With so much emphasis on the internet and how more than half of property buyers start their home search online, the real estate listing copy is the first chance you get to present the property. It is therefore necessary to give the property the best possible presentation as this would determine if buyers and renters would choose to visit. "A listing description, along with great photos and additional marketing (such as floor plan or 3-D waltz through) is always the first impression that a home has on a home buyer since most buyers start their search online" - Marcello Scolari, real estate broker at NextHome Residential and professional photographer.
When you’re advertising on an online property portal you cannot rely on your personality or charm to sway potential buyers. Instead, you need to ensure that the images and text you use on your listing give people a reason to make a phone or email enquiry. Only then can your people skills come into play. It’s therefore vital to make sure that your listing covers everything that buyers are looking for in a concise and engaging way, which is not always easy to achieve. However, it’s far from impossible and we’re going to explain how. Here are some important things to consider and include in your property listing based on research and opinions from real estate brokers and agents with many years of experience.
Think about your potential customers
As an agent, who recently acquired a real estate listing, it is important to know the type of clients that will be interested in that property. Your property’s location, price and size will determine the sort of buyer that will be attracted to it. This knowledge will drive the marketing strategies used, the real estate listing platforms where the property is promoted and eventually the property listing description. Before agents start writing the listing descriptions, you have to think about the target demographic and the type of things that are important to them, then make a checklist of the points to include in the description. For instance, if you are promoting a large house of about three bedrooms or more which is suitable for families, then it may be useful to indicate that there are schools for children, playgrounds, parks and other child friendly activities. If however, your property is a one or two bedroom or even a studio which would be more suited to students or young professionals and young couples, it would be more appropriate to talk about things like entertainment and leisure centres, cafes and other attractions. In cases where you are selling to retirees, then perhaps you may want to highlight the quiet location of the property and other activities that may be of interest to the elderly.
Additionally, if the target market is international buyers, investors or expats, then the agent can include specific information like certain visa benefits that may be obtained by buying that property or related tax breaks that can be useful. For example, it is possible for agents to inform potential international buyers that the property would be suitable for a “golden visa” in countries like Greece or Portugal.
As an agent operating in a specific location, ensure that you keep up with recent events and activities peculiar to that region and include them in the listing copy. Also, real estate agents should conduct research into the demographic of the area to have a clear understanding of the target market ideal for that location.
Similar to the discussion in our article on social media marketing for real estate agents, any online marketing activity should be backed with data and information about the target audience. This means that when describing a listing, the agent is to consider the readers and viewers, ensuring that the content is created to suit their preferences. For example, it is understandable that pictures and text appeal to a specific sets of viewers which is why Judi A. Desiderio, the CEO of Town and Country Real Estate, said that there are “two different demographics, non-readers and readers. Photography is most important in this age of social media [while] descriptions [are] for those who read“.
Impressive images in the property description
Arguably the most crucial element to get right is your lead photo, backed by a great gallery of images of your property that show off all its features in the best possible light. The first thing to consider in your real estate listing copy is the power of pictures. This is also in line with the thoughts of Saul Rasminsky of Dominical Real Estate when he said that the “picture is most important but also description”.
The importance of good quality photos should not be underestimated, so take the time to get this part right. Just as people are attracted by well presented and packaged products or the beautiful book cover, the property pictures can get the attention of a buyer or make them lose interest. This is why Olena Feoktistova of Bosley Real Estate indicated that it is ideal for real estate agents to “use only the best pictures”.
Photography is an art form in itself and as with any profession, there are techniques and skills which have to be studied to get the best from it. Considering this, it makes a lot of sense for real estate agents to take advantage of available resources and learn how to take incredible property pictures. Additionally, Desiderio pointed out the importance of staging the property before taking pictures as she said that “we are finding 'lifestyle' photos i.e. staged dinner tables, are getting more clicks”.
Particular attention should be paid to the quality and type of equipment used especially as a DSLR camera would produce better pictures than those taken on a mobile phone even a smartphone. Having top quality equipment in itself does not guarantee great photos as it is impossible to get the best from anything if you have no knowledge of the equipment and how to use it. Basically, you have to know about the equipment, stage the property and keep it clean before taking the pictures.
Make sure that the lead picture used is of the highest quality and promotes the property by showing its best features.
Structure the property description
Writing any piece that will attract people requires a certain level of organization and flow. The property listing can be described as the story of the property and with any good story, there should be a heading or title, an opening statement which flows into the body of the description and finally the closing part of the write-up. Agents and their copywriters, have to keep everything coordinated so it is easy for buyers and renters to follow the property’s story. A structure was suggested by Scolari when he said, "start your listing description with a catchy phrase. Proceed on the first paragraph by mentioning the great attributes of the home, leaving basic information out such as “additional bedroom down the hall”. That information is already part of the listing as the total number of bedrooms is listed. Next I usually mention the pluses about the house within the town or village, such as close to X bus, Y train or Z park. Remember to always keep in mind fair housing and local regulations. ‘If in doubt, leave it out’ is what I instruct my agents to do."
When people come across an advertisement, book, blog or any other written work, the first thing they use to assess their interest in the item is the title. If the title does not attract the attention of the reader and potential buyer, it would be difficult for them to continue reading. Accompanying the lead image should be an attention grabbing headline that is both factually accurate and enticing, ideally reflecting the property’s best feature e.g. ‘ Waterfront apartment in Miami for sale’. Due to space limitations you’ll probably only have five or six words in which to grab the reader’s attention, so make them count.
Use accurate property descriptions
The property description beneath your headline and image gallery is your chance to convert the audience from interested readers to prospective buyers in the space of about 200 to 500 words. This copy should add extra detail to the key facts, as well as introduce other benefits such as local amenities (‘close to shops and schools’), the aspect of the property (‘large south facing garden’), and the construction of fixtures and fittings (‘marble worktops throughout’). Make sure to include positive adjectives such as ‘beautiful’, ‘picturesque’ and ‘quiet’, as long as they accurately describe the property. However, there’s nothing wrong with making the best of features that could be seen as negatives by framing them in a more positive light, such as describing rooms as ‘cosy’ rather than ‘small’.
Readers, buyers, renters, sellers and everyone who comes across a property listing description expects that it is an “accurate description of the property” as stated by Feoktistova. As much as accuracy is paramount, agents need to focus on “Highlighting the unique features to make the property one of a kind” as suggested by Feoktistova. It is important to be specific about what is included in the property ensuring that you put in the correct details. It is possible to include the names of important and valuable brands when describing the appliances available in the property. According to Feoktistova, the agent is better served if they “Know the smallest details of the property”. This way, the agent can include the “Weber BBQ” in the description to give more details about the property. The description also gives you a chance to talk about those things that buyers cannot see from the pictures for example, it may not be possible to tell that the property was designed by a top architect, furnished by a world class designer or that it features art pieces worthy of being displayed in a museum. This is also an opportunity to mention the recent upgrades made to the property or the just completed finishings and hardwood flooring.
To support this, Desiderio also said that “most listings have full descriptions of room counts and other particulars but if there was a famous kitchen designer or landscape architect or decorator -- specifics serve you well”
As well as looking great, it is equally important that your listing contains all the basic factual information that buyers will want to know once they’ve clicked through from your headline. Rasminsky echoed this when he said that, “all of the details like number of bedrooms, bathrooms, location, view, etc” must be included in the listing description. Location, price, number of bedrooms and bathrooms, total area, and main extras such as garages, laundry equipment, pools and gardens are important for potential buyers and should all be included.
To add some colour to the description, brokers can talk about the neighbourhood, including attractions and fun activities in the area such as landmarks, parks, golf courses, aquariums, zoos, beautiful beaches, unique cultural activities like the local art market or festivals and other similar attractions. You can also give tips on how to access the staple things like the grocery store, supermarkets or even the bakery. Always keep your target audience in mind and ensure that the attractions being highlighted are relatable and would be interesting to them.
Even if you think that the property has no distinguishing features or recent upgrades, you can become really creative while maintaining accuracy. Remember that the property description is supposed to tell a story so it would be very useful to “match [the] description to the pictures taken” (Feoktistova) this way, the readers can visualise and imagine what it would be like to actually be in the property.
Adjectives to describe the property
It is important to use the right adjectives to describe the property. Creativity and some art may be required to adequately describe the property, however, a use of too many adjectives may take away from the realistic expectation of buyers. Brokers need to find a balance between reality and writing artistically. Potential buyers and renters are likely to get put off if the description seems to be over-selling the property or if it sounds too good to be true. To keep them interested, agents and brokers should avoid “exaggeration [and] repetition” - Feoktistova.
An example of a property description that would likely be unappealing to buyers is:
The perfect finishings and stunning design of this amazing house would dazzle you.
A better example would be:
The tastefully furnished interior of this house allows you to feel comfortable and at home.
Feoktistova suggested that it is important for real estate brokers to write creatively by “including words that add value (“Impeccable,” “luxurious,” and “landscaped”)”. Further, Scolari adviced agents saying that, "thesaurus is your friend; I usually select certain words and try to find a more catchy or proper replacement."
In addition to this, Rasminsky advised that agents should avoid “[un]necessary or incorrect info” while Desiderio simply said “don’t ramble”.
In all, Feoktistova said that agents should “remain professional and formal in describing the property” and that there should be a “call to action”, which encourages potential clients to contact you or visit the property if there is an open house.
Words to be careful of or avoid in listing descriptions
The real estate industry also has some underlying meanings which it attributes to certain words so agents and brokers need to pay attention to the way those words are used in the property description. For instance, the word “cosy” may be used to represent a very small space. Similarly, words like immaculate and stunning may not do much for the property as they have been overused in the real estate industry. To really make this point clear, Feoktistova advised real estate agents to “avoid red flag words [such as] fixer [or] cosmetic”.
Just like other industries, there are specific terms that are only known by experts and professionals so it would be difficult for property buyers and renters to understand those words. Real estate agents would not achieve much from the property description if they use such technical terms. This is also the opinion of Feoktistova who clearly said that brokers should avoid “jargon or professional language that is not understood by everyone”.
Check for errors
Once you’ve put together your listing, be sure to read through it carefully to check for any typos. Spelling mistakes and grammatical errors could reduce the confidence of prospective buyers regarding your level of professionalism, so always make sure you sell your business and not just your properties when using real estate portals. Feoktistova also said that agents need to use “proper grammar and punctuation” in the listing description. Scolari emphasized this point, saying, "write your description somewhere where spell checking can be completed. Check then check again. Ensure that proper punctuation is in place. If possible, have a second set of eyes check your writing and if needed, leave it over night and recheck in the morning."
Other useful tips on how to write a great property description offered by brokers and real estate professionals include:
Keep your client’s interest first
Feoktistova says that agents should “always remember your clients’ wishes and stand for them”. This goes towards proper customer relationship building as a good agent should always have the interest of their clients at heart. This is a very important quality of a good real estate broker as prospective clients consider such when choosing the right real estate agent for them.
Be passionate about the property
Rasminsky also advised that as an agent who is listing a property, you should “put your heart into it and list it quickly after going to see it so it is fresh in your mind”. The best property listing descriptions are written when the image and feeling of the home is still new. A number of agents may try to take notes during the visit to help them remember the important points to mention in the description especially the unique features of the property.
Don’t copy and paste property descriptions
Other experts say that some agents just copy the text either from their other properties or even from properties listed by other agents. Well, this would not work as every property is different and potential buyers would not want to contact you if they sense that you are being dishonest. Buyers will be put off, if they can see that the pictures presented in the property do not match the description. It would not be beneficial for an agent if a 2 bedroom apartment located within a block of similar flats is described as a villa having its own compound and private grounds. Clients do not want to be deceived so they would not contact the agent or book a viewing. To support this, Scolari said, "also, never copy a previous listing description, not only is it morally wrong but it will also show a lack of enthusiasm and laziness on your part. You can bet that the home seller will be checking online to see how you’re representing their home." Besides, if an agent copies text from other properties, there would be no way to present the best qualities of your property and after a while the text becomes standard so no client would be interested in reading it. It is also possible that search engines would no longer find the text as it has been overused, they would consider it as spam created by a robot.
Either way, it does not help to use the same text, write a new description for all the properties.
Language of the property description
Agents should consider the language used by clients in their target market, if the agent lists properties in a town that speaks only a specific language then it may be better to describe the property in that language. However, if the agent is trying to attract international buyers or renters, then they might also want to describe the property in English as this is the most common language in the real estate industry.
Some countries have specific requirements for listing properties so agents should know the laws and regulations in the country where they are located.
Using free or paid real estate listing portals
Another important factor in property listings is the portal or website, as this may determine the number and types of clients that would see the property. This is also important in determining the language and the structure of the property description since some listing sites have regulations on how the listing is done. Agents need to consider where the property listing will be displayed or published when writing the description. It is also useful to know that generally, free real estate listing portals use the properties listed on their site to attract adverts in the industry so they can get profits while paid portals treat the agents as customers and make sure that their properties are promoted.
In conclusion, Bradford of Runaway Homes said, “I like to write about the homes in a real personal voice. Get people to be attracted to what I find attractive in the home. They can make their own opinions through the pictures, and people who are interested will read the description to learn more. So when writing, I talk about the home like I would with a friend. I point out things I love, and make it feel homely and not like a property for sale. Although all the homes I post about are for sale, I don’t make it sound like I’m selling them, which probably sells them better.”
Every real estate agent and property broker can write great property descriptions that will attract buyers and these tips from industry experts would be very helpful to achieve this.