A property description is the written portion of a real estate listing that describes the details of a home for sale or lease. Descriptions account for roughly one-third of a listing and are accompanied by property information (i.e. the number of bedrooms) and photographs.
The goal of property description is to attract home buyers. Listing descriptions need colorful words to paint a clear mental picture of a home’s features and benefits, over and above the accompanying photographs. Therefore, first-rate copywriting is a must.
ANATOMY OF A PROPERTY LISTING
Property listings are placed on local and regional Multiple Listing Services (MLSs) and national websites like Zillow and Realtor.com. Their format is standardized, making it easy to create and distribute property information widely. Here are the three core components of a real estate listing:
1. Property Information
Simple data, or facts, about the property such as the street address, number of bedrooms and bathrooms, square footage and asking price.
After querying property information (neighborhood, the number of rooms, price, etc.), home buyers will see listing results that match their search. On the search results page, property photos immediately attract their eyeballs. Pictures make the first and strongest impression.
Regarding image quality, you can take the photographs or your listing agent can take them, but the best results come from professional freelancers who specialize in real estate photography. You’ll be looking at a couple hundred bucks for top notch work. What’s more, some pros can also make drone videos or virtual tours. In any case, property photos should be high resolution so that they are clear.
3. Property Description
So far in their journey, home shoppers have narrowed their choices based on data and pictures. But they still need to get a feel for what makes each home unique and interesting compared to other homes on the market. This is where property descriptions do their heavy lifting. Good descriptions communicate a home’s features, along with the benefits, which make it the most desirable choice. Making a property stand out can help sell it faster.
WRITING REAL ESTATE DESCRIPTIONS
Property descriptions start with an opening statement followed by a paragraph or two about the home that’s up for sale. All copy should be terse, highlighting the home’s features and their benefits.
For example, a pool is a feature. Entertaining friends, exercising or cooling off on a hot summer day are benefits.
Carefully chosen adjectives convey extra meaning which creates value in the mind of the reader. For example, windows are merely features. But large windows that let in plenty of natural light takes on a whole new meaning, wouldn’t you agree?
Let’s break a high-quality property description into its fundamental components – the opening statement, and body.
A well-written opening statement piques a reader’s interest and compels them to continue reading the rest of the description. The best summaries do the following:
- Get attention
- Indicate value
- Set the scene with a high-level aspect of something unique about the property (such as the architectural style or property location)
Ideally, the summary combines all three elements above. Here are some opening statement examples:
- “Newly Remodeled Mid-Century Home”
- “Bright and Spacious Starter Home”
- “Cozy Bungalow in the Hollywood Hills”
- “Prestigious Estate with L.A. Basin Views”
- “Contemporary WeHo Loft”
Property Description Body
After catching a reader’s attention with an opening statement, it’s time to expand and elaborate on the property’s features and benefits. Because writing a property description is an inherently creative and potentially frustrating process, a few rules of the road can make it easier and to ensure that it is written well. Here are few do’s and don’ts:
- Create a viewpoint based on the potential buyer’s income, family structure, lifestyle and occupation.
- Storytelling – tell readers what it’s like living in the home. For example, a deck can be used to entertain guests or take in a sweeping view. Provide readers with words that help them picture themselves living there. Rather than a sterile list of features, describe the benefits of those features.
- Include name brands of premium appliances, windows, and doors (Viking, Sub-Zero, Thermador, etc.)
- Highlight special features – views, decks, hardwood floors, marble countertops, tile showers, insulated windows, etc.
- List area amenities – let folks know about the convenience of living near shopping areas, public transit, airports, highly-rated schools or that the neighborhood is within walking distance of those amenities.
- List upgrades – point out anything new, refinished or improved.
- Sprinkle the copy with real estate adjectives – give your copy some style and help paint a mental picture for the reader.
- Take advantage of words that may help generate a better offer: luxurious, stainless, granite, upgraded, updated, landscaped, impeccable, bright and beautiful.
- Check for grammatical errors and misspelled words. Have a friend or family member proofread what you’ve written.
- Avoid using ALL CAPS and exclamation points.
- Be careful with duplicity – if you’ve used an adjective or noun more than once, look up their synonyms online or with your word processor (MS Word or Apple Pages).
- Exaggeration could lead to a home shopper’s disappointment. For example, if trees obstruct a mountain view, using the phrase “breathtaking view” would clearly be misleading.
- Steer clear of words that may generate a lowball offer: fixer, potential, bargain, cosmetic, motivated seller, and TLC.
Bonus: Loan Program Eligibility
- When possible, identify the property’s loan eligibility – let folks know they can finance their home with FHA or VA loans (single-family properties, manufactured homes and condos) or a USDA loan (rural areas).
REAL ESTATE PROPERTY DESCRIPTION EXAMPLES
Example 1 (Poor)
“This 1,523 square foot single-family home has 3 bedrooms and 3.0 bathrooms. It is located at 3991 Bleacher Ave, Burbank, California.”
- Way too short. Only includes basic information.
- The property description is duplicitous, as it contains data already available to a reader in the property information area.
Example 2 (Good)
“Gorgeous 4-bedroom, 2-bathroom home in beautiful Silver Lake. This property offers 1,160 square feet of living space and a lot size of 5,499 square feet. Your family and loved ones will enjoy the spacious backyard, perfect for family gatherings! Come and take a look at this beauty….Don’t miss out!”
- Why use the word property in the second sentence when you can use the word home?
- The word beauty is used twice, find a synonym.
- Spacious backyard and the suggestion of using it for family gatherings (storytelling) paints a nice picture. Readers can imagine themselves in the space and how they can put it to good use.
Example 3 (Good)
“Remodeled to perfection! This beautiful home is located close to shopping and dining. Here are just a few of its wonderful features: cozy fireplace, new kitchen cabinets, stainless steel sink, modern quartz counter tops, wood flooring, remodeled bathrooms, freshly painted, central a/c, attached two-car garage, large back yard, and so much more!”
- Good opening statement, though maybe improved by adding the style of the house, such as, “Craftsman home remodeled to perfection!”
- Excellent use of adjectives throughout.
- Could improve the description by telling a story or adding some benefits.
Example 4 (Great)
“Elegant custom home offers unparalleled craftsmanship and exceptional amenities! This French inspired design is truly remarkable inside and out. Features include cherry cabinets, quartz counter tops, crown molding, custom windows provide plenty of natural lighting, expansive decking (1000 sq. ft.), gourmet kitchen with island (great for entertaining), gorgeous master suite, den, storage, plus STUNNING views of L.A. Basin and Downtown L.A. High demand area.”
- Using all caps for the word STUNNING helps it stand out. This is an example where using all caps judiciously (only one time) could be an exception to the “no all caps” rule.
- This otherwise solid description did not include any storytelling.
WRITING EFFECTIVE REAL ESTATE ADS
Listings vs. Advertisements
Listings are posted by REALTORS ® on their local or regional MLS. Only licensed agents who pay membership dues can list properties for sale or lease on their MLS. Listings are sometimes distributed to large publishers like Realtor.com and Zillow, depending upon local MLS rules.
Folks looking to sell their home without an agent can create a listing and upload it to the For Sale by Owner (FSBO) areas of real estate websites like Zillow and Trulia. Listing agents will manually post properties for sale on those platforms, too.
Real estate advertisements are similar to listings in that they include property information, a description, and photos. However, property ads get two additional elements – a headline, and call to action. Advertisements are placed on websites like Craigslist, in local newspapers (print or online classified sections) and other local publications like real estate magazines.
Here are the two additional elements that expand a listing, turning it into an advertisement:
Ads contain headlines that listings do not. You can pretty much use the same technique for your headline as you would for your listing’s opening statement. Some headlines work well when they include the price and size of the home. Here are some headline examples:
- “Historic Los Feliz Craftsman / $850K / 3br / 1200 sq. ft.”
- “Bright Hollywood Writer’s Bungalow / $500k / 2 br.”
- “French Normandy-Inspired Luxury Home / Guest Quarters / Bel-Air”
- “Mid-Century Modern Stunner Overlooking Sunset Strip”
5. Call to Action
The purpose of a call to action is to elicit a response from an interested home shopper. Responses typically include a click on a link, a phone call or an email inquiry. One of the best ways to formulate a call to action is by starting it with a verb and then adding a benefit, or “what’s in it for them.” Here’s the call to action formula:
Call to Action = Verb + What’s in it For Them
And, here are a few call to action examples:
- “Call today to view this home (555) 555-1212”
- “Email us to schedule a showing firstname.lastname@example.org”
- “Click here to see a virtual tour [link]”
Have some fun by getting feedback on your property description. If you’re selling your home on your own, you can ask home buyers what stood out in your ad. If you are using a listing agent, he or she can get feedback from buyers’ agents who’ve shown your home. Remember to structure your listings and advertisements correctly. A property listing has three core elements, and a real estate advertisement has two more.
1. Property Information
3. Property Description
5. Call to Action