Writing Better Listing Descriptions

writingA recent study by the Institute for Behavioral and Experimental Real Estate at Old Dominion University found the thing website visitors looked at first and longest on an online listing display is the primary photograph, followed by property information such as square footage, number of beds and baths, etc.

The agents’ remarks were noted as being the item viewers paid the least attention to.

“Real estate agents’ remarks, which can be a turnoff if they contain all-capital text, hyped-up adjectives and brand names, were the most overlooked — 41.5 percent of home buyers didn’t view them at all.”

Of course, that also means that 58.5 percent did view the descriptive text.

Maybe, just maybe if the agent remarks were more useful and compelling, more people would pay attention.

What makes a good listing description?

First, let’s look at some things that make a listing description less likely to be read. As the Wall Street Journal reported above, ENTERING THE DESCRIPTION IN ALL CAPS IS A TURNOFF!

Why? BECAUSE IT FEELS LIKE YOU ARE BEING YELLED AT, DOESN’T IT? NO ONE WANTS SOMEONE SCREAMING AT THEM! So don’t use all caps.

Sometimes agents (and I am one, so I can say this) get a little too “creative” and tend to fill their property descriptions with fluff and little substance.

For example:

HONEY STOP THE CAR!! This immaculate home displays pride of ownership. From the bright and sunny kitchen to the cozy breakfast nook to the massive bedrooms, you will feel like a king or queen every time you pull into the driveway of this gorgeous, stunning, one-of-a-kind palatial estate. HURRY! THIS ONE WON’T LAST!!!!

What does that tell someone about the home?

Not much. We know it has a kitchen, bedrooms and a driveway (most homes do). That you feel it is cozy, sparkling, gorgeous, massive, stunning and palatial means nothing. What do those words mean anyway? A “massive bedroom”? Really?

Another option for a listing description is to cite nothing but facts:

3 bedrooms, 2 baths, 2,100 square feet. On a cul-de-sac. Master bedroom downstairs. Laundry room has gas and electrical hookups. Built-in storage in the garage. New appliances. Roof repaired 8 months ago.

OK, so that is useful information, sort of. Much of it is already included in the property facts section of the listing display, so why repeat it?

Then there is this (an actual description I pulled from the MLS a couple of years ago):

4/3 MIL 2450 SF. 3CEG. AC & SC. PVT IG SP w/WF. (PT). GISD but MT. DS FP & WIC in MBR. New RTR.

Translation:

4-bedroom, 3-bath mother-in-law plan. 2,450 square feet. 3-car extended garage. Private in-ground Pebble Tech swimming pool, with water feature. Gilbert Independent School District but has Mesa taxes. Double-sided fireplace and walk-in closet in master bedroom. New red tile roof.

Watch the “real estate speak.” I’ve been licensed for seven years and seen thousands of listing descriptions. It took me awhile to decipher this code; how do you expect a home buyer to figure this out?

Try this instead

Tell a story. There is no need to regurgitate information already included in the listing. Use the agent remarks section to tell something about the home and neighborhood that isn’t readily available from the photos and data.

Something like:

Hard-to-find horse property in the heart of Chandler. Relax in your backyard filled with large shade trees, citrus and roses. Have a hard time with those HOT summer days in Arizona? Take a dip in the pool! With your horses nearby on the other side of the hedge row, you can easily take them out your back gate onto the bridle path for a ride. There is a large RV gate and cover for your RV, boat or horse trailer. The quarterly block parties are a great way to meet your new neighbors. You may feel like you’re out in the country, but you are close to shopping, schools and all the amenities of the city.

Find a unique feature or two and highlight those. Talk about living in the home and neighborhood, not just about the home itself. You don’t need a novel; you don’t need to write like Hemingway. Just use the space you are given to supplement what your photos and property facts show.

Photo Credit: United States Mission Geneva on Flickr. CC Licensed.

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