How to Write Compelling Real Estate Listings That Evoke Trust

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real estate listings

24 December 2018 Ira 4 Comments Real Estate Marketing

As a real estate agent, do you turn on extra marketing charm when writing real estate listings? Words are powerful, but fail to use the right ones and your property will sit on the market for years, eventually expiring and losing its value. Writing compelling real estate listings is one of those skills you can only get better at, provided you are familiar with all do’s and dont’s of this undertaking. This post breaks things down into the ones that make you look smart and the ones that don’t.

If you were a home buyer, how confident would you be in the 100% accuracy of a property listing of a house you consider buying? Most likely, not that confident at all, and one can hardly blame you.

The funny truth is that real estate agents have earned themselves quite a reputation. In fact, some listings go viral, depending on the degree of pretentiousness and exaggeration they possess. Many of them are misleading, exaggerated and, let’s admit it, fraudulent.

In fact, there are tons of common inaccuracies and hideous clichés out there that get on people’s nerves and hinder your reputation (we’ll take a look at some of the most hilarious examples below so keep reading).

As an agent, you can avoid these mistakes easily, yet a lot of them are left unnoticed. It seems there are 2 most common reasons why many real estate listings are so poorly crafted:

  • they’re done at the last minute. For one reason or another, you didn’t have time to thoughtfully approach writing that listing and then need to hastily scribble at least something;
  • most of us have a pre-conceived notions about what a property listing is supposed to read like. You’ve probably browsed several dozens of other real estate listings before and thought: “Well…. if that’s how it’s done..” – and repeat the same mistakes. Well, it’s not how it should be done, though! You’re capable of much more than that.

So just by taking some extra time and knowing a few do’s and dont’s of real estate writing will help you create compelling copy. Below is a complete guide on how to write your next real estate listings in a way that evokes trust and delivers the best impressions about your properties.

[Related post: Real Estate Marketing 101 for Aspiring Agents: What Works Today]

1. Understanding the sales language

It goes without saying that people are more likely to reply to agents who are genuinely excited about their properties and showcase their enthusiasm in real estate listings. After all, that’s what you should be doing as an agent, right?

However, there’s a fine line between a descriptive, yet accurate listing and the one that seems too good to be true.

Guess what is the first sign of poorly written real estate copy? Excessive adjectives.

If your real estate listings are abound with adjectives which do not provide really valuable information – like ‘majestic’, ‘fantastic’, ‘unbelievable’ and ‘one of a kind’ to name a few – you should re-write that copy asap.

The reason for this is buyers are tired of this flowery language. Chances are good they see it in every listing and the same old adjectives just get filtered out. And so does your property listing that could otherwise have made them call you.

The best thing before writing any listing is to embrace the right mindset. Take a few minutes to think about this before actually writing and you’ll save yourself a good deal of sanity and time. A good rule of thumb is not to:

  • exaggerate. If the garden in one of your houses had recently survived a few improvements, this doesn’t make it into ‘professionally landscaped”;
  • sugarcoat. If the apartment overlooks a 24/7 department store and is not that far away from the downtown, it can hardly count as enjoying ‘the sweeping views of city lights’. These not-so-little tricks may cost you big;
  • generalize. Try and be as specific as possible. If there’s a parking lot available, don’t say it’s spacious. Instead, say how many cars can make it into there. Your buyers will ask anyway.

We love this tip from William Zissner, author of a classic book “On writing well”, as it helps to see any drawbacks in your copy immediately:

“A way to recognize clutter is to put brackets around every component in a piece of writing that wasn’t doing useful work.”

Read your listing one more time and delete every adjective that doesn’t bring valuable information. If you’re not sure whether to leave or delete some adjectives, they most likely need to be deleted.

[Related post: How to Write a Perfect Neighborhood Page in 5 Easy Steps].

2. Structuring real estate listings [a checklist]

Just like any well-written copy, good real estate listings have good structure. In a nutshell, every next bit of information should lead out of the previous sentence and make people curious to learn more.

Let’s take a look at a good structure format to follow when writing real estate listings. You can go creative with it, of course, and the one below is not imperative. However, it can serve you as a good starting point for your efforts until you put them on fast track.

Here’s the structure that helps you stay clear, accurate and engaging:

  1. headline;
  2. opening statement, or the hook;
  3. property description;
  4. call to action.

Now let’s see how these items work together and how to waive them into a single fabric of a beautifully written real estate listing.

1. Headline

A headline is the very first thing readers see. It’s imperative that you make it attention-grabbing.

A good rule of thumb is to remember that interest and excitement come first; explanation goes second. Try to appeal to readers’ imagination first so they actually click to the rest of listing and check the reasoning next.

To make your headline eye-catching, follow this simple logic:

  • figure out the most powerful property feature that your target audience will find most appealing. You may think of several good ones, but only pick the very best one and include it in the headline. Standout feature makes a stellar job of grabbing attention;
  • include property type, location and an eye-catching adjective to make the listing less dry. This also adds more context to the headline and helps readers immediately identify its value;
  • price – including price in your headline works well for readers as they can instantly see if that property is beyond their budget or not. On the flip side, you might not want to include the price if you feel people can think the property is overpriced. Either way, you can always A / B test to see what works best.

Now let’s see how to apply these tips to a specific example. Let’s say, you’re selling a single family house. It’s a nice suburb but nearly all homes have gardens and swimming pools so you’re not going to surprise anyone with that. Your house, however, has a home cinema room which other homes haven’t.

That is your unique selling point. It gives your property a different feel in a community where every house can boast a pool. Include it in your headline, and the garden together with the pool can be mentioned later on, in the description itself.

By the same token, make sure to include any good standout feature of your property in the headlines, be it square footage, unusual interior design or anything else.

P.S. Extra points if you manage to support your headline with great photos showcasing this key feature. Remember that photography together with the headline is the most important part of real estate listings that impresses (or fails to impress) readers to the point of clicking for more.

2. Opening statement, or the hook

The idea of an opening statement is to inform the readers about the other key features of your property. It needs to be precise and very short – 2 sentences at most.

Opening statementa should reveal more about your property without repeating the info you already included in your headline. Typically, you’d want to mention the number of bedrooms, garden, parking lots, proximity to any facilities, etc.

The following opening statement is just fine: “A beautiful 3-bedroom villa with open floor plan and within 10 mins drive to Palm Beach’.

As simple as that – just reveal the next bit of information and don’t forget to mention the best features of this property to answer the readers’ question: “What am I looking at?”

3. Property description

Now this is where things might appear a bit tough. Ultimately, a good listing should serve these two functions:

  • inform about the remaining property features. You know how it’s done: number of bedrooms / bathrooms, location, square footage, extras, recent renovations, etc.;
  • wrap this up in an interesting, compelling format. This is where all fancy language comes in that we talked about in the 1 paragraph. That being said, remember that this should be the right, warm and compelling language, not flowery exaggerations.

This property listing seems is written the right way:

“You’ll love this beautiful 2-storey cottage overlooking the quiet shores of Spring Lake. A 2 bedroom, 2 bathroom house with an open terrace offers you a spacious area of 1,500 sq ft. Located on a bus route and just 30 mins drive from the Auburn City, you’ll find it easy to stay tuned with all local goings-on, attend award-winning schools and shop while staying close to the genuine quietness of nature.”

We think this listing has substance and style. It visualizes the scenery in a warm manner but without pretentious exaggerations. At the same time, it drops in the essential property features quite nicely which can then be further detailed.

Remember that your description has to be concise and shouldn’t contain any empty adjectives. The importance of this can’t be overstated as readers simply skip flowery listings and click on the next one.

A quick tip: you’d also want to avoid too much of certain details, e.g. coloring: ‘a gorgeous, royal blue colored sitting room’. Well, blue is the most popular favorite color in the world but what does it matter if your buyer hates it?

Colors can be changed after purchase (they usually are) so better skip this part to be on a safe side. Just focus on other things, for example ‘tree-lined street’. This suggests the street looks nice and shadowy on hot days and most people like that, right?

4. Call to action

By now, the hardest part is over. What is left is to fire people up a bit so they actually call you. Adding a touch of urgency usually works quite well. E.g., you might drop a sentence that this property expires in a few months so the readers hurry up a bit.

Additional sneak peeks like ‘owner financing available’ also ignite curiosity and prompt people to act.

Lastly, don’t forget about your contact details including email, social media and brick and mortar address.

3. Words to avoid

As promised at the beginning of the post, let’s try and figure out which words and clichés make your real estate listings much less powerful.

The thing is extra marketing charm can severely damage your reputation for at least two reasons.

First of all, it’s not ethical. Misleading people is not what real estate is all about. You’re a transparent and responsible agent and all you have to do is to make your real estate listings reflect this.

Second of all, people remember this content and you can gain yourself quite a reputation. You don’t want your lifetime career to be ruined after your listing going viral on social media.

It seems a good rule of thumb is to be a bit more critical about your real estate listings and look at it from a reader’s point of view. Below are some of the most common words and phrases to be crossed off your list.

Nestled

Agents love this word, “nestled”. Indeed, its connotation seems right for the property located at the foot of the mountain or on the hillside. However, the word is being used so often now that it lost its charm.

There are many other great phrases you can waive into your context, e.g., “settled”, “sheltered by”, “surrounded by picturesque hills”, even ‘located’ or “situated”. Oftentimes, they do a much better job of adding meaningful context to your listing that an overused “nestled” doesn’t.

Throughout

Another widely misused property word is “throughout”. The word itself is totally fine but when it comes to the actual listing, the meaning behind it gets tricky.

For example, have you written or read a property listing of a house that boasts hardwood flooring throughout?
As a buyer, you’d expect the hardwood floors in every room of the house. Here’s the definition of this word from the Merriam Webster dictionary:

“In or to every part; from the beginning to the end: during the whole time or situation”.

If your property doesn’t have hardwood floors across all of the house, do not use this word. The best way out is to be clear about which part of the house has which decor, equipment or facilities.

P.S. If you are really keen on using this little trick, remember about the photos and the awkward situations that might pop up when people spot that the listing and photography are not consistent.

Rather unique

William Zissner, who we already mentioned above, wrote in his book “On writing well”: “Being ‘rather unique’ is no more possible than being ‘rather pregnant”.

The property, or any of its features, is either unique or not. If it’s not, dressing it up won’t help as this draws attention to the weaker points, rather than emphasizes benefits. Avoid this phrase, and come up with meaningful adjectives instead. Your real estate listings will then be much more appealing and convincing.

High-end appliances

Does your latest condo boasts high-end appliances? Remember that a stainless steel fridge, stove and microwave are hardly high-end, and if so, the definition of “high-end” must have earned a new connotation.

High-end appliances are the brand products that either enjoy extra functionality or are extremely well marketed. Your property may have excellent appliances but it doesn’t mean they have to be brand to work perfectly. So if they’re not, simply avoid this word but do outline the great condition and functionality they will provide to their future owner.

Oasis

Here’s the definition of ‘oasis’ from the Merriam Webster dictionary:

“an area in a desert where there is water and plants; a pleasant place that is surrounded by something unpleasant”.

When one knows the actual meaning of this word, they instantly understand it does little to sell a house. The definition of oasis usually assumes there has to be a noisy, or in any other way unpleasant place, all around your property or in the nearby area.

In other words, you’re trying to sell a calm and pleasant home surrounded by something that is busy, noisy and unpleasant. No one will go for it, right?

Gourmet

Again, let’s see what the Merriam Webster dictionary has to say:

Gourmet is “a person who enjoys and knows a lot about good food and wine”.

Now, if the listing mentions a gourmet kitchen, this assumes there has to be high-quality kitchen items that help people produce high-quality food. In other words, if the gourmet kitchen doesn’t provide a standard set of items found in a gourmet restaurant kitchen, then it’s most definitely not gourmet.

Avoid this wording and showcase the other great features the house has.

A stone’s throw away

Not very much to say here – just try to be more precise. It’s always better to tell how long exactly it takes to get to downtown, shopping malls, or city attractions by car and on foot. Also, remember to mention public transport routes that make it easy to commute.

You’re more likely to impress readers with the fact that this apartment is 10 mins drive to the city center, than a stone’s throw away from it.

Final thoughts

The importance of a well-written listing can’t be stressed enough. As an agent, you know this better than anyone else. This is your sales pitch and it has to powerfully iterate upon the right messaging.

A good rule of thumb is to re-check your real estate listings one more time before publishing them. Carefully check each word in your copy. Do you know what connotations these words have? Are there too many flowery adjectives that don’t communicate the real value? Is your copy grammatically correct?

Get rid of anything that sounds artificial or over-selling and your listing will instantly read more transparent and trustworthy. And that means people will be more likely to think that contacting you is the best decision they could make.

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4 comment

    Bill Gassett June 7, 2016 at 11:55 am

    This is very well done. So many agents do not put in the necessary time to do a great job for their clients and it shows!

    Reply

      Ira June 7, 2016 at 12:31 pm

      Thank you very much Bill and exactly! Maybe what real estate needs is an unofficial guide, or sort of an ethical code, that will point agents in the right direction, so next time they craft their new listing it’s not only nicely written but accurate and trustworthy too.

      P.S. Loving your Google+ community, such a huge source of learning and inspiration for us 🙂

      Reply

    Diane July 3, 2016 at 2:09 am

    This was a really good article. We as REALTOR’s are not perfect and from time to time it is good to read these things and it will help sharpen up our skills. Really so “nestled” is out of style. Next they’ll tell you “Groovy ” has to go. 🙂

    Reply

      Ira July 3, 2016 at 10:08 am

      Thanks Diane! Glad to hear you found this helpful and a nice suggestion 🙂

      Reply

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