Forget the x?!& adjectives

By James Goldsmith | Aug. 4, 2011 | 3 min. read

An adjective qualifies a noun. “House” is a noun. “Beautiful” is an adjective that just might qualify a house. Marketing real estate would be quite difficult without resorting to adjectives. How boring our multi-list descriptions would be, were it not for those clever adjectives in which we take such pride.

The good thing about using adjectives in advertising is that they do not have to be dead-on accurate; reasonable tolerances are permitted. We call it “puffing,” which is the white lie cousin of misrepresentation. It is usually so obvious and benign as to render its speaker blame-free. So, if the “lowest price ever” for a particular commodity is not really the lowest price ever or everywhere, there will be no civil suit or jail time.

Beyond marketing, there is a time and place where using (or misusing) adjectives may result in liability. And as you may have guessed, I have case examples to serve as illustrations. Take the sale of an older but expensive home that had about 75 windows. When the now-sellers bought it, they had a home inspection that included a brisk visual assessment of the windows but nothing more. The inspection report indicated that the windows had not been opened and their operating condition had not been assessed. They nevertheless bought the property and due to a job transfer, had to offer it for sale within six months of their purchase.

The new buyers considered making their offer contingent on the outcome of a home inspection but after discussing the matter with their buyer agent, they declined to do so. They agreed that if the sellers would provide the six-month-old inspection report prepared in connection with their purchase, the buyers would be satisfied. When the buyer agent obtained the report from the listing agent, he passed it along to his buyers with a note stating that it was a “very good” report.  Why did the agent think it was “very good” and why did he not allow his clients to make their own determination without the prejudice of his proclamation?

As it turns out, the buyers now acknowledge that they were less than thorough when they reviewed the report given their agent’s pronouncement that it was “very good.” They claim that had they been cautioned to assess the report carefully, they would have seen that none of the windows were tested and they would have not purchased the home with 75 casement windows without having them checked. As an aside, in the ongoing litigation against the sellers and the buyer agent, buyers have produced an estimate of $185,000 to replace the windows!

Inspection reports, comparative market analyses, appraisals, studies, assessments, etc. are not good, bad nor indifferent. They are factual and need to be assessed carefully by the ultimate user, the buyer. Realtors® should say, “Here is the inspection report. Read it carefully. Note any finding that concerns you. We’ll address it directly with the inspector or follow-up in some appropriate fashion depending upon the item and issue.” If you care, shorten that to “Here is the inspection report. Read the whole thing.” Reserve the adjectives for your ads.

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