How To Write A Great Listing Description

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Your listing can feature beautiful photography and include a great virtual tour, but before a buyer puts in an offer, they will want to read about the property, too. 

Written descriptions pack a powerful punch and should be the anchor to your listing.  

Writing listing descriptions can be hard for some sellers, but it is an important part of any good listing profile. Obviously, good grammar is a given, this is not about that. Instead, here are some other ways to think about writing a solid listing description.  

Because you do not necessarily know who the reader is you emphasize what is going to stand out to the greatest number of people, avoiding unique features that appeal to more niche audiences. 

Not everyone wants a hot tub. And many people are not familiar with concrete countertops. Allow those amenities to reveal themselves in a showing. Here is an example: 

Homebuyers looking for space and versatility will no doubt want to tour 3435 Thirty-six St. in the Numeric Heights community. Unlike its neighbors, this home sits on two lots with a mature greenspace offering shade, privacy, and countless landscaping possibilities. Inside, the finished basement and bonus room are ripe for a new owner’s imagination, as is the expansive kitchen, recently outfitted with upgraded appliances and neutral color schemes. In short, this house has as much potential as it does charm, location, and livability. 

Follow these 4 tips to write listing descriptions like a pro! 

  1. Don’t tell us what we already know 

Brevity is essential. Do not waste characters retelling the person what they searched for. Your listing came up because they searched for three beds and a couple of bathrooms on Elm Street; no reason to belabor the point.  

Use the space you are given to elaborate on features that will appeal to the greatest number of people. Is there a bonus room? Great. Can it be converted into a bedroom? Is there an exterior workshop? Is it wired and properly permitted? 

  1. Don’t tell us too much 

Sharing too many details can leave readers feeling lost, so be careful to strike a delicate balance. Avoid being overzealous.  

Writing words in all capital letters, trying to create drama or suspense through clunky ellipses, or ending sentences with exclamation points can make a listing sound more like a Twitter diatribe than the perfect home. 

Here are more tips:  

  • There is no need for exclamation points; they are best left for fictional dialogue 
  • Room names or home features do not need to be capitalized, unless it is the formal name of a brand, such as an appliance or lighting manufacturer. Do not capitalize for emphasis. 
  • Leave out superfluous narratives, such as “motivated sellers,” “priced to sell,” “great neighborhood,” and similar benign points. Buyers and their agents will, or should, know those things. 
  1. Not telling us enough 

We can all do better than a canned description. Simply listing the square footage, the number and types of rooms, and the lot size is a missed opportunity. Buyers want to be motivated to explore further.

  1. Be Inspired 

Err on the side of the specific over the generic, and the creative over the cliché. Many listings repeat the term “tropical oasis” to describe a property with lush greenery and a calming atmosphere. It is better to describe those specific qualities rather than defaulting to a worn-out phrase. 

If your home has a grand entryway, describe what makes it grand — whether it is the quality and materiality of the hardwood floors, the award-winning firm that designed the lighting fixtures, or simply the sense of awe that guests will feel as they stand on the threshold. 

  1. Avoid questionable words and phrases 

Describing space in a way that appeals to all buyers is not ‘politically correct,’ it is the law. Some information and phrases violate Fair Housing Laws and should never appear in a property description.  

Here are some words and phrases that you should avoid using in a property description.  

Neighborhood-related phrases 

  • Great schools: If you wish to talk about proximity to local schools, you can do so by including the distance to area schools, but you should not be making any assertions or assumptions about the schools in the neighborhood and their quality. 
  • Safe neighborhood/quiet neighborhood: Not only is this loaded from a Fair Housing perspective; you should avoid making these assertions because your assessment of safe or quiet may not be someone else’s. In addition, these are often used as coded language to describe neighborhoods that are white, upscale, or child-free. 
  • Nice neighbors: Similarly, making assertions about the neighbors can be misleading and inaccurate. When it comes down to it, you do not know what the neighbors are really like or how they are likely to greet a newcomer to the neighborhood. 
  • Walking distance: For those who are older or who are struggling with limited mobility, the walking distance may be a misleading or problematic assertion. It is much easier to provide fractional mileage by using Google Maps. For example, “This charming neighborhood is conveniently located near Trader Joe’s (0.2 mi), Whole Foods (0.4 mi), and Glenmuir Park (0.6 mi).” 
  • Near churches/synagogues: Worse is when a specific church or synagogue is mentioned since it suggests not only that the prospective buyer should be church or synagogue going, but that they should be from a specific religious affiliation.  

Property-related phrases 

These phrases come up frequently in property descriptions in relation to the home’s layout or contents. 

  • Master suite/bedroom/bathroom: This phrase is being phased out for several reasons, not least of which is the assumption that the owner of the home is or should be a man. In place of this, consider the owner’s suite/bedroom/bathroom or the primary suite/bedroom/bathroom. 
  • Great family home: Many sellers automatically think in terms of the traditional nuclear family when marketing a property. However, buyers come in all shapes and sizes, including those who are single, unmarried couples, childless by choice or not, retirees, or anyone who does not fit the mid-20th century image of a heterosexual married couple with two children. It is possible to offend a buyer by saying that a certain type of property is for families (even if it is not intended that way); you do not want to suggest that a family must look a certain way or that some families are more legitimate than others. 
  • Great family room/playroom for the kids: Similarly, a bonus space should not be marketed for its family or kid-friendliness. It may make an ideal media room, home office, hobby space, gathering place, or entertaining space. 
  • Private backyard for playtime with the kids: A fenced backyard is not designed for playtime with the kids. It can just as easily be enjoyed by those without children, and the property description should not make assumptions about the makeup of the people who will live there. 
  • She-shed and man-cave: A reference to a she-shed or man-cave can be alienating – and inaccurate, as well. A person who enjoys watching football or woodworking can be either gender. A person who enjoys relaxing with a cup of tea in a beautiful space can be either gender.  

People-related phrases 

These phrases specifically allude to either the current owner, or a potential buyer, or make some reference to aspects of identity. 

  • Handyman’s special: Besides suggesting that the home is ideally suited for a man, it also suggests that the buyer needs to be handy or skilled at home improvements and repair. This is shortsighted, since it may discourage buyers who would be willing to fix up the home by outsourcing labor. 
  • Fisherman’s/Hunter’s retreat: Here too, there is the suggestion that the buyer will be a man. Moreover, it suggests that the person who buys will want to fish and hunt, whereas some rural buyers are simply looking for some land for homesteading gardening, or quiet enjoyment of nature. By aligning this type of property with hunting and fishing, you could be turning off some conservation-minded buyers. 
  • Grandma’s house: This pops up as a frequent description of a neat, tidy, and outdated home. Aside from the fact that it might be a turnoff for some buyers, it suggests something about who the seller might be, which could raise security concerns or influence the negotiation process. 
  • Perfect for…: This phrase is always the precursor to a problematic assertion or suggestion. You do not need to say for whom property is perfect. It is perfect for anyone who wants it and who has the money or ability to finance it.  
  • Phrases related to race, gender identity, sexuality, nationality, and cultural identity: Any word or phrase related to any of these items should be left out of your property descriptions. 

By making property descriptions more appealing to a wider variety of potential buyers, you not only avoid offending potential buyers and avoid fair housing violations, but you will also attract more buyers to see your home and increase the odds of a fast sale. 

Like all things, skillful writing takes time. In fact, nothing written is truly ever finished. We can only write in the opportunities that time allows. That said, write, revise, and tighten it up until you get it right! 

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