It was a linguistic maneuver that had possibly never been tried before in the history of real estate: tell the straight truth about the property, no varnishing, no slathering with adjectives like "stunning". Just tell it like it is. One brave firm of real estate agents, Scott & Stapleton in England, tried it as a way of getting rid of a run-down apartment in Leigh-on-Sea, Essex. The manager, Rob Kahl, wrote the copy:
Not for the faint hearted this first floor flat is being sold as seen, rubbish and all!
Having recently just had to evict some charming (not) tenants the vendors of this property have had enough and can't even face setting foot in what used to be their sweet and charming home.
I can't flower this one up or use my normal estate agent jargon to make this sound any better.
The property is full of rubbish, there is mould on the walls and I think there may even be some fleas there to keep me company when I carry out the viewings.
To conclude, the advertisement advised those viewing the property to "wipe your feet on the way out".
And believe it or not, truth was rewarded. The garbage dump in question was on the market for $180,000; and it sold within three days for over $212,000.
So there it is: an entirely new linguistic strategy for obtaining desired outcomes. Tell the truth!
[Update: OK, OK, I'm kidding about never before. There's nothing new under the sun. One email correspondent points me to this page about Roy Brooks, who specialized in such descriptions of run-down properties. He was known as "the honest estate agent", suggesting he was unique, but of course it would be highly improbable that he was never imitated. "Do not be misled by the trim exterior of this modest period res with its dirty broken windows," he once wrote; "all is not well with the inside. The decor of the nine rooms, some of which hangs inelegantly from the walls, is revolting. Not entirely devoid of plumbing, there is a pathetic kitchen and one cold tap. No bathroom, of course, but Chelsea has excellent public baths. Rain sadly drips through the ceiling on to the oilcloth. The pock-marked basement floor indicates a thriving community of woodworm, otherwise there is not much wrong with the property… Sacrifice £6,750." There are many other such examples. My thanks to Mark Etherton for the link. A collection of his advertisements called Brothel in Pimlico can be obtained on Amazon.