Summary: Your property description is the first thing potential buyers will read after viewing your property’s photos. Although writing is an art, creating compelling property descriptions is much easier than you think. Watch out for real estate cliches, understand the lingo, focus on the highlights, and write with your target buyer in mind.
Real Estate Listings Description
Although you may feel property descriptions are one small part of marketing your home for sale, consider a 2014 study by Redfin and Grammarly. Of the 1,300 participants, 87% said the property description was an important factor when browsing real estate websites and listings and nearly 44% said they would not be likely to tour a home if the property description contained spelling and grammatical errors. Despite the mounting pressure, writing compelling copy for your property description is much easier than you think even if you aren’t a wordsmith.
Common Cliches, Malapropisms, and Homophones
Despite writing hundreds of property listings, brokers—or whoever is in charge of proofreading the agent’s marketing materials—aren’t the greatest writers. The general rule of thumb advises sitting down and reading property descriptions until you’ve identified common themes. However, this is dangerous as there are endless examples of real estate cliches and malapropisms that can infect your word bank.
FSBO Tip 1: Word processors are not 100% accurate. Use online editing tools like Grammarly before publishing your property description.
Malapropisms are similar sounding words or phrases which are misused or misheard. You may already know a few, yet surprisingly, real estate has its own unique malapropisms!
Homophones are words with the same pronunciation but with entirely different meanings. The homophones are provided in context in the examples below.
|Malaprop||Did You Mean?||Homophone||Did You Mean?|
|Sub pump||Sump pump||Except an offer||Accept an offer|
|On Suite||En Suite||Stainless steal||Stainless steel|
|Back Slash||Backsplash||Sneak peak||Sneak peek|
|Granted countertops||Granite countertops||Minor leeks||Minor leaks|
|Rod iron fence||Wrought iron fence||Sowed shut||Sewed shut|
|Walking closets||Walk-in closets||Glairy room||Glary room|
Although malaprops and homophones can lead to unintentional hilarity, serious potential buyers aren’t browsing for laughs. In addition, there are a handful of words to avoid when writing your property description. These words are either too generic, too broad, or paint a picture that conflicts with the story told through your property photos.
|The Word You Used||What You Think It Means||What Buyers Know It Means|
|Cozy||A room with a homely feel||Cramped and/or non-conforming addition|
|Up-and-coming||Older neighborhood with a small business boon||Avoid this area at night|
|Great||Wonderful room with great potential||90% of the descriptions I’ve read today say great|
|Spacious||Open concept||Four walls and a door is not spacious|
|Turn-key||Move in ready! No contractor needed||I’ll need a contractor|
Although these words represent a small portion of an exhaustive list, they aren’t guaranteed deal breakers. If you feel a potentially “boring” descriptor is the most appropriate, it’s best to err on the side of caution rather than lie to your buyers. Always make sure the story you create in your property description matches the story shown in your photos!
Demystifying Real Estate Lingo
There are phrases in real estate used to convey a bigger picture in the fewest words possible. Although home buyers may not immediately pick up on these phrases, using them appropriately will send signals to the right buyer’s agent who knows how to decipher well-written property descriptions.
“Priced to sell.” This phrase means you’re serious about your asking price. You aren’t fond of negotiating. Whether you’ve secured multiple appraisals, cleared the title of liens, and performed all the work and looking for top dollar, or if you’re just ready to sell “as-is for quick cash, using “priced to sell” tells the buyer’s agent to come close to that asking price.
“Motivated to sell.” On the contrary to “priced to sell,” using this phrase tells the buyer’s agent that your asking price is more flexible. You can also use this phrase to signal an openness to all types of offers and you’re willing to spend more time negotiating.
FSBO Tip 2: Always make sure the story you create in your property description matches the story shown in your photos!
“Serious buyers only.” Although overused in the second-hand retail market, using “serious buyers only” may give the buyer’s agent an impression of putting on airs rather than expressing your disdain for window shoppers. It may dissuade buyers without pre-approvals, but you may also attract the wrong buyer’s agent who is ready to play hardball.
“Lovingly maintained.” You may consider yourself a clean freak, weekend warrior contractor, or a tasteful decorator, yet “lovingly maintained” tells the buyer’s agent the opposite story. Although this may not be true in your case, this phrase means your tastes are archaic and the buyer will have to invest significant money into modernizing your home.
“Hidden gem.” A home that is a hidden gem tells the buyer’s agent that it’s in a highly desirable neighborhood with one-of-a-kind features. For example, your home may be on a parcel of land unusually large for your market or it might have been designed by a famous architect. Make sure to lead your property description with evidence to back up this claim.
“Tenant Occupied.” Although this phrase is self-explanatory to window shoppers, the buyer’s agent will not show your home to preserve their client-agent relationship. Generally, the buyer’s agent knows your home is not ready to hit the market: It’s unstaged, messy, and without a lockbox, you’ll be home watching them tour!
Writing Property Descriptions For The MLS
When you put your home up for sale, you’ll have the ability to create a listing on the Multiple Listing Service (MLS). Depending on your state, a broker will have to post the listing you created on the MLS for a “flat fee” service. The MLS is a series of databases which exchange data using an Internet Database Exchange (IDX). Brokers and agents have IDX websites which pull MLS listings. When the broker uploads your listing, your property description will be visible to everyone!
FSBO Tip 3: Use the name brand when mentioning new appliances! Buyers will want to know what brand appliances if any, come with the sale. The better the brand, the stronger the selling point.]
Depending on the local MLS your broker uses, you may encounter character or word limits. For example, some MLSs cap the word count to 500 characters, which equals roughly 100 words. Although you may feel this leaves little room for creativity, fear not: There is a statistical relationship between property descriptions and how quickly your home sells and how likely you are to sell above asking price. In a Redfin and Grammarly study, property descriptions around 50 words were more likely to sell in 90 days. In addition, shorter property descriptions were more likely to sell above asking the price!
How To Make Your Real Estate Listings Descriptions Compelling
The art of copywriting isn’t something you can master overnight, but there are plenty of quick shortcuts and fixes you can make today. A few quick changes will make your property stand out from the pack. Below is an example property description highlighting how a few simple fixes can create a lasting impact:
Good unit with many upgrades in a new development with a guarded gate. Within close proximity to public transit. Two bedrooms with two bathrooms. PRICED TO SELL. CAN’T-MISS!
Welcoming 2BD/2 full bath condo featuring brand new LG appliances and high-efficiency smart lighting. Located in a private community with a community center offering a gym and a lap swimming pool. Perfect location for commuters and young families looking for move-in ready.
Both descriptions tell the same story, but the first description delivers a feeling of utilitarianism whereas the second description sells a living experience. Although ‘unit’ with ‘new upgrades’ is accurate, it lacks any emotion. Replacing ‘unit’ with ‘condo,’ ‘new upgrades’ with name brand appliances, and ‘guarded gate’ with ‘private community’ sells the experience of moving in with fewer costs in a safe environment perfect for people away from home most of the week. In addition, avoid caps lock at all costs when highlighting important pieces in your copy. You don’t want to shout at potential buyers!
FSBO Tip 4: Shorter is sweeter. Keep your property descriptions between 50 and 150 words.]
Your property description should also fit your local market and your target buyer. If there is anything unique about your neighborhood (e.g., excellent public schools in a young family neighborhood), make sure you bring this to the attention of potential buyers who are looking to start a family. Conversely, if you’re selling a vacation cabin, highlight it’s remoteness from noise and road traffic for potential vacation home buyers who seek peace and tranquility.
When you put your home up for sale, you’ll be responsible for writing a description of the property. Here, you’ll be figuratively selling your home with the art of copywriting. Your property description is the first thing potential buyers will read so make sure it sticks.