Property (real estate) ads that make me want to SCREAM

While taking a verbal stroll through my local British newspaper the other day I had a look through the property section (real estate section for you North Americans) and as always, ground my teeth over the awful, awful text that’s used in an effort to sell homes to people.

Before an estate agent / realtor / real estate broker descends upon me and whacks me around the head with a lot of good reasons why descriptions need to be this way and that way, yes … OK. I put my hands up. I know people (in the UK anyway) are more interested in how many bedrooms a house has, if it has a garage, if it’s near good schools, etc. etc., than if it happens to have a tiny bit of charm, seclusion from  throbbing highways, gardens bigger than a spread-out man-sized Kleenex, and so-on.

But for Heaven’s sake … can we not do a little better than these examples? And before you say I made them up, uh-uh. Straight from the horses’ mouths.

Luxurious homes: the new trend

Something I have noticed in recent months in our local rags is ads for more expensive homes that tell a lovely story about the buildings themselves, and what they represent … for example:

“Sitting on the balcony, drinking their morning coffee, they enjoy the view across the leafy garden and the golf course beyond. ‘It’s our own private little world,’ said the owner of (name of home.)  (Persons A and B) moved into newly built (name of house) nearly three years ago and live here with their teenage twins – the youngest of their five children. One of the things (name) most appreciates about life at the elegant Georgian-style property is the way this home has, as he puts it, “two faces.”

Well, two faces seems appropriate here. If it’s so ****ing wonderful, why do they want to move? The property ad bangs on about how superb this family found the house but doesn’t even hint at why they’re moving. Surely it would be more honest to say all that stuff, but with an added line that says, “they’re heart-broken to leave, but they now want to downsize as their kids are all grown up?” But, no.

Smaller scale “waffle

Another estate agent in my local newspaper spends what I assume is a fair amount of money on several pages showing photographs of homes, underscored by tiny, tiny print. In every case (and there are usually a good couple of dozen in each edition of the paper) goes something like this…

“(Name of company) are pleased to offer for sale a well-presented X bedroom detached property within the sought-after (name of area). The property boasts (etc., etc.)” Could we not dump the first bit which, after being repeated up to 20 times over their total ad space, gets a weensie bit repetitive? However I have to say this lot don’t commit the ultimate UK property ad crime … the “comprises” whopper.

Once and for all, estate agents – it’s “comprises” or “consists” of … OK? Sadly not

“One bedroom end of terrace house briefly comprising of entrance hall, lounge, kitchen, bedroom, bathroom plus gardens to the front and rear as well as a garage en bloc”

“Purpose built apartment located a (sic) development known as (name) in the city centre. The accommodation comprises of entrance hall, lounge, kitchen, two bedrooms and bathroom. Property is offered with immediate vacant possession.”

And there are dozens more “comprises of” examples just in this one edition of the newspaper.

Watch for those confusing, er, syntax and punctuation issues

“A beautifully presented detached residence in (name) and within the (name) school catchment area which has been completely refurbished by the current owners.” What – they refurbished the school catchment area?

“This property represents an excellent first time time purchase but for the investor we can offer a tenant in situ currently paying a commercial rent if required.” So – the tenant only pays a commercial rent if s/he is required to? Good call.

“A stunning five bedroom detached house with three bathrooms overlooking the brook.” Are all three bathrooms lined up together, or does the brook go around the whole house?

And “boasting?” Why do houses have to “boast?”

“A superb example of a three double bedroom detached family home, situated on the ever-popular (name) development in (name of town.) Boasting downstairs cloakroom, double glazing …. etc.”

“The property boasts a private electronically operated gated entrance into a substantial parking area.”

“The property boasts under floor heating to the ground floor and a …”

Are property ads any better online?

In a word, no…the same old problems crop up.

“An individual property offering a spacious, open plan layout set in mature gardens on the edge of the village.” Wow, that certainly must be an open plan layout if it’s al fresco in the mature gardens.

“A five bedroom family home with fabulous views over (name) Lake.This impressive and immaculately presented mews style townhouse overlooks (same name) Lake.” Yes, yes, you said that in the previous sentence.

“This purpose built block of twelve apartments has eight unsold units which are being offered for sale with tenants.” I might buy the apartments, but I don’t want to buy the tenants as well – anyway I thought slavery was illegal these days?

So here’s my message to estate agents (realtors, real estate brokers)

Get your people trained in business writing techniques which include:

  • Avoidance of clichés like “boasting,” “well presented,” etc – use a thesaurus if you can’t think of other words
  • Learning that it’s either “consists of” or “comprises” – never “comprises of”
  • Basic grammar, syntax, capitalization and punctuation to avoid laughable mistakes (think about this: “You need to go help your Uncle Jack off the horse.” Now write it all in lower case. See?)
  • Avoidance of pompous terms like “residence” “viewing recommended,” bespoke” etc. – it’s the 21st century, for Heaven’s sake.
  • Allowing more than five minutes a week to write the ad copy; it’s important, OK?

And in case you think I’m letting North American realtors / real estate brokers off the hook, no way – you’re next in Suze’s firing line!

Make sure your ads and other business writing never make anyone  scream!

“How To Write About Yourself”…how to make the most of yourself, whatever you need to write

“Business Writing Made Easy”…everything you need to know about writing for business in English

“Banana Skin Words and how not to slip on them”…over 1,500 spelling and grammar tips to perfect your written English




  1. As a real estate agent I prefer to go for the truthful description. One of my best, approved by owner, descriptions said;

    “Absolute wreck due to owner’s negligence and refusal to actually do anything. Great potential but hey, there is a ton of work to do here. If you like hard work but want what may well prove to be a bargain for the right buyer then get it. Otherwise, run and hide, this is not for you!”

    • It takes a lot of b*lls to write ad copy like that, Graham – I think that could be what’s lacking in the case of these British estate agents who churn out the same old garbage time after time! The premise is that unless you say every single one of your properties is wonderful you won’t get any interest – but because that approach has become such a hideous cliche now nobody takes it seriously any more.

      The other problem is, what do you do if there genuinely is nothing positive you can say about a property that’s a total dump? Perhaps…”the place is a dump but it’s cheap, so invest in it now then use your imagination to fix it up!”

  2. Spot on, Suze!

  3. (I don’t normally publish spam comments but this one makes my point so well I just had to share it…enjoy! Sz.)

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