One of the most common requests I get from realtors is to write their real estate listing descriptions for them. Since I rarely have the time (or energy) for freelance writing these days, I decided to put together this step-by-step guide to writing creative listing descriptions.
After the guide, I include seven tips for better writing, and then wrap up with some examples of creative listing descriptions from Jeanne Byers of Warburg Realty in Manhattan.
How to Write Creative Real Estate Listing Descriptions: A Step-by-Step Guide
Here are my four steps for writing a listing description. You can also download these steps as a PDF template.
1. ‘Brand’ Your Listing With a One-sentence Title
Length: One sentence
The first step to writing a great listing description is to “brand” your listing with a one-sentence title. Taking the time to write a catchy, one-sentence “brand” for your listing will draw people in and help them see it as a home, not just pictures on the internet. Here are some examples of great branding one-liners from Warburg agent Jeanne Byers from our example listing descriptions, below:
- Millionaire details. Miser maintenance.
- Artsy, techie, picky? Welcome home.
- Prewar. Shaken and stirred.
2. Pitch Your Audience on the Home’s Best Features
Length: Two to three sentences
After your title, the next section of your listing description should be a two- to three-sentence pitch for the home’s best features. This should be a narrative description, not just a list of features, or god forbid, a bulleted list!
Here’s an example from Jeanne Byer’s listing description. Note how she hits all the apartment’s best features in a narrative format.
3. Pitch the Benefits of the Location & Neighborhood
Length: One or two sentences
After you’ve highlighted the home’s best features, pitch the benefits of the home’s location and neighborhood. If the location and neighborhood aren’t great, try to find a silver lining. For example, if the home is located on a noisy street but is in a great school district, talk up the school district. If it’s in a not-so-great neighborhood but on a pretty block, mention how nice the block is. Here’s an example from Jeanne’s listing description:
4. Finish With Caveats That Are Important for the Buyer
While I never suggest agents write a “warts and all” listing description, you should still mention caveats that are important for the buyer. A buyer might forgive you for not mentioning the noisy street or less-than-perfect driveway, but they likely won’t forgive you if you don’t mention that it’s in a senior’s-only development! Here’s Jeanne again:
7 Real Estate Listing Description Writing Tips From a Professional Writer
1. Sell Benefits, Not Features
One of the first rules of copywriting is to sell benefits, not features. Every famous copywriter, from David Ogilvy to Joseph Sugarman, agreed. I challenge you to find any successful ad from the last 20 years that sold features instead of benefits.
What does this mean for your listing description? Simple. Instead of telling your audience the listing has a big backyard, tell them how much fun they could have with their family playing touch football in the yard or how much privacy it offers.
Here’s Warburg listing agent Steven Gottlieb on selling benefits, not features in your real estate listing descriptions: “If there’s a balcony or terrace, maybe the description mentions enjoying coffee and the morning paper al fresco before a busy day or sipping a glass of Prosecco in the evening air.”
[Related article: The Best Real Estate Branding + Tips From the Pros]
2. Research the Proper Architectural & Design Terms Before You Write
If you managed to get a listing in this market, the very least you can do is learn the proper architectural and design terms to describe it. Describing herringbone floors as “Beautiful zig-zag wood floors!” is going to mark you as unsophisticated, and worse, not willing to take the time to research what you are trying to sell!
If you need a crash course in architectural styles and features, check out our guide: An Agent’s Guide to Home Styles, Architecture & Design.
3. Make Your Real Estate Listing Description Concise, but Precise
If you have any experience with Google Analytics, you know that the sad reality is that most people skim content online these days. Very few people will take the time to read every word you write, even on Zillow.
So make sure to hit the key selling points of your listing early on and avoid lengthy, wordy descriptions. As Olivia Tormenta, Marketing Director at Warburg Realty, tells her listing agents, be concise but precise with your listing descriptions.
4. Avoid Just Listing Features or Details
While lengthy real estate listing descriptions are an issue, don’t think you can just get away with a bullet point list of features either. The user experience (UX) of portals like Zillow are already designed to present data relevant to the buyer. So the number of bedrooms, square footage, and so forth are already shown to your buyer in a neater, more digestible format by the portals. A bullet list of the same features is redundant and a wasted marketing opportunity.
5. Always Get Another Set of Eyes on Your Copy, Ideally a Professional
One of the trickiest parts of writing anything is getting out of your own head. It’s just too easy to fall in love with your writing. You need distance from your work to judge it objectively.
That’s why we suggest working with a professional whenever possible. If you have a marketing team, send your copy over to them for a second opinion. If you don’t have a marketing team, send your listing description to a few members of your team or brokerage to get their first impressions.
Billy Schmidt, Marketing Director at Tim Allen Properties, a Coldwell Banker brokerage in California, uses Google Docs to collaborate with other people on his team. Tellingly, they generally go through three or four different versions of their real estate listing descriptions before signing off on them.
6. Write Without Fear, Edit Without Mercy
One of the biggest mistakes that new writers make is laboring over every sentence, word, and punctuation mark in their copy. Not only is this exhausting, but it’s also actually counterproductive to the writing process.
Instead, when you start any writing project, the first step should always be just to sit down and write. Don’t sweat grammar, punctuation, or spelling—just write.
Once you have a draft done, the next step is to read it out loud. If you find yourself stumbling over your own words, chances are your copy needs some work. Start by working on paragraphs to make sure they all have a clear subject, then drill down to sentence structure, word choice, and finally grammar.
The key to editing well is to be merciless. If it doesn’t work, delete it. Period. Yes, you worked hard on your copy. But don’t cling to a mistake just because you took a long time making it!
7. Use Grammarly to Check for Grammar & Spelling Mistakes
There is no excuse for grammar or spelling mistakes in your listing descriptions. Luckily, you no longer need to hire an editor or bug your Aunt Mary who teaches high school English to check your copy for errors. It’s not perfect, but Grammarly is free and will find grammar and spelling mistakes you might miss.
Real Estate Listing Description Examples From Jeanne Byers of Warburg Realty
Since the best way to learn anything is by example, here are a few examples of effective listing descriptions from Jeanne Byers of Warburg Realty in Manhattan, one-half of Manhattan luxury team Case+Byers.
165 East 72nd Street, Apt 2H, New York, NY
Millionaire details. Miser maintenance.
Every inch of this 530-square-foot studio has been meticulously planned and renovated using the highest-quality materials, craftsmanship, and interior design aesthetic. The dramatic foyer is lined in Phillip Jeffries grasscloth wallpaper and flanked by a 9-foot-wide wall of closets with floor-to-ceiling mirrored French doors. The walls and the ceiling have been skim coated, and custom hardwood floors installed throughout. You’ll find impeccable millwork on display in every door, molding, trim, and built-in cabinet. A computer workspace/home office has been integrated into the kitchen, which features Carrera marble countertops, white lacquered cabinetry, and appliances by Wolf, Miele, and Liebherr.
The well-proportioned living space is north-facing a tree-lined view of 73rd Street through a bank of windows with custom window treatments. The expansive bathroom is outfitted with Waterworks fixtures, a deep soaking tub with shower, basketweave marble floor, and a linen closet. 2H is wired with smart home technology, including high-speed internet in all rooms, Lutron lighting, and discreet speakers in the living room and bathroom.
Located west of Third Avenue, 165 East 72nd Street is a premier full-service cooperative boasting a knockout lobby and staff, live-in resident manager, stellar financials, gym, and famously low monthlies. At $677/month, 2H is a triple-mint home or pied-a-terre that won’t cost a mint.
Please note 50% financing. Pied-a-terres welcome. Buyer pays 2% flip tax—showings by appointment.
254 Park Avenue South, Apt 4J, New York, NY
Artsy, techie, picky? Welcome home.
With its 14-foot beamed ceiling and massive south-facing picture windows, 4J pairs the beautiful bones of its 1913 Beaux-Arts origins with an extensive and impeccable renovation. Converted to condos in 2008, the interiors at 254 Park Avenue South were designed with a modern aesthetic, high-quality finishes and appliances, and a unifying sense of space.
4J features a lofted second floor that easily fits a queen-size bed. A 7-foot ceiling and partial glass walls enclose the loft space yet allow an open sweep to the dramatic living area below. Building on the apartment’s refined sensibility, the current owner meticulously upgraded the unit. From new LV Wood white oak, wide-plank floors to custom-lacquered closets and cabinetry in the upstairs bedroom and home office and in the living room for storage and HVAC integration.
The bathroom has been beautifully updated with a sleek vanity, Vola fixtures, and a digitally controlled towel warmer. In the kitchen, Valli&Valli door handles, a water purification system, and Ariston washer/dryer provide a fitting complement to the Bosch and Liebherr appliances.
A sophisticated home automation system dims the lights, raises and lowers the blinds, monitors the smoke alarm, and adjusts the temperature—doing just about anything you want it to do, short of bringing you the coffee it brews. Every knob, light fixture, and detail of this property has been painstakingly considered.
254 Park Avenue South is a full-service luxury condominium with a 24-hour concierge, live-in resident manager, gym, and lounge. Ideally situated in Flatiron, the building is located blocks from Union Square, Gramercy Park, and Madison Square Park—it is central to Manhattan’s most vibrant and sought-after neighborhoods, shopping, and now—outdoor dining experiences.
Shown by appointment. A complete list of apartment upgrades is available upon request.
333 East 53rd Street, Apt 12H, New York, NY
Prewar. Shaken and stirred.
The architects blew the doors and the walls off this prewar, retaining the beautiful proportions of its 1930s bones while energizing the space. The galley kitchen was opened to the living room, maximizing the light and views from south-facing windows.
With its BlueStar range, Miele dishwasher, Wolf microwave, Sub-Zero refrigerator, and custom cabinetry, the kitchen was designed to integrate seamlessly with the main room. A bespoke dining table tucks under the storage island to reduce its footprint for daily use.
A recessed projection screen and ceiling-mounted projector are perfect for movie night or online exercise classes. A windowed bathroom with Duravit and Grohe fixtures and a glass-enclosed bath/shower is a serene and spa-like retreat.
12H has all new plumbing, electrical, hardwood floors, custom doors with hidden hardware, ample storage, and exquisite skim-coated walls, beams, and ceilings. An entrance foyer and hallway between the living room and bedroom maintain the graceful separation of living spaces the original architect intended.
333 East 53rd Street is an elegant full-service building, centrally located, with solid financials. It features a gorgeous planted roof deck with spectacular views, a live-in super, central laundry, and gym. Pets are welcome (dogs under 30 lbs).
Electric is included in the maintenance. Showings are by appointment with 24 hrs notice required.
Over to You
Have any examples of effective creative real estate listing descriptions or tips to write them? Let us know in the comments. Or, join us on our private Facebook Mastermind Group.