You’ve started your real estate listing, take some professional photos, and now all that’s left is to write the listing description. This is the most exciting and, perhaps, the most crucial part of listing your property: while professional photos can draw potential buyers in, it’s the listing description that sells the place.
The description you write will show up everywhere – on flyers, social media, listing websites, etc. – so the story you tell has the potential to set this property apart from the rest. Effective listing descriptions sell faster and for much more; luckily, writing this kind of advertisement on your own is possible.
By now, you’ve probably read hundreds of listing descriptions in your life, so you know what a good one sounds like, but you don’t know how to write one yet. This guide will cover the structure, writing style, and things to avoid when constructing a listing description that sells.
There are three main parts to an effective listing: the headline, the opening statement, and the listing description itself. Together, these components should add up to 250 words at most – too many words will lose the reader’s interest, and too few words won’t provide enough detail.
Your headline needs to be short, location-specific and targeted to your audience. Headlines should highlight the main selling point of the property while being cognizant of the target demographic – a property that’s likely to appeal to Millennials will have different selling points and descriptions than a property that appeals to Baby Boomers.
To find ot what’s popular or appealing to your neighborhood, pay attention to other nearby listings, or consult your agent if you have one. Here are some examples of headlines:
Poor, undescriptive: HIGH CEILING 3/3 2119 SQ FT PENTHOUSE
Good, but wordy: immaculate turnkey three-bedroom/ two-bathroom house, just four blocks from the Douglas Metro-Rail Station
Great: Beautiful 2 bedroom one bath condo in the heart of Skylakes
The best headline features one or two key selling points while being concise; meanwhile, poor headlines try to fit too much information in one sentence, are confusing to read, or don’t tell the reader anything interesting about the property. Great locations and amenities are enough to draw the reader in; now, let the listing description handles the rest.
Your opening statement is the first part of your listing description, but it deserves its own mention. Just like your photos will draw potential buyers to your listing, your headline and opening statement will draw them into the rest of the property description.
Think of your opening statement as an attractive summary of the property. If your headline draws the reader to its most attractive features, then the first sentence of your description should tell the reader exactly what they’re looking at in the photos.
Here are some examples:
“A private getaway from big city life, this 2-bed, 2-bath apartment accommodates both fun parties and quiet nights in.”
Located just blocks away from the riverside and the Third Ward, this rustic studio apartment places you in the center of the city’s nightlife.”
An effective opening statement focuses on both the location of the property and what’s aesthetically pleasing about it. What your opening statement emphasizes depends on your location and target market, but common features mentioned in the statement include:
Views of a mountain, city, lake, ocean, etc.
Mother-in-law suites, or spaces that can be monetized
Access to mass transit and/or major highways
Proximity to trendy neighborhoods or shopping spaces
Historical features of the property
At this point, you’ve identified the key selling points of your property and the audience most likely to consider buying it. Your reader’s interest is piqued; the next step is to tell them about the entire space in less than 250 words.
The listing description has two goals. The first is to encourage a potential buyer to schedule a visit to the property; the second is to tell them how to view the property. To go about doing this, start by writing a list of all the features of your property, including the number of beds and baths, square footage, and the noteworthy features previously listed. Once you’ve written all the features of your property down, start writing your description – however, don’t just list the positive aspects, try to tell a story. Use creative and visual language, describing the feel, look, and style of the home. A listing that tells the reader about its “newly renovated kitchen” will attract far fewer buyers than a listing that describes the kitchen’s “state-of-the-art appliances with a sleek, modern design set comfortably against historic, red brick walls.”
Additionally, your listing description influences how buyers will view the property when they see it, so find a way to spin the property’s downsides as well. For example, a potential buyer might not like it if a property has small square footage, but they could come around to it if space is described as “minimalist yet spaciously designed.” A small bedroom could be marketed as “extra closet space” or “office room,’ and property with a small yard can be “easy to maintain.” You control the narrative of your property, so don’t wait for buyers to make up their own minds while you have the chance to persuade them.
Closing Your Listing Description
The last part of your listing description should provide a clear incentive and call to action for potential buyers. Sometimes, that incentive involves special promotions: a flexible close date or one year home warranty might encourage buyers who are on the fence (Check out reviews for home warranty companies on House Method to find the best one for your needs.) Otherwise, the incentive can simply be a restatement of your property’s attractions and what it can offer to its new owners. Regardless, your last sentence should encourage people to visit your home – telling readers to “schedule a visit” or call for more information” will persuade them into seeing your property, which is the next step before it’s sold.
What To Avoid In Your Listing
Writing a listing is a lot like writing a story, and a key element to a good story is useful and specific descriptions. That being said, the big mistake you want to avoid is writing that’s vague or ambiguous – a home that’s “nice” and “comfortable” sounds great, but isn’t every home trying to be nice and comfortable? Tell me why the property is comfortable: a listing that tells me the house is “quiet, well insulated, and spacious with a cozy fireplace” is telling me exactly what I want to know. Use every opportunity to use concrete images instead of abstract words.
Other things to avoid are overdone marketing terms. Houses that are a “must-see” or are “selling fast” don’t tell readers about the property. If anything, they discourage readers from visiting, since the writing is focused on marketing, rather than describing, the property.
Other words to exclude are things like “fixer,” “cosmetic,” “bargain,” or any other language that sounds like real estate marketing lingo. Buyers who feel like they’re being “advertised to” are a lot less likely to trust the property description or the writers behind it, so keep your listing clear of words related to investments, real estate, and property development.
Lastly, avoid using technical jargon to describe your property. Obscure home construction terminology will more likely confuse your reader, and if they have to consult a dictionary to understand your home description, then they’re being pulled out of the description itself. Describing the main architectural features, such as balconies and chimneys, will create great selling points, but describing the cantilever over the fireplace will just be a distraction.
Overall, talk like a normal person as you write your listing, but be sure to use visual imagery as you go. Keep your listing engaging, specific, and detail-oriented, and the number of interested buyers will certainly increase.
Fair Housing Rules
One thing that your listing legally cannot include is any mention of race, nationality, gender, disability, or familial status. Listings that describe their homes as great spaces “for new parents” or set in “culturally diverse neighborhoods” violate this law – not to mention, it’s lazy marketing. If you want your listing to appeal to specific groups, keep it to your property’s description: a house with easy accessibility and wide hallways will appeal much more than a property that says it’s “disability-friendly.”
Revising Your Listing
Once you’ve written your listing, congratulate yourself. You’re doing the work of a professional marketer, and fitting everything into a finite word count is difficult! When you come back to your listing, it’s time to start revising the content to make sure it’s doing the most work it can.
Start by reviewing the tips we’ve already covered. Avoid abstract words, use area-specific descriptions, appeal to your target demographic(s), and provide a call to action. Once your writing is clear, descriptive, and creative, you can revise the listing by optimizing it for distribution.
While nouns and adjectives help provide sensory detail, your verbs tell the story of your household. If you remember anything from English class, you’ll remember that the verb is the “action” of the sentence, so any word that describes an action being taken is probably a verb. With the right verbs, you can create some interesting and compelling images, while also cutting down on the number of words needed to describe something.
Consider the sentence “the road is next to the hill.” The verb here is “is,” and it isn’t telling us a whole lot, other than the fact that there’s a road near a hill. There’s very little to visualize here.
Now consider the sentence “the road curves along the hill.” Much clearer, right? We know that the road bends and winds, and we see it running alongside a hill. Plus, this is a much more compact way of saying “the curvy road is next to the hill,” or “the road that is next to the hill is curving.”
You can employ this same creative writing tactic in your listing description. Instead of saying that your house “has both a modern and historic design,” tell us that your house “combines historic architecture with modern comforts,” or that “old-style design meets modern convenience.” Verbs like “is,” “be,” and “are” are being verbs, and they don’t tell readers much other than that something exists. By using fewer being verbs and more descriptive verbs, you’ll create listing descriptions that are more visual, engaging, and compelling.
Search Engine Optimization
Search Engine Optimization, or SEO, is the practice of using relevant language to rank higher in internet searches. A web page that’s search engine optimized will be listed higher on a Google, Bing, or Yahoo search because the website uses language that’s constantly being used in search engines. For example, if people in your area are looking for quartz countertops, then you want to include that in your listing, as they may come across it when they search for “homes in Miami with quartz countertops” on Google. This way, your listing will better attract people who are searching for the qualities that your property already has!
Persuasive, SEO-Friendly Words
Some words are just naturally more effective than others, both in published listings and SEO rankings. Buyers consistently look for words like “landscaped,” “updated,” “renovated,” or “remodeled;” descriptions like “impeccable” or “beautiful,” and amenities like “granite countertops or “pergolas.” You don’t want to overload your description with these words, however – 2 or 3 will suffice, provided they accurately describe the property. Too many buzzwords can overload your descriptions and make it sound too good to be true, discouraging your buyers.
Real Estate Abbreviations
Another thing to be cautious about is any type of abbreviation. Again, you want to write in the same way that someone is likely to write a Google search. If you’re abbreviating the phrase “square feet,” someone is far more likely to say “sqft” rather than “SF” in their google search. Besides, “SF” might pull google searches about San Francisco or science fiction. Keep your abbreviations clear and common, or else they might confuse readers and search engines.
Be accurate in the way you portray your property. A new showerhead does not equal a “renovated bathroom,” so don’t try to fit that term in there. Potential buyers will expect an up-to-date bathroom and will be disappointed and unlikely to buy it once they see it in person.
Be friendly, but not too friendly. Capital letters, exclamation points, and bubbly language will make buyers feel like you’re yelling at them and forcing your house on them. Buyers want to be interested in the property by their own volition; if they feel like they’re being forced to make a decision, they’ll probably decide “no.”
Proofread your posting for grammar and spelling. Poor grammar and spelling do two things. One, readers will assume that carelessness and laziness in your listing translate to a poorly maintained property; two, these mistakes distract the reader and pull them out of the description, disrupting the images and narrative you’re trying to build.
Consult other people for help in writing your posting. Ask a friend or an agent to create their own list of things they like about the property and the location. It’s easy to miss the great features of a house when you’ve been living in it for a while, so an extra set of eyes can make a huge difference!
Consider writing multiple versions of the same listing description. If your property might appeal to people from different backgrounds, you might want to have backup listings in case you need to swap them out. You might think that your property has appeal to both Millennials and Baby Boomers, and then find that Millennials just aren’t interested, so you need to shift your strategy towards appealing to older buyers. Having backups makes it easier to swap out descriptions, so you don’t feel rushed when your listing strategy changes.
Lastly, we want to emphasize that listing description are a trial-and-error type of writing. Descriptive and well-written listings don’t always persuade readers the way you want them to, and refining your marketing strategy might involve writing and rewriting the same description several times before you start to gain any interest. Property listers and expert marketers alike struggle with the uncertainty of writing effective marketing materials, so don’t fret – going back to rewrite your listing is part of the process.