D.C. Real Estate Agent Attracts Buyers With His Prose

Real Estate agents often take poetic license with listings: light-filled patio unit means basement apartment. Tom Faison got bored writing the usual listings, and now his are mini works of art.

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Housing inventory, in many parts of the country, is remarkably low right now. And the competition for homebuyers can be fierce. NPR's Renita Jablonski has seen it in her own search, here in Washington D.C. She's also noted the poetic license that realtors can take, some much more than others.

RENITA JABLONSKI, BYLINE: A couple of months ago, I spotted a listing that seemed promising. My eyes scanned the usual listing info, price, number of bedrooms and bathrooms. And then I looked at the description. This is how it started. (Reading) Honey, I love you but need some space, not a place in each other's face. Let's maintain romance without pushing finance, not be in the kitchen before coats have come off. I had to see it. I also had to know who wrote that.

TOM FAISON: You know, I've never thought so much about this as I have since you called.

JABLONSKI: His name is Tom Faison. He's a RE/MAX agent, based in D.C.'s Capitol Hill neighborhood. He's been in real estate for 23 years. He says he just got bored writing the usual stuff.

FAISON: I thought, you know, have you ever heard Diet Coke tell you what's in the Diet Coke? Buy Diet Coke, it has fructose stuff.

JABLONSKI: Nope, you see pretty people having a great time.

FAISON: We buy on emotion. We don't buy because of what type of dishwasher it is.

LEN LODISH: I think he's right.

JABLONSKI: Len Lodish is a marketing professor at the Wharton School of Business. He says Faison's approach is brilliant because it takes people by surprise and tugs on some pretty sensitive heartstrings.

LODISH: The importance of the purchase to the buyer is probably the most important purchase they will ever make.

JABLONSKI: Back in Tom Faison's office, we look at a listing on his computer. It's a house he recently sold. It was built in 1905.

FAISON: Listed at $660,000, three bedrooms, one and a half baths, 16 offers on it, the Tuesday after it was listed.

JABLONSKI: The price escalated almost $100,000. And this was the listing poem.

FAISON: (Reading) Almost had a heart attack when first looked up, saw artifact. Eventually, EKG relaxed by antique floors and period doors. Painted tin ceilings had me dealing with feelings of lightness, levitation, allowed meditation to make conscious contact with your intercom. Content to not reinvent a perfect patent that happened when time allowed art and construction.

JABLONSKI: He says, it takes about 10 minutes to write these. I was talking to my own real estate agent about Faison's phrases.

ROBERT CRAWFORD: Hi, I'm Robert Crawford of the Mandy and David Team of Coldwell Banker, here in Washington D.C.

JABLONSKI: Crawford points out that realtors take poetic license in listings all the time. For instance, light filled patio unit.

CRAWFORD: We'll have buyers that say, I can't wait to see that light-filled patio unit. I love light. I love outdoor space, so I can't wait combined the two of them. And then you get there and it's a basement.

JABLONSKI: All right, here's one. Fabulously cooling cross-ventilation...

CRAWFORD: No air-conditioning, not even a window unit.

JABLONSKI: So many red flags.

CRAWFORD: Ready for your personal touch, historic charm...

JABLONSKI: Oh no.

CRAWFORD: It all means it's a gut job.

JABLONSKI: Realtor Tom Faison says, it's exactly that kind of thing that inspires his prose.

FAISON: This house has a chef's kitchen. What does that mean? I haven't a chef's kitchen since I was in the basement of the White House.

JABLONSKI: Last year, Faison's property poetry translated into $65 million in sales for his team.

FAISON: You finally found your favorite mix tape, each room a new song, top of your chart 'til the next starts playing. "Time In A Bottle", "Stairway To Heaven", a "Hotel California" you'll never want to leave, priced for piracy. You're "Walking On Sunshine."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "WALKING ON SUNSHINE")

JABLONSKI: Somebody is. Renita Jablonski, NPR News, Washington.

WERTHEIMER: This is NPR News.

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