7 Steps to Writing Creative Real Estate Listing Descriptions
February 6, 2023
Today’s homebuyers can scroll through dozens of real estate listings on the web in a matter of minutes, which means you may only have one fleeting moment to use creative real estate listing descriptions to get them to notice yours before they’re onto the next.
Those sweeping aerial drone images of your home’s acreage and pics that show off your light-filled interior are sure to catch their eye. But it’s equally important to pair your amazing photos with a well-crafted narrative that helps buyers imagine what it would be like to live there.
The description is your chance to emphasize the best aspects of both your home and the surrounding area, whether you have access to quality schools or are walking distance from the historic district with local shops and microbreweries.
1. Write Down What’s Amazing About Your Home
Local MLSs, or the databases where for-sale property listings are aggregated and then to major real estate websites, typically will have a character count maximum syndicated for real estate descriptions. So you can’t write a novel about your home (nor will most buyers have the patience to read one).
“I will always point out those desirable things that the buyer might not know otherwise from just looking at the pictures,” says Mary Jo Santistevan, who’s sold 81% more properties than the average agent in Phoenix and has 16 years of experience. “The description is our chance to put in things like, the hand scraped mahogany wood flooring, or chiseled stone from Italy.”
Remember to consider neighborhood features, like nearby walking trails or local attractions. A great location is especially important to share when your house is modest or needs some work, advises Mike Tchobanian, a top-performing Las Vegas agent. If your interior is fairly dated, for instance, he advises playing up that peaceful park at the end of your block instead.
You should also consider buyer preferences. According to HomeLight’s Fall 2021 industry trends survey, the top three features buyers seek today are a home office, great school district, and outdoor living space. While you can’t change the school district, you can always upgrade your outdoor areas or rethink that small spare bedroom into a home office.
Examples of features and amenities for your real estate listing description:
Home Features and Amenities
- Chef's kitchen
- Dedicated home office
- Corner lot
- Hardwood floors
- Front porch or deck
- Bonus room
- Spacious family room
- Outdoor kitchen
- Fenced-in backyard
- Excellent schools
- Close to shops and restaurants
- Walking distance to parks
- Well-maintained homes
- Safe and quiet streets
- Convenient public transportation
- Easy freeway access
2. Get Inspired by Other Stand-Out Listings
In addition to bouncing ideas off your agent, hop online to study stand-out listings already published on the MLS. Tchobanian keeps a file of creative listings he turns to for inspiration when writing new descriptions.
Here’s one for an upscale property in his area:
Picture yourself living on the second fairway of a Tuscany golf course on a premium lot in a gated community. This home is truly made for both entertaining and everyday living, with plenty of space and fabulous views. Enjoy an open floor plan, high ceilings and a chef’s kitchen with stainless steel appliances, plenty of cabinets and a roomy pantry.
The heart of this home, the kitchen — with adjoining dining and family rooms — make it ideal for gatherings. Walk outside to your backyard oasis, an east-facing paradise with stretched patio and captivating golf course and mountain views. This property is immaculate, well-cared for, and ready for new owners. Welcome home!
The first sentence of the listing invites buyers to imagine themselves living in an attractive golf community. It then reels them into the rest of the listing by capturing the property’s most appealing features through carefully selected descriptions: open floor plan, high ceilings, stainless steel appliances, captivating, chef’s kitchen, immaculate, mountain views.
Note that the copy skips dry facts like square footage and the number of bedrooms. While this information is useful, it doesn’t conjure up vivid images that bring the home to life. Plus, it’s already available in your listing’s data fields.
3. Craft an attention-Grabbing Headline
Some real estate listings omit headlines. But going without one is a missed opportunity to get more people to click through your ad. It’s worth taking the time to sum up one or two of your home’s most appealing characteristics in a concise, punchy title.
“You want to capture someone’s attention in the first few seconds so they’ll keep reading,” says Tchobanian.
Maybe your home is one of a handful of coveted bungalows on the market in a sought-after neighborhood. Convey that with a headline such as: “Rare Gem: Bright and Spacious Bungalow in Desirable Sycamore Park.”
4. Hook Buyers with a Compelling Opening Statement
Tantalize buyers — and leave them craving more — by spotlighting one of your home’s standout features in the first sentence of your ad. Take this opening statement for a listing describing a rustic hideaway in Marin County, Calif., for instance:
Imagine tossing another log on the fire in your cozy redwood timber cabin, tucked away in the gorgeous hills of Mill Valley on a serene and private ¾-acre lot.
Instead of spewing facts about the property, this sentence hooks readers with specific details that tell a captivating story.
5. Include Accurate but Fresh Adjectives
Your listing should set up expectations for a buyer by creating visual images that spark emotion. Insert strategic adjectives into your description that are both picturesque and stirring, and you can influence a buyer’s first impression of your home before he ever sets foot in it.
“I use adjectives like ‘modern home; swanky kitchen; clean lines; and crisp, white cabinetry,’” Santistevan says. “Words like these make buyers go, ‘Wow, this sounds great! I want to see this home.”
Descriptive words to use in a creative real estate listing description:
Coschedule, a highly rated marketing platform, offers this comprehensive list of “power words” for crafting emotional copy, while Millionacres provides a useful list of overused buzzwords and phrases to avoid, such as:
- Chef-grade appliances
- Custom built
- Close to everything
- Loads of potential
- Motivated seller
- Must see
- Needs TLC
6. Arrange the Selling Points in a Logical Order
Once you’ve nailed your opening statement, continue highlighting your home’s most desirable traits — the ones you picked in your initial conversations with your agent.
To keep buyers reading, be sure your information is well-organized. If your listing is just a long string of opulent adjectives, buyers will become overwhelmed and possibly lose interest. Guide them through the copy by arranging featured items to match the order of your photos.
Order the description and photos from the front door to the backyard so buyers know what to expect when they’re walking through the house in person.
In addition, find the middle ground between showcasing and overselling your home in the description. For example, if you’ve got a flagstone patio, an in-ground pool, and a built-in fire pit, you can call your backyard “resort like.” But if all you’ve got is grass — say so. Just say it creatively, such as referring to it as a spacious, rolling green lawn.
7. Avoid Fair Housing Violations
Established in 1968, the Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination in the renting or sale of housing nationwide. This means that your listing description cannot use any language that could be interpreted as discriminatory against any of the seven protected classes: race, color, religion, national origin, gender, disability, or familial status.
“You can’t say something like ‘perfect property for bachelors or young adults,’” notes Tchobanian.
There’s no official HUD list of banned words, but here are some examples of words or phrases that might raise red flags:
- Family oriented
- Perfect for families
- Traditional neighborhood
- Bachelor pad
- Country Club
So is there an appropriate way to mention your neighborhood’s family-friendly, or the fact that your kids are able to walk to their great school?
Yes. Just choose your words wisely.
You can play up monthly neighborhood potlucks or give the distance from your house to the nearby school.
If you’re eager to share the wonderful things about your home and neighborhood that are difficult to describe without violating the Fair Housing Act, Santistevan has a solution:
“I have my sellers draft a letter about why they love their home and why they’re so sad to leave it. Then I print it on cute paper and I’ll leave it on the counter with the house flyers. Since it’s coming directly from the seller, I get the message out to potential buyers without violating the Fair Housing Act.”
Grab a Pen, Shakespeare. It’s Time to Wax Poetic About Your Home.
Your real estate listing description can either win buyers over or cause them to gloss over your home amid a sea of competitor listings online. With a little imagination and teamwork with your agent, you’ll hit upon the right words to showcase and sell your home. Don’t forget to proofread your masterpiece for spelling and grammatical errors before it goes live!
Source: 7 Steps to Writing Creative Real Estate Listing Descriptions Home Light (September 27, 2022) Dorothy O'Donnell, Christopher Rogacz