It’s no secret that word choice can make or break a property listing. A description adorned with enticing adjectives can frame your listing in a narrative that sparks interest.
But language does more than simply sell homes.
Words can foster inclusion or, if ill-chosen, be construed as exclusionary or offensive, no matter your intention. So what can you do to ensure that your words convey the message you intend?
Under the Fair Housing Act, listings cannot indicate preference, limitation or discrimination due to the following:
Race, Color or National Origin
Be wary of words with racist connotations. For example, “quiet” and “safe” were once code words used to describe predominantly white neighborhoods. “Master suite” is a common example that’s been widely discussed; use primary suite instead.
Listings often point out proximity to churches, be it to note local landmarks or make moral implications about the neighborhood. For buyers who don’t practice religion, such language can seem exclusionary. For those who do practice religion, it may be construed as showing favoritism toward a specific denomination.
Sex, Gender Identity or Sexual Orientation
Avoid descriptors that assign gender roles to property features. For example, calling a dual vanity a “his-and-hers sink” assumes that all buyers are part of a heterosexual couple. Such artificial and unnecessary distinctions (e.g., man cave, she shed) can alienate entire segments of buyers.
Touting a listing as being “within walking distance” of local landmarks and amenities is not uncommon. But the language excludes buyers with limited mobility. Use a term like “conveniently located” or indicate the exact distance instead.
Don’t use terms that make assumptions about the space or the people who will live there. For example, describing a multifunctional space as a “family room” makes assumptions about the household. Referring to an accessory dwelling unit as an “in-law suite” implies marital status.
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