BRADENTON -- House shoppers: Is it love you're feeling?
Or is it just marketing?
A new real estate market survey released just in time for Valentine's Day ranks Bradenton as one of the top cities in the United States where home shoppers can fall in love with a house.
Whether that's actually true is hard to say, since the ranking is based on how often the word "love" is used in copy from the Multiple Listing Service and other sources. No homebuyers or shoppers were interviewed to generate the results.
The data generated by Chicago-based HomeFinder indicates love is a vital component to selling homes in Florida. Eight of the top 10 real estate-loving cities are in Florida, with Bradenton at No. 10 and Sarasota No. 2.
The results are a pleasant surprise to local real estate copywriters and agents. Lucy Hope, a copywriter with Sarasota-based Michael Saunders & Co., said she uses "love" extensively when writing listings. She writes copy for up to 10 brochures a day, and writes or edits copy for as many as 15 MLS listings daily.
What she doesn't do is throw it around carelessly because it "conjures up all sorts of emotions for people." Hope said she tends to use "love" to describe less tangible aspects of homes on the market such as scenic views or a home's flow.
"Love draws them in to see the home as a fundamental part of life," she said. "It's more effective when used for settings and places where you can see yourself doing things."
Cities in the "love" ranking represent different levels of buyer commitment. Loved homes in the top-ranked city, Louisville, Ky., list for an average of $197,793. In Sarasota, the price of house love jumps to an average of $650,724. Bradenton's most-loved homes average $463,020.
In the top 14 cities in the ranking, homes qualifying as the sort buyers will "fall in love with" are larger than 1,500 square feet, with at least two bathrooms and at least 2.5 bedrooms.
In terms of the overall usage of "love," HomeFinder researchers found 132 Sarasota listings used the word Feb. 4. Bradenton listings totaled 81.
The higher cost of loved housing in Bradenton and Sarasota may have something to do with the water. Mark Bowers and Greg Taylor recently listed their riverfront home on Hawk Island Drive in Bradenton for $2.35 million. They said they bought it in 2005 for how it made them feel.
"In this house, I felt like I was on vacation every day," Bowers said.
Had she written the copy for the home's advertising materials, Michael Saunders listing agent Laura Tracy Clekis said she would have expressed the same sentiment with the word "love."
"It's how I perceive a new homeowner will feel about the residence," said the Bradenton-based Clekis.
Matt M. Johnson, Herald business writer, can be reached at 941-745-7027, or on Twitter @MattAtBradenton.