“Everyone expects a bit of exaggeration, but the trick is knowing how much to believe.”

Susan Oates, a word usage expert in the department of politics at Glasgow University, co-author of a research paper looking at how estate agents descriptions of properties get more upbeat in a rising market.

I’m trying to sell my house at the moment, which means dealing with estate agents <sigh>. This is the first time I’ve sold a property and the first time I’ve had to consider how to allow my house to be described to make it as attractive as possible to potential buyers.

The usual estate agent speak will be employed I’m sure but will my potential buyers, as modern consumers, fall for it? In this world of instant access to information from blogs, forums, newsgroups, review sites, product comparison services and so on are we still as likely to fall for the same old routines and sales pitches that worked on our parents?

  • “Studio flat” = be prepared for a Kitchen/Bathroom
  • “Up and coming area” = steel bars on lower floor windows
  • “Immaculate throughout” = owner has hoovered and done the washing up
  • “In need of some modernisation” = at least the walls are still standing, eh?
  • “Rare opportunity to buy in this location” = We don’t much like new people round ‘ere.
  • “Internal viewing highly recommended” = Yes, we know it looks dreadful on the outside but…
  • “On street parking” = no need to continue that gym membership, the daily 10 min walk to your parked car will suffice.
  • …and so on.

Here on ode we are also trying to judge how to formulate descriptions for each piece of content or collection of content that gives the customer enough info to confidently buy quickly and easily. At this stage it is admittedly trial and error.

For example these are two different ways we might describe a Key Stage 3 Maths Puzzle game:

  1. “An interactive animation and 3 follow up questions to teach and practice Algebra”
  2. “An enormously popular, exciting and visually stimulating interactive animation where your student plays the character of a frog, leaping between lilly pads that each hide a challenging algebraic equation. “

Which one will appeal more? Do people expect a certain amount of effort to be made by the vendor? Or do you want just the facts, ma’am?

We won’t know for some time exactly how to balance these descriptions. Teachers will be more concerned about the exact educational content and quality of the asset itself, rather than an interesting sales pitch. But, in the same way we sub consciously interpret estate agent speak, we can expect our customers to have strong filters for hyperbole and over-sell that appreciates such florid language has it’s time and place.

Just for fun: Can anyone else offer any more translations of estate agent speak they’ve seen or experienced?