Allen Norwood

Does proximity to Starbucks boosts home’s sale price?

Stan Humphries and Zillow CEO Spencer Rascoff have co-written the book “The New Rules of Real Estate.”
Stan Humphries and Zillow CEO Spencer Rascoff have co-written the book “The New Rules of Real Estate.”

Which is smaller, a “cute” house or “charming” house? Which is older, “modern” or “contemporary”?

Will your house really sell for more if you live close to a Starbucks?

Stan Humphries knows.

Humphries is chief economist for Zillow and authored “The New Rules of Real Estate” with Zillow CEO Spencer Rascoff. They parsed 24,000 home sale listings to come up with measurable data.

“We had fun quantifying the actual square footage,” Humphries said. “... And ‘cute’ is 30 percent smaller (than the median).”

The book is fun, too, but it’s also packed with information that would be useful – and valuable – to anyone listing a home. The chapter on descriptive language is just one among more than two dozen. Others discuss everything from the best month to list to lucky house numbers.

Humphries, who created’s “Zestimate” of your home’s value, is a Davidson graduate. (I spoke to him right before Davidson won its conference championship but didn’t get to ask him about the long odds of that.)

According to the book:

“Cute” is smaller than “charming.” Here’s how it breaks down: Cute, 1,128 square feet; “quaint,” 1,299 square feet; “charming,” 1,487 square feet. Those compare to a median of 1,640 square feet across all the listings studied.

Humphries and Rascoff say their study shows it’s possible to guess pretty accurately about the age of a house, based on descriptions. “Classic” means it was built about 1951; “modern” dates to 1958; “contemporary” equals 1985. “State of the art?” That label dates it to about 1988.

Never say that the house you’re selling is “nice.” “If all you can say about your house is that it’s nice,” Humphries said, “... that might mean that only you like the house.” Don’t say it’s “unique,” because that implies it needs work – and can lower the price.

If you’re writing an ad, be honest and accurate. You don’t want to send a message you don’t intend – and you certainly don’t want to choose words that might cost you money.

The chapter about the Starbucks effect is subtitled “How Lattes Perk Up Home Prices.” Yes, it’s true: Being close to a Starbucks tends to boost the sale price.

Humphries said that’s a lesson in both cause and effect. People want to live near Starbucks, and Starbucks also works hard to pick up-and-coming neighborhoods.

Starbucks, like Zillow, is based in Seattle. The authors were able to visit Starbucks’ location experts. “Starbucks is very good at identifying the next hot neighborhood and placing their stores in that neighborhood,” Humphries said. “There’s some rocket science going on. They’re not just throwing darts at a map.”

Special to the Observer: