The 3 Words on a Real Estate Listing That Can Cause Your Home to Sell for Less (Way Less)

Ever see the movie Beetlejuice? Well, while we can’t guarantee that Michael Keaton will show up in a full face of makeup, we can guarantee that using the words “fixer-upper,” “TLC” or "Investment” in your listing will be just as devastating as uttering the ghost's name. They're a pretty sure sign you'll be selling your home for less than the list price.

According to a 2021 Zillow survey, “self-described fixer-upper homes fetched 12.9 percent less than expected” and home listings that “admitted needing some “TLC” brought in 11.1 percent less.” Not to mention that listings with the mention of “‘investment’ prospects sold for 4.5 percent less than expected,” explains Zillow’s senior economist, Jeff Tucker. But what do these words truly signal to buyers (and why would they affect your listing’s value, if you're just being honest about the state of the place)? See below for a breakdown of each term, plus two other words you should probably avoid.

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1. "fixer Upper"

While we all love Chip and Joanna Gaines, there’s only one thing sellers envision when they hear the term ‘fixer-upper’: This house is gonna need some work. And, if we’ve learned anything from ‘Pandemic Greed,’ it’s that we’re living in a seller’s market, and buyers are particularly wary of overspending right now. Which may make them even more cautious around a term that suggests major renovations are in order—especially among Millennial buyers. They are more likely to empty their pockets for a move-in ready home, if it means forgoing the costs of additional renovations, repairs and upgrades. Don’t believe us? Just check out this Sims to real-life home trend that has ‘Millennial homebuyer’ written all over it.

2. “TLC”

Most of us know TLC as “tender, loving care” (or the epic rap/R&B group), but If you ask any realtor what ‘TLC’ means, they’ll probably tell you that it’s a delicate way of saying you’ll actually need a sh*t load of money to make the house you’re about to buy beautiful. Clare Trapasso of says, “If you’re not handy, you may not think of your TLC bargain with either tender or loving care when you have to replace the toilet, or maybe the entire bathroom floor.” And, as we mentioned before, ain’t nobody got time for that (well, nobody under the age of 35). If you’re looking to get top-dollar on your home, swap out the term “TLC” for something, uh, less lethal to your listing.

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3. “investment”

This one’s not as black and white. While your listing should absolutely highlight the finer points of the home, you want to avoid bombarding potential buyers with exactly how much money was spent on each improvement. There’s a big difference between playing up the kitchen’s brand new colored quartzite counters and repeatedly using them to justify other, less appealing areas of the property (i.e., that run-down guest bathroom you conveniently “forgot” to include in the listing’s photos). Buyers can smell desperation like a shark can smell blood, and if you’re fighting too hard to justify the price, they’ll wonder whether the home is priced too high for the neighborhood.

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Other Words To Avoid

As much as we adore our newly adopted pandemic puppies and relish our family bike rides, listings that used the term “pet-friendly” experienced a 2.2-percent discount and “Bike parking” was associated with a 2-percent negative premium. “This could be because these features were correlated with small indoor spaces in large multifamily buildings, which otherwise underperformed larger single-family homes in 2020,” Tucker explains.

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Sydney Meister is PureWow's Assistant Editor, covering everything from dating trends and relationship advice (here's looking at you, 'soonicorns') to interior design, beauty...