Imagine how the book with a gorgeous beach shot on the cover and “murder” in the title practically begs you to pick it up and find out more.
But when you flip it over to read the description on the back, you’re left disappointed by its jumbled, nonsensical attempt at a plot.
Buyers mirror this multi-step decision process as they browse homes on the web—at the pace of lightning.
In the first instant, sweeping aerial drone shots of your home’s acreage, and angles that highlight your light-filled interior layout catch their eye.
Then, a catchy listing title (hello, “Rare Gem Spacious Bungalow in Perfect Condition”), gets them to click-through.
Finally, interested buyers crave specifics and book a tour if you can sell them with marketing artistry. And that’s where creative real estate listing descriptions come in—to tell your home’s story.
Mary Jo Santistevan, who’s sold over 81% more properties in Phoenix than the average agent and ranks as the #1 Agent/Team for all of Berkshire Hathaway Home Service agents in Arizona, explains:
“We’re trying to paint a picture for the buyer about why they want to come in to see this home.”
42% of buyers start their home search online, and 84% of those buyers searching online say that the detailed information found in the description is “very useful.” That’s not to mention that nearly 45% of buyers will be less inclined to tour a home if they see spelling and grammatical errors in the property description.
The better your listing description is, the better your chances are that buyers will come see your home in person. And the more showings you have, the higher your odds are to get multiple offers.
So just what factors do the best, most creative listing descriptions have in common?
Grab a pen, Shakespeare, it’s time to write some poetry.
1. Hit on all the highlights and be specific in your mentions
A common mistake agents make is sticking statistical data in the listing description, such as the number of bedrooms, bathrooms, and the home’s square footage. This information is already available in the listing’s data fields.
Don’t be redundant! Descriptions that feature only that dry, basic data wind up being short and boring—and they fail to highlight your home’s best features.
“I will always point out those desirable things that the buyer might not know otherwise from just looking at the pictures,” says Santistevan. “The description is our chance to put in things like, the hand scraped mahogany wood flooring, or chiseled stone from Italy.”
So, how do you decide which items to highlight? Start with any upgrades that you’ve recently made, like the new countertops in the kitchen or the fresh, matching fixtures in all of the bathrooms.
Don’t be afraid to get specific with your finishes and upgrades. If you’ve spent money on hardwood flooring or brand-name appliances, flaunt it.
Also, remember to include great neighborhood features, too, like your nearby walking trails, nearby local attractions, and gorgeous parks nearby.
Of course, your home doesn’t need to have luxury, high-end features or finishes to be worthy of a stellar write-up in the MLS.
For homes that don’t have any stand-out upgrades worth mentioning, it’s even more important to get creative with your description.
2. Cherry pick your adjectives and buzzwords to paint a picture
Agents sometimes skimp on their descriptions when they’re selling a cookie-cutter home that’s nothing special on the surface. The fear is that getting too creative with the description leads to disappointed buyers when they first see the property in person.
However, no matter how modest or ordinary a home is, there are ways to make the description sparkle without overselling its assets.
You see, it’s the description’s job to set up expectations for the buyer by creating visual images that spark emotion. Insert strategic adjectives into the description that are both picturesque and emotionally stirring, and you’re able to influence the buyer’s first impression in advance of their showing.
“I use adjectives like, ‘modern home; swanky kitchen; clean lines; and crisp, white cabinetry,’ Santistevan says. “Words like these make buyers go, ‘Wow, this sounds great, I want to see this home.’”
The list of potential adjectives that’ll impress buyers is almost endless, so how do you pick the right ones?
- Have a chat with your agent about your home’s vibe and personality.
To start, strike up a conversation with your agent, who should have experience writing listing descriptions for similar properties they’ve successfully sold.
- Go online to find inspiration and writing resources.
Coschedule, a highly rated marketing platform, offers this comprehensive list of “power words” for writing emotional copy, while U.S. News offers up this handy list of overused buzzwords to skip.
- Check out the stand-out listing descriptions already published on the MLS.
It’s not uncommon for various real estate markets to have their own unique buzzwords. Take note of them. Local buyer’s agents know what their clients are looking for in their area—so buzzwords are a quick way for sellers’ agents to signal that their listings have those sought-after features.
While there’s no shortage of creative options for your listing description, the trick is picking adjectives and phrases that match the photos—and ones that’ll live up to the impression buyers get when they first see your home in person.
3. Match your photos to your words in order and appearance
If your description is just a long list of opulent adjectives with no rhyme nor reason to their order, buyers will just become overwhelmed with a bunch of wonderful words that aren’t grounded in reality.
For that reason, arrange the items you feature in your description to match the order of the photos you include with the listing.
“I try to walk through the flow of the house in my descriptions,” advises Santistevan. “I do the same with the photos. I put the pictures in order of the flow of the home. And I go the extra mile to add short descriptive labels to the photos, too.”
Ordering the description and the photos from the front door to the backyard helps ground buyers so they’ll know what to expect when they’re walking through the house in person.
And tagging the photos with phrases pulled from the description helps buyers know what highlighted features to take note of in each room.
Unfortunately, getting too creative with your description can actually hurt you in the long run if you make your house sound better than it looks.
That’s why it’s important to find the middle ground between showcasing and overselling your home in the description.
Put simply, just be as honest as you can with the most attractive words you can find that fit your home’s personality.
For example, if you’ve got a flagstone patio, an in-ground pool, and a built-in fire pit, you can call your backyard “resort like.” But if all you’ve got is grass—say so. Just say it creatively, such as referring to it as a spacious, rolling green lawn.
Fortunately for most sellers, it’s their agents’ job to hammer out the exact wording that’ll go into the MLS description. Your job is to describe all of your home’s best features to your agent—using the most striking wording you can.
However, don’t expect your agent to use your exact phrasing in the listing. Sometimes your agent may leave out some details that you wanted to include.
Chances are there’s a reason for that.
A warning: Don’t let your description violate Fair Housing laws
It might surprise some sellers to learn that there are legal restrictions on the kind of language you can include in your listing description.
“We do have to be careful about using words that violate the Fair Housing Act,” Santistivan warns. “If we put in something that’s a violation, we’ll get a nasty-gram that says, ‘Your description on this listing is a violation of fair housing.’ If we get too many of those, we’ll get fined.”
Established in 1968, the Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination in the renting or sale of housing nationwide. This means that your listing description cannot use any language that could be interpreted as discriminatory against any of the seven protected classes: race, color, religion, national origin, gender, disability, or familial status.
There’s no official HUD list of banned words, but here are some examples of words or phrases that might raise fair housing red flags:
- Perfect for families
- Traditional neighborhood
- Bachelor pad
- Country Club
So is there an appropriate way to mention your neighborhood’s family-friendly, or the fact that your kids are able to walk to their great school?
Yes. You just need to choose your words carefully.
You can talk about the monthly neighborhood potlucks, or give the distance from your house to the nearby school.
For sellers who are eager to share the wonderful things about their home and neighborhood that are difficult to describe without violating the Fair Housing Act, Santistevan has a solution:
“I have my sellers draft a letter about why they love their home and why they’re so sad to leave it. Then I print it on cute paper and I’ll leave it on the counter with the house flyers. Since it’s coming directly from the seller, I get the message out to potential buyers without violating the Fair Housing Act.”
Your real estate listing description can either entice buyers or turn them off. Crafting a fantastic one may not be easy, but with a little creativity and some expert help from your agent, you’ll hit upon the right words to showcase and sell your home.