A home listing description is a buyer's first encounter with your real estate marketing.
It's also one of the most complained-about items by listing clients, so getting it right is vital for everyone involved in your deal.
If you've ever Googled how to write a home description for your listings, you already know there's no shortage of articles, guides, and blog posts that all say pretty much the same things.
This article is going to be very different from those posts.
One could even say it "boasts" a completely different take on listing blurbs altogether.
Sorry, couldn't resist. 😀
Write Like Web Marketers & Copywriters, Not Like REALTORS®
Almost every guide out there telling you how to write your descriptions to get your listings noticed does one or all of the following very harmful things:
- They push "best of" recommendations that are just summaries of the "same old, same old" approaches that get your listing lost in the noise of all the others written the very same way (think of it like a "greatest hits" album from a terrible band - it's the best of the worst!).
- They're marketers trying to sell you something by penning guides specifically for real estate pros they know will gobble up these fresh, quick suggestions instead of "best practice" advice from content experts or successful copywriters (with no profit motive!).
- They focus on superficial approaches that make your listing "stand out" or "jump off the page" versus a methodology based on what listing descriptions are there to do: convey valuable, useful, and (most of all) helpful information.
If you don't believe it, just Google "how to write a real estate listing description," quickly scan some articles, then compare them against these three bullet points.
Taking their advice will only perpetuate what's already not working with prospective buyers and your sellers. 👎
A better approach is to follow the advice of successful online marketing writers who spend their careers getting products noticed by the right audiences for whatever they're selling.
About 95% of people using the internet at any given time are shopping.
That means the competition is super-high between companies selling online, so content marketers spend all their time trying to build "the perfect mousetrap."
To give you an idea of the kind of high-quality, engaging product descriptions I'm talking about, here are a couple of fabulous companies doing it the right way:
- The Last Crumb - This online "luxury" cookie maker has some of today's best product descriptions. Just click the link here, then scroll down and mouse over some of their "Censored Collection" cookies. You'll want them after reading them, trust me.
- MEH - This company is unique in that they advertise and sell one great product deal daily. I've not seen better copywriting on the web, so look here and read one of their descriptions. Trust me; you'll read the whole product blurb. It's even kind of...fun.
The best web copywriters and content creators build content such as product descriptions (your home is a product, too!) based on things like:
- The psychology behind web product searches
- Established data on how people read online
- Performance metrics that show what converts and what doesn't
- Trend analysis and current social media behavior
- Tools and AI (Artificial Intelligence) that optimize for things like keywords (SEO), sentiment, style, and voice
They're also constantly testing and evaluating what works best for continuous improvement - and more sales.
To sum it up, here's a quote from online writing maven Dickie Bush (Author of The 22 Laws of Digital Writing):
"Digital Writers don't guess what readers want to read about—they gather data, learn what works in real time, and iterate on a daily basis."
Believe it or not, writing online for marketing purposes is a very structured activity guided by rules, guidelines, best practices, and proven methodologies that are, in many ways, formulaic.
A formula for success that is.
Learn this method for writing your listing descriptions, and you'll get a buyer's attention and ensure you have the best chance at getting your listing to "stick" in their minds.
Your sellers will also appreciate these kinds of descriptions and the results-driven methods behind them.
So how do you employ these methods to create more effective listing descriptions?
Read on, friend. I'm about to tell you.
Three Steps to Writing Better Real Estate Listing Descriptions
Agents and brokers often ask me to write listing descriptions or example templates for them via my real estate marketing firm.
Over the years, I've created a quick guide on how to write compelling listing descriptions along with examples for different kinds of homes, sentiments, voices, and styles.
For brevity's sake, I've condensed that guide to a few core essentials, which I outline below.
Follow them, and I promise you'll get more attention on your home listings than ever.
Step 1: Identify the audience you're speaking to - and nail the opening
Your opening sentence is critical in helping the prospective buyers you want to get in front of the most determine whether your home is for them instantly.
Data shows that online readers read the opening line, then skim the rest.
That means you have only seconds - and one chance - to convince them they should read further.
While it's impossible to say with 100% certainty what kind of buyer will be most interested in your home, you can make some educated assumptions that help set the proper opening for your listing blurb.
One of the best ways to do this is to analyze the demographic, social, and income makeup of the neighborhood where your listing sits.
For example, suppose you're selling a $155K home in a neighborhood full of young families working at a nearby automotive factory that employs mostly hourly workers without college degrees.
In that case, you can make the following general assumptions about prospective buyers:
- The buyer likely lives on a set budget each month.
- The buyer will likely spend more downtime at home than traveling for vacations.
- The buyer will likely be married.
- The buyer will probably have (or will soon have) kids.
- This home may be the buyer's first home purchase.
- The buyer will be looking for an affordable payment.
- The buyer will likely need a home they can grow with over the next few years.
- One of the partners may stay home with the kids.
- The working member of the household will likely work nearby.
- The buyers will probably have at least one car payment.
Instead of writing a "same old, same old" listing that "boasts" this or that about a "MUST SEE!" home, you can do better in your opening line - and help buyers decide to focus on your listing over others.
Based on these assumptions, you then focus on things like these:
- Money-saving features your listing may have, such as spray foam insulation, new energy-efficient water heater, or split HVAC systems.
- Low maintenance features like vinyl siding or brick exteriors.
- Any fenced areas of the yard, decks, shaded "play areas," or proximity to local parks or pools.
- A covered carport or multiple garage spaces.
- Proximity to grocery stores, medical offices, and other shopping.
- Size of bedrooms and bedrooms with attached bathrooms.
- Lack of monthly HOA fees or association dues.
Then you can craft a compelling opening line for your listing description that will resonate most with buyers likely to be interested in your home.
Remember, you'll also want to take a purely benefits-driven approach to your wording as you craft an attention-grabbing sentence.
Lastly, clearly stating the "who/what/why" in the first line is of utmost importance:
- That means you connect with the audience you're addressing (i.e., the "who").
- It also means you emphasize the specific thing (or things) about the home you identify as the most resonant for your audience (i.e., the "what").
- You also must focus on the main life benefit(s) they'll get in this home (i.e., the "why" in why they should keep reading).
To make it more concrete, here are some examples of opening lines based on the home and audience described above:
"Don't waste your hard-earned money buying a seemingly affordable home that turns out to be a utility cost money pit due to outdated appliances, HVAC, and water heater!"
"Data shows that homes with vinyl siding like this one have lower home maintenance costs over time, so be sure to factor that in when you're building that list of favorite homes to go see!"
"Looking for a home with an oversized, fenced backyard that's part shade, part sun for those fun Summer activities that wear kids out and make it easy for get-togethers around the grill?"
"Would you rather have a home like this one with a ginormous covered, two-car carport or one that lets the Spring hail storms and Summer sun hurt the car you affectionately refer to as "your baby?"
Opening lines like this in your description connect with the audience, convey what stands out about the home, and let them know why that particular feature matters to them.
It also keeps them reading and remembering your listing as they "doom scroll" thru Zillow.
Step 2: Read five other active listings for similar homes - then do the opposite
There's a psychological phenomenon called the Von Restorff effect:
"Also called the isolation effect or bizarreness effect, the Von Restorff effect is the proven psychological theory that the more something stands out from the crowd the more likely it is to be seen. For example in a bucket full of green apples we'll remember the red one. And be more drawn to it." - The Behaviours Agency
You can use this effect to your advantage when writing listings descriptions by copying a few active listings for homes like the one you're listing, then avoid sounding the same.
Remember, buyers shopping for a home become numb to listing descriptions because they all look alike.
The easiest way for you to "do the opposite" with your listing is to sound very different than the typical listing by changing the following:
- The tone of the listing (i.e., since all the others sound generic, you have to strike a new, unique tone for your write-up).
- The home features and details you talk about (i.e., if the other descriptions just restate what's already in the data fields of the listing they've scrolled past, how's it helping you to do the same?).
- The listing format from a dull, one-dimensional blurb to a value-added FAQ-ish kind of guide (a.k.a. "Frequently Asked Questions" that any common-sense buyer looking at your listing pics might have).
For example, take this (actual and) typical listing description:
"5 year old GROUND floor 3 bed 3 bath home with 1510 sq. ft. on half an acre has a sunroom not included in square footage! Location can't be beat! Lots of community amenities."
To take advantage of the Von Restorff effect, you might re-write it like this:
"I don't know about you, but I'm a gardener, and my indoor sunroom (very similar to this one!) is the best place I've found to grow perfect tomatoes every time. I'm also not too fond of stairs, so this home would be on my "save" list. Besides that, when I shop for a home, I always ask myself: How long will it take me to get to the grocery store? The movie theater? What about a bite to eat? If you lived here, the answer would be less than 5 minutes. Since the Summers here get hot, you could even spend your day off at the neighborhood pool! (btw, there is no pool fee if you're wondering!)"
Remember, one red apple gets all the attention in a bucket full of green ones.
Step 3: Keep it tight, don't just describe, and SELL THE SIZZLE!
As you shop for things you need online, start paying attention to the product descriptions of the items you choose to purchase over those you don't.
You'll start to notice that successful products have more compelling write-ups.
What I mean by that is these descriptions:
- Create a sense of scarcity
- Build urgency for you to buy
- Highlight how good a deal the products are
- Make the product sound necessary (even vital)
- Don't distract by unnecessary language
- Contain a "call to action" for you to buy or compare
When you grab a reader's attention, show them in as few words as possible why they truly need what you're describing - and need it now - you have a better shot of getting a conversion to sale.
It's easier to see what I mean via an example, so here's another actual, typical listing showing what NOT to do:
"TIMELESS full brick ranch style home on a corner lot with a cozy sunroom for reading or bird watching. Come right in to this well maintained and improved home with a brand new 18x24 detached garage. House features 3 bedrooms and one bath with a new roof, windows, vinyl on the exterior, sunroom, flooring, paint, concrete and more!! Everything is done, all you have to do is bring the furniture!!"
Now, check this one out and tell me which one makes a more significant impression on you:
"Brick, one-level rancher that's one of only two in the entire neighborhood to come on the market in over five years! The house will go on the market on 4/1 with no additional offers accepted after 72 hours (act quickly). The price is set below recent comparables in the same subdivision for homes without a sunroom or on a large corner lot. You won't find a similar home in this popular area with a brand-new garage, low-maintenance vinyl siding, or (get this) new windows. Contact me now, and I'll find a spot for you to see this bargain."
Your listing write-up can sell or sit there and disappear into the background. Sadly, your home may as well if you don't write your blurb correctly.
Follow these simple steps and focus more on how you write your listing descriptions.
Homes are products like anything else you seek out, research, and buy online.
That means taking advice from expert online copywriters is more likely to help you grow your business than following suggestions from marketers trying to sell you on something by offering some "free advice."
One final hint: if the article you're reading sounds like something you've heard before, you probably shouldn't let it influence how you improve your listing descriptions.
In other words, keep an eye out for red apples.
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