One of the most underutilized and overlooked aspects of the real estate listing is the description. We’ve all seen home listings with amazing, irresistible professional photos, and then had our enthusiasm trickle away when we got to the uninspired, zero-effort description. (“Big LR/GR, new kitchen, big MBR suite, pking.”)
Why do agents write such lackluster descriptions? Some say they’re just too busy with all the other aspects of selling a home to sit down and cook up a detailed description; others cite the need to appeal to the widest possible audience. But writing a good description doesn’t take long if you follow a few simple rules, and no buyer is going to be scared off by a colorful, well-written description. Properly marketing a home is how agents earn commission, and part of marketing is writing snappy, concise, informative listings that pop off the screen.
The truth is, well-written descriptions are going to be more important than ever for the foreseeable future. With buyers scared off from open houses by the threat of coronavirus, most of the browsing and consideration is going to happen online, with buyers only going to in-person viewings for homes they’re already serious about. Now’s the time to invest in professional photos, virtual tours, and colorful listing descriptions.
Let’s go over a few of the basics.
The first line or two of your description should convey the essence of the property. Note that we said “essence,” and not “basic information.” A description that flatly states “3BR townhome in West End” might technically be informative, but it fails as a sales tactic.
In order to convey the essence of a property, you have to be really familiar with it and understand how it will appeal to buyers. If you’re not sure how to frame it, ask the owner. They’ll know exactly what their home’s best features are; if it’s in a top school district, if it’s close to the city’s best park, if the yard is great for kids. Saying a home is “a family-friendly townhome with an expansive yard, in a top school district” is much more enticing than “3BR townhome in West End.”
Think beyond words like ‘big’ or ‘small’ or ‘amazing.’ We’re talking about the text equivalent to curb appeal; what impression does the house make on a first-time visitor?
If it’s a brick Edwardian, maybe it’s “stately” or “dignified.”
If it’s a bungalow, maybe it’s “warm” or “inviting” or “cozy.”
If it’s a hypermodern steel-and-glass condo, maybe it’s “sleek” and “sophisticated.”
This applies to individual features, too. Once they’ve clicked on your headline, give them an engaging description to sink their teeth into. Instead of describing the great room as “bright,” consider something like “a pair of angled skylights admits stunning natural light into the great room.” Don’t just say there’s a deck; say “the deck, which is made of Norwegian pine, offers 40 square feet of outdoor space.” Details and specifics are incredibly engaging to readers.
Selling a house takes, well, salesmanship. Phrases like “Rare Opportunity!” or “Amazing Value!” or “Call now!” or “This home will go fast!” may be unsubtle, but they can give a buyer on the fence a much-needed jolt of urgency. And if you’re motivated to sell quickly, givebacks like offering to pay some of the closing costs can be enticing without seeming too desperate.
When you’re writing the full listing description, don’t just list off rooms; a good description makes the reader feel like they’re actually in the home. Consider the difference between “mud room, great room, full dining room, deck” and “you enter into a generously-proportioned mudroom, which opens onto the stunning south-facing great room. This space flows naturally into the full dining room, which opens, via French doors, onto a cozy wooden deck.” Don’t write just to convey information; try to take readers on a tour of the place.
A common mistake that many descriptions make is that they’re too basic. Yes, buyers need to know that a home has four bedrooms, but that information is not going to get the home pushed to the top of open house lists. It’s the extras that really catch a prospective buyer’s eye. Talk about the deck in back, the window seats in the kitchen, the skylights in the master bedroom, the walk-in closets, the landscaped backyard. The details are what really make an exceptional home, not the basics.
Avoid words like “cosmetic,” “TLC,” and “fixer upper”; they imply that the house needs a lot of work, which emboldens buyers to aggressively negotiate the price down. For similar reasons, never mention a “motivated seller,” even if it’s true— you’re basically asking for insultingly low offers.
On the other end of the spectrum, words like “impeccable,” luxurious,” and “landscaped” were associated with higher sale prices. For homes with a median value in the bottom third of the market, using the word “luxurious” led to a sales price that was 8.2% higher than projected. On the other end of the spectrum, homes with a median value in the top third of the market beat their projected sales price by 6.5% when the word “captivating” was included in the listing.
The study also found other words that were associated with added value: granite, remodel, tile, pergola, stainless (steel appliances), basketball, upgraded, and updated. If you have any of these features in your home, or if you can honestly apply any of these power words to any aspect of the home— even just the front yard or the jacuzzi tub—definitely include them in your listing.
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