPhone photos, not stage, and have errors in the listing, but I digress…
I believe that anything an agent can do to market a property is worth doing in this market, and that everything matters. I know, first-hand, that many of today’s buyers are buying the photos, the virtual tour, and the furniture and artwork – and not the property itself. Maybe you, you, or you reading this, right now, are smarter than that. But today’s market demands perfection to obtain top dollar.
When it comes to those magical 463 characters, you be the judge.
I’ve always disliked the “fluff” though.
In my 463 characters, I don’t waste space telling people what to do, think, or feel. I’d rather use the space to talk about the property itself, so you won’t catch me doing this:
That’s fluff. It’s a waste.
Give me information about what I’m actually buying, don’t just tell me, “You’ll Be The Envy Of All Your Friends When They See You Moved To This Prestigious Address!” Yeah, seriously. That was in a listing once, I’ll never forget it. But as far as the “fluff” goes, I’ve never liked people talking about how to feel.
Often you’ll see agents try to do something completely different, and it just doesn’t work.
Like this one:
There are so many things wrong with this…
“Featured As One Of Torontos Condos That Most Buyers Are Looking At”
That’s far from grammatically-correct, but it also makes no sense. Not only that, what list is this one? Oh, right, no list, since “condos that most buyers are looking at” is about the dumbest and unlikely name for a list you’ll find anywhere.
“Close To Major Streets”
Isn’t every downtown condo “close to major streets?” I mean, if this condo is on Adelaide or Richmond, is this claim really needed?
And more fluff:
“Private Balcony Perfect For Work From Home, Morning Coffee, Or Sunsets.”
Don’t tell me how to spend my time, live, or act. The “fluff” about “reading a book while enjoying an Earl Grey tea on the bay window, overlooking the front yard and watching passer-byers” isn’t going to sell the house, in my opinion, at least not as well as actual information about the house or condo!
I’m all for trying something different, but that caption above offered no info about the property and the fluff was silly.
Tell me if this is fluff, or if this is well-done:
I think it’s somewhere in between.
I mean, “A Five Star Basement,” tells me nothing about the basement, ie. the ceiling height, layout, room types, etc.
I don’t know what “Heartbreakingly Warm” means.
But it’s kind of cute. I’ll give it that.
There’s a fine line between “fluff” and detailing the property while keeping things interesting. Maybe too much about the property is boring, and without an iota of “fluff,” you lose the readers’ interest.
So here’s one that I just pulled, and I think this hits the mark:
There’s enough information about the property, the features, the extras, and there are no wasted characters.
But do you have to include something innovative? Something witty or eye-catching, even if it’s just one sentence?
We see this a lot in listings and I think it can have an effect.
Alliteration and inventive wording is common, like this:
Perhaps a cute rhyme?
Okay, maybe that’s lame. Maybe it’s not that original.
But how about this one?
I love it!
Maybe I just like Elton John more than you do, but I think it’s cute and it’s catchy.
How about this one?
I’ll admit, I had to Google “Harriet, Sweet Harriet,” and I’m so, so glad that I did, for two reasons:
1) The movie “So I Married An Axe Murderer” was widely panned by critics, but when I was 13-years-old, I loved it.
2) I realized that one of my favourite scenes from “22 Jump Street” was a rip-off.
This is way, way off-topic, but it’s Friday so have a look.
Here’s Mike Myers saying “Harriet. Harr-rri-eet”
And here’s Jonah Hill saying, “Cynthia. Sin – thee – aaa”
My wife is going to be very disappointed when I tell her that Jonah Hill may not be the perfect man after all…
There are a few notable agents in Toronto that are famous for their MLS captions.
I took it personally when one of my good friends told me that my captions are so-so, and that these ‘other’ agents are brilliant, and that they’re great writers.
But I’m a writer!
I could do that too, I just choose not too!
You think me doth protest too much?
I’m outnumbered on this one. Everybody in real estate LOVE these captions.
Have a read:
This one too:
And this one:
I saved these a couple of weeks ago so I can’t remember who wrote this one, but it feels like a knock-off:
Wait a second…
….who the hell is Kate?
Are we supposed to know this?
Kate Hudson? Kate Beckinsale? Kate Winslet? Kate Mara?
Perhaps I’m dating myself here, since the first three ladies are all in their 40’s, and “Zoe Barnes” from House of Cards is pushing thirty-nine.
Ah, okay, somebody from my office just told me that it’s probably Kate Middleton, since she’s a princess, and I honestly never would have known that.
In any event, this doesn’t come close to “Like A Puppy Made Out Of Bricks,” does it?
Or have you stopped paying attention?
Part of me really, truly does believe that a large percentage of the buyer pool pays zero attention to the MLS “caption,” but I know for a fact that many buyers still do.
A well-written caption is important, and at the very least, it has to avoid spelling mistakes like the ones I include on my “More MLS Musings” feature, inaccuracies, and misrepresentations.
How you go about using your 463 characters surely differs depending on location, target demographic, and price point, and as well as the listing agent him or herself and how they want to represent themselves…