When business is challenging, real estate professionals get creative, especially when they write ads.

Al Johnson, a Seattle-area real estate practitioner who has taught classes on listing language, wrote in a column for the Windermere Weekly, offering advice to practitioners and sellers on making classified ads pay off.

“Nobody ever went to look at a house just because it had ‘3 bdrm/2 ba,’ ” he wrote.

Instead, he suggested using active verbs, “commanding attention”; starting with a question, “looking for privacy, charm and views?”; creating urgency, “don’t miss!”; alliteration, “exuberant elegance”; and making the best of shortcomings, “scratch and dent sale”.

Johnson’s all-time favorite example: “Stinky little fixer, but it smells like money.”

Here are other classic examples of ad words that emphasize the positive:

  • Very quiet interior: You can barely hear the freeway with the windows shut.
  • Convenient to shopping: Next to a strip mall.
  • Convenient to freeway: Next to the on-ramp.
  • Seller has left you to your own imagination: Hasn’t been updated since 1940.
  • Great bones: You’ll need to tear it down to the studs.
  • Charming: Small.
  • Cozy: Tiny.
  • Cute: Small and fussy.
  • Dollhouse, adorable: Nauseatingly cute.
  • Unique: Remodeled by someone on acid.
  • Handyman special: Bring boots.
  • Motivated seller: They need to sell before they default on their mortgage.

Source: Seattle Post-Intelligencer, Aubrey Cohen (11/21/07)