A good copy, a good story: using machine translation plug-in to sell your product – for real estate

In the previous articles of the series I’ve talked about the cost of “free” translation – the impact it has on the perception of a company using machine translation plug-ins and its trustworthiness. Real-life example of general marketing copy showed that in most cases the quality of the plug-in output would make copy hard to understand and a hassle to read (best-case scenario) or will be so incomprehensible/obviously wrong as to become funny, in both cases affecting the purpose of the text – selling a service or a product to the foreign-language-speaking audience.

3 out of 10 cities researched by Russian buyers are in Florida
— NAR's Profile of International Home Buyers in Florida

Well, what about more specialized texts? As I often work with real estate materials, I’ve decided to have a look at several real estate websites of companies in Florida (according to the NAR report, this is the most popular state for Russian customers: 3 out of 10 cities researched by Russian buyers are in Florida). 19% of international clients find properties online, out of which 24% find a realtor via agent’s own website, so I assumed that the real estate agencies and realtors are capitalizing on demand from foreign investors providing marketing materials in Russian.

24% of international customers find a realtor via agent’s own website
— NAR's Profile of International Home Buying Activity

Interestingly enough, there are multiple real estate agencies operating in Florida that have chosen to install a machine translation plug-in (one of them under the “We speak your language” headline). Another company, perhaps more aware of restrictions of machine translation, is warning that the machine translation is provided for informational purposes only. However, this does not change the fact that web copy will not fulfill its primary promotional purpose.

Machine translation of real estate materials and property descriptions will result in incomprehensible copy, out-of-context amenities descriptions and lack of adaptation of materials for target audience's needs

Common issues

Incomprehensible copy or poor style

Machine-translated real estate descriptions are similar to the general-topic machine translations: they might be understandable (in the best case), but they will not be fulfilling their main purpose, promotion of properties and attraction of potential clients.

Out-of-context translation

Context is not taken into account in the feature descriptions, which leads to misrepresentation of amenities and possible misunderstandings: is it beds or bedrooms? Is it a dock or a polluted canal?

Not localized

Machine translation plug-ins do not convert footage into metric system, which is used in Russia, leading to a further deterioration of user experience.


this approach would not work for promotional materials that require a creative approach and awareness of industry conventions in the target language

It is possible to imagine machine translation being useful for translation of the real estate materials, for instance, repetitive descriptions of amenities or facilities, it would still require machine translation customization and close supervision by editors and language specialists. Another option for cost savings is repetition discounts or standardization of feature sections. However, this approach would not work for property descriptions that are primarily promotional materials that require a creative approach and awareness of industry conventions in the target language.


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Ekaterina Howard: marketing and business translations from English to Russian and from German to Russian for real estate industry

Ekaterina Howard, Pinwheel Translations

English to Russian and German to Russian translator working with business, marketing and real estate materials. ATA and CATI member.