Learn how to write more compelling real estate listing descriptions and avoid some of the most common (and destructive) listing description cliches.
If you’ve been a real estate agent for a while, you probably have a love-hate relationship with listing descriptions. If you have listed many similar homes over the years, it can be easy to fall into a rut, simply go through the motions, and fall back into predictable property description formulas.
However, listing descriptions are a powerful tool in attracting more views and real-life visits from home buyers. Homebuyers can easily scroll through hundreds of real estate listings on the web in a matter of minutes. You only have a fleeting movement to catch their attention and motivate them to research deeper.
So how can you ensure that your listing descriptions are always top-quality, even when you’re not feeling very creative?
In this article, we’ll go over several strategies that can help you write better, more eye-catching, and compelling property descriptions every time.
Research is the first step of every writing process. Jump online and get familiar with the format and language in a stand-out listing. If your listing is a long string of never-ending adjectives and poorly lit photos, buyers will become uninterested – without question.
Elements Of A Real Estate Listing Description
Remember, your real estate listing description doesn’t just show up on MLS and your website, it will be used on flyers, social media posts, open house brochures and more.
It’s crucial to consider each listing individually and put the same amount of effort into every description to ensure you drive traffic to all of your listings.
You want to provide enough details about the property to inform potential buyers in a way that helps your property sell faster. Anybody can list the features of a home and call it a day. In fact, I’m sure you’ve noticed that that’s exactly what the majority of real estate agents do.
The problem with that approach is that it causes listing descriptions to look boring and same-y. You’ll lose a great opportunity to persuade buyers to spend more time paying attention to your property.
In order to put together the best possible property description, it helps to understand all the components of a listing description.
MLS and property aggregator sites such as Zillow and Realtor.com have different formats, so it would be impossible to cover how best to maximize your exposure on each one.
Generally speaking, property descriptions have three main elements:
- Opening statement
- High-quality photos
- Description of features
- Call to action
Your entire description should be 250 words or less. This is not only because of text space limitations on MLS and marketplaces like Zillow, but also because buyers are unlikely to read a very long description.
If your property listing site lets you use a headline other than the address of the property, make sure you take full advantage of it.
The property’s headline can be used to immediately grab your reader’s attention, and lead them to spend more time looking over your listing.
What makes a headline effective? Think about the kind of marketing emails that you regularly get. You know that they are trying to sell you something, but why is it that you do end up clicking on some of them anyway? There has to be something about it that stops your readers in their tracks and makes them do a double-take.
A simple formula for a standout headline is appeal to emotion (happiness, sadness, curiosity), personal interest (greed), or stand out from the rest (contrast).
If compelling headlines work for things you’re not really interested in, imagine how well they would work when aimed at someone who is interested in what you have to offer.
How can you make a headline more memorable?
- Be concise: The most memorable headlines are short and concise. Try to keep yours between five to seven words.
- Use emotional language: Use powerful, descriptive words that trigger an emotional response. You can use tools such as a headline analyzer, and a power word list to pick the right adjectives for your listing. Focus on some aspects of the property that would help your target audience live a specific kind of lifestyle they are looking for.
- Edit your ideas: Never publish your first draft. Even if it looks good at first glance. A good rule of thumb is to come up with 5 initial ideas and then edit each one 4-5 times. You’ll quickly notice that your headline ideas improve as you refine each initial idea, and you’ll have a stronger headline.
- Put your ideas aside for a moment and come back to them later: It’s easy to get tunnel vision when you’re focused on a single task for a while. Leave your headline ideas alone for an hour or two, and come back with fresh eyes. When you come back, you’ll be able to spot any issues with them, and further improve on them
- Get a second opinion: Ask a friend or coworker to give you their opinion on the headline ideas, and ask them for constructive criticism.
- Always Appeal to the Best Features of the property: Your headline should always reference at least one of the major, important features of the property. What is it that comes to mind when you think about the house?
- Don’t shorten terms that buyers may search for: As tempting as it is to write FSBO instead of for-sale-by-owner, remember who is searching for your listings. Buyers are unlikely to understand real estate acronyms and search for listing using simple terms and phrasing.
So your prospective client’s have made it best your showstopping headline and are now onto the juicy bulk of your listing description. As a writer, you still have to think about how to keep heir attention until the last sentence.
Hook readers with your opening sentence by spotlighting your home’s number one standout feature and creating a visual experience through your words.
E.g. Imagine waking up in your cozy redwood timber cabin, tucked away in the gorgeous hills of the Sierra Valley on a serene and private ¾-acre lot.
Opening Statements should tell readers exactly what they are looking at and create enough interest to encourage them to keep reading.
Take Professional Photos of the Property
Our world is image-obsessed and your clients will expect nothing less than the best, most flattering photos of your real estate listing. If your pictures are poorly lit, blurry, or ambiguous, viewers will quickly move on. Take photos of all angles of the home, especially the selling points that you describe in the listing.
A professional photographer is ideal, however, modern smartphones can usually get the job done with a few takes and some great natural light. Before you take pictures, let the homeowners know in advance so that they can get the space cleaned and prepared. You may also want to ask the current owners what they think are the best features of the home so that you can make sure to capture them in your photos. .
Paired with a well crafted narrative, it will be easy for buyers to imagine what it would be like to live in that property.
Describe The Property Accurately
Before we get to the fun part and talk about how best to describe a home, we have to cover something incredibly obvious, but absolutely essential. Your property description needs to be accurate.
Let’s be honest with ourselves, we’ve all been tempted to stretch the truth a bit in our property descriptions. But sooner or later, buyers will notice.
If you use deceptive language, such as calling a 900 square foot home “roomy and spacious”, or a home with mold or water damage “in turn-key condition”, you’re only damaging your credibility and reputation.
Present suggestions on how to address some of those major issues in a favorable yet honest light and your potential buyers will be more likely to accept them. Then, bring focus on the desirable things that your buyer can’t see just from looking at the listing photos.
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Paint A Picture With The Home’s Features
You don’t have to be dry and clinical when you describe a property. It’s possible to be accurate, and direct, but still paint a vivid picture of the kind of life a buyer could enjoy in the home.
Instead of describing the home’s features as if it were a list of ingredients in a recipe, show how those home features can BENEFIT the buyer.
Choose Adjectives Carefully
When highlighting your property’s main selling points, be sure to use plenty of descriptive adjectives that describe your property. But don’t go overboard with them.
It’s common to see property descriptions that are overflowing with adjectives, written in all caps.
If you add an excessive amount of adjectives, and it looks like you’re trying too hard, your readers will notice. And it may even get them to wonder why you’re trying too hard.
If you’re short on the right words, use reframing language strategically (but honestly).
For example, a small bedroom could be a home office (this is especially relevant in post-pandemic times).
A closed floor plan becomes a “floor plan that allows tons of privacy”.
A small garden or lack of outdoor space means “low maintenance yard area”.
Tons of shady spots inside to home become “cost effective cooling spaces in the summer”.
Use Your Writing Space Wisely
One of the most common mistakes real estate agents make is repeating the home’s size, bedroom, and bathroom information on the property description.
This is completely unnecessary. The majority of MLSs have a limit to how much you can write in a property description. Most real estate listing sites have a 250 word limit. While some may allow you to go over the 250 word limit, if you are repeating information or adding “filler words”,, all you’re doing is wasting precious limited space.
Write to your “buyer persona”. Your buyer persona is your imagined ideal client and all of the demographic details surrounding that person. For example, if your niche is retirees looking for a smaller place, a recently retired senior with an interest in saving space and spending more time outside of the house pursuing hobbies. Focus on targeted, descriptive words instead of rambling on and trying to appeal to absolutely everyone.
There’s a reason why the newspaper or social media is more interesting to read than an academic essay – and it’s not just about the subject matter. The formatting of your description can either be a deterrent or attractor for prospective readers.
We also suggest avoiding bullet points on most channels. The appearance of bullet points can appear skewed when published on different channels or reading devices.
Additionally, the order in which you layout information, can influence how well your listing is perceived and understood. Take a moment to make a list of the pros and cons of your real estate listing. Make sure that the “pros” are places at the very beginning of the listing. And expand on these elements until closing with a brief explanation of the “cons”.
Use description space to further emphasize some of the best features and benefits of the property. Features such as:
- Proximity to schools, restaurants, tourist attractions, historical destinations, coffee shops, etc.
- Luxury features such as heated floors, custom closets, and cabinets, a home theater room, gym, etc.
- Recent renovations and upgrades.
- Brand name high-end appliances
- Green-tech upgrades
Also, remember that unique features and character can help you make your home stand out and sell faster. For example, is there a fireplace in the master bedroom? Or maybe an original stained glass window in the entryway? Mention it in your listing description
Show What It’s Like To Live In That Home
Anybody can make a list of features a home has and call it a day. But if you want your property description to HELP YOU sell your home, you need to paint a picture of what it’s like to live in that home.
If the home has a brand new deck or a completely overhauled kitchen, you should absolutely mention it. But why stop there? Help buyers visualize what their lives could look like with those fancy new features.
For example: “Treat your friends and family over the holidays with restaurant-grade appliances and dining space for 15. Relax after work and enjoy the unobstructed views of the valley in your brand new deck.”
Mind Your Vocabulary
Some words may be completely innocent in one context but could carry a bad connotation in others. You need to be aware of how certain words and phrases in a listing could be interpreted, and how they could hinder you.
- Cozy: It may feel comfortable and inviting to its current owners, but buyers could interpret it as a polite way of saying small and cramped.
- Handyman special: This phrase usually means the home needs a ton of repairs
- Vibrant neighborhood: vibrant could mean exciting and lively, but often just means loud.
- Developing neighborhood: underdeveloped and/or lots of construction going on
- Vintage: If the property is historical, say so. Vintage is just a polite way to say old and dated
- Lots of potential: lots of liabilities, and needs a ton of work
- Great bones: needs to be completely renovated
- Partial views: You need to strain your neck to see anything
- Generous-sized rooms: average-sized rooms
- Starter home: tiny and barebones
- Fresh paint: Bringing up that a home for sale is freshly painted is like trying to sell a car by saying it’s freshly vacuumed. If you need to bring it up, then likely nothing else positive about the home.
- Motivated Seller: translates to desperate seller and raises questions about why they are so desperate.
- Needs TLC: in need of renovations that can range from small tweaks to a major overhaul. Best avoided.
Specific words can help to boost interest and sales prices. Impeccable, luxurious, and landscaped performed the highest, however they should only be used when they accurately describe the property.
As societal interests and lifestyles evolve, highlight the features of your property that resonate with them. For example, in an age where people are more conscious about the quality of the air and environment, an extra air filtration system or electronic car charging station are highly valuable and sought after.
In regards to home features, specific qualities were favored by viewers and garnered the highest amount of replies. Zillow researchers found that “barn doors”, “shaker cabinets helped to sell homes over 40 days faster and “farmhouse sinks” helped homes sell for 8 percent more.
The terms “subway tile” and “quartz” helped sell homes for over 6 percent more.
In addition, when writing your property description, avoid writing in all caps, and using an excessive amount of exclamation marks.
Writing in all caps is the online equivalent of shouting. And exclamation points look like you’re trying too hard to convince your reader to get excited.
While you’re expected to use lots of adjectives to describe your listing, don’t use the same adjective more than twice. If you can’t think of another adjective to describe your property, use an online thesaurus.
Beware Of Jargon
Just like any other industry, the real estate uses its own unique set of abbreviations, acronyms, and terms. These terms are perfectly understandable among members of the industry but are often confusing and difficult to parse by those outside of it.
Be very careful about the kind of real estate jargon you use in your listing description.
For example, it may be easy to decipher what a 3B/2B home is, but it’s not as easy to see what a house with CAC, Pl, Hwd, and Dk is. At least not to the average home buyer. You need to think from the perspective of the buyer if you want your listing to be found. Buyers are more likely to use complete terms and conversational jargon than agents.
Sure, it may be unavoidable to use abbreviations at times, especially when you have a tight character limit. But as much as possible, limit your use of abbreviations and jargon.
Don’t Let Your Description Violate Fair Housing Laws
As a real estate professional, you are under obligation to abide by the Fair Housing Laws. And when writing your listing description, you need to make sure that the language you use doesn’t accidentally violate any of its principles.
The Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination in the renting or sale of housing nationwide. That means that your listing description cannot use any language that could be interpreted as discriminatory against FHA’s 7 protected classes:
- National origin
- Sex disability
- Familial status
While there is no official list of banned words, some words may be misinterpreted as discriminatory even if you had zero intention to do so. Some of those red-flag words may include (but aren’t limited to):
- Traditional neighborhood
- Country club
- Bachelor pad
Special case: Family-oriented – While perfectly innocent in the vast majority of cases, some may take this description as discriminatory against single people. If you want to avoid any potential issue, but still show that it’s a family-friendly environment, you could mention the home’s close proximity to schools, parks, and playgrounds.
Add A Call To Action
The last stage of most real estate related tasks is analysis. Pay attention to which listings perform the best and what sets them apart from listings that didn’t get tons of hits.
You could say for example:
“This house is only available to the first buyer who acts NOW. Call xxx-xxx-xxxx.”
“This home won’t be on the market for long. Schedule a private tour today!”
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