Trend Spotter

Bad language – The (incredibly dull) language of estate agents

I have to start this piece with homage to the very late Roy Brooks whose irreverent and unvarnished property advertisements in the Sunday Times and Observer attracted a cult following in the 1960’s. He took a huge delight in telling the absolute truth in stark contrast to a trade that is well known for its bland euphemisms and vastly over-optimistic clichés.

Modern day property descriptions are mostly a boringly homogenous mush of sycophantic adjectives, using a very limited vocabulary and often elementary grade grammar.  Brooks used to get away with the most outrageous, but poignantly truthful descriptions and they really lit up the industry.  Here is just one excerpt:

“A dreadful working-class terrace house of sinister aspect in one of the meaner streets at the bitter end of Cheyne Walk. Time and decay have not softened the hideous aspect of this type of this typical example of Victorian speculative building. The Master bedroom has its door torn off at the hinges, several windows have been broken, what is left of the paintwork is in a nasty, dirty shade of green and the wallpaper hangs dankly down in shreds – otherwise there’s probably not much wrong.”

What a stark contrast to: “A stunningly fantastic three bedroom penthouse exquisitely refurbished to exacting standards situated on the fifth floor of a masterpiece of a modern apartment building, boasting bright and spacious interiors throughout and a wonderful terrace with amazing views.” I am afraid that the property descriptions of today are littered with this kind of tosh.  With strict legal guidelines on property miss-description, it is quite unbelievable that agents get away with such drivel.

In the day of property portals and their delivery method of a photograph and brief description, there to catch the eye of buyers and entice them to click further – it is amazing how achingly similar most descriptions have become! Not only is there a total lack of imagination, but a huge propensity to over-aggrandise even the smallest detail.

Experience has shown me that people are more than happy to buy something that needs work and describing something as a “Complete Wreck” can reap dividends – as my agency discovered last year!  We were selling a house that most certainly needed a major overhaul and the vendor was happy with our description – we had 120 buyer enquiries in a single day.

Being authentic shows integrity and adds credibility. Buyers appreciate that. It says something about the service they will receive throughout the buying process. I started Crayson with a view to disrupting the industry by being as transparent as possible – and we worked extremely hard from the very start to change the language of estate agency. My aim is still to win the trust of clients to allow me to advertise their properties in a fun and exciting way – not just for my amusement – but because I truly feel that it would help in the sale. In addition, buying and selling should be a fun experience – bland descriptions dull the senses and remove the joy. Words are triggers. Using humour touches and induces emotions.

Agents are too terrified of offending their clients and as a whole grouping there is a need for some extreme ball cultivation. Otherwise the “….décor of the rooms, some of which inelegantly hangs from the walls, is revolting”, becomes “refurbished to exacting standards” and “….the pock-marked basement floor, indicates a thriving community of woodworm”, becomes an “outstanding living and entertaining space.”

My aim is to put some life into this very vacuous aspect of Estate Agency – and I haven’t even got on to the grammar yet. To be continued!

Spears: First appeared in Spears, February 2016