Crafting clean, easily scanned real estate copy for international property buyers

Aiming for simplicity does not mean dumbing down your content

I believe that very few English lit majors end up with a career in real estate, but perhaps more should. Good writing gives a powerful lift to your real estate marketing, and bad writing holds it back.

That’s true with local buyers, and it’s doubly true with international buyers for whom English is a second language. They can find it hard to decipher rambling sentences, big words and vaguely expressed thoughts.

Communicate well and good things happen. Both your professional reputation and your lead generation rate are bound to increase.

Here’s a real-life example.

I live in Shanghai, China, and in a neighboring apartment lives a well-educated, successful and cosmopolitan family, the Chens. Mr. Chen works in engineering and speaks both English and German, as well as his native Mandarin. Mrs. Chen brings samples of Chinese culinary specialities to our door on national holidays. With their daughter, they travel overseas at least once a year, and often more.

Recently, I was surprised when Mr. Chen asked me to help him find something online. The website he was searching was in English, which I know from experience he speaks very well.

“Sometimes, I get confused,” this highly educated man admitted to me, ruefully.

Many agents underestimate just how much the language barrier can cause international buyers to give up on their listings -- and their websites."

Many agents underestimate just how much the language barrier can cause international buyers like Mr. Chen to give up on their listings — and their websites. A high dropout rate means fewer leads. Fewer leads mean fewer transactions.

The “KISS” principle

When the U.S. Navy came up with the KISS Principle in 1960, it might not have realized how important it would become to real estate marketing. But “Keep it simple, stupid” is probably the best single piece of advice ever given to real estate professionals.

Here’s an example from literature. One of the English language’s most famous quotes contains a powerful, existential question. It was penned by our greatest writer. Yet, the whole quote consists of only six words, not one of which is more than three letters long.

Let’s see if you recognize it: “To be or not to be.”

Of course you have heard this line from Shakespeare. Everyone has. That’s why it is a great example of the power of simple writing.

Lend Lease gets it right

Lend Lease is a real estate developer that has delivered more than 450 residential projects in the U.S. with a total value of $18 billion. The company’s success is no accident, as this example from its Chinese marketing shows.

lend_lease_landing_page

The image above shows a Lend Lease landing page on Juwai.com for a townhouse project in Australia. Even if you can’t read Chinese, you can tell at a glance that the writer has focused on key points, with great use of subheads, blocks of text and the removal of the unnecessary.

The result is a clean, easily scanned page of copy that our Web statistics tell us performs very well for this advertiser.

Simple words, clear minds

There is another advantage to keeping it simple. Simple words lead to clear minds. By writing simply, you will be able to focus on the most important points you need to make.

Aiming for simplicity does not mean dumbing down your content. It takes work. Most good writers have to rewrite their drafts at least twice before they remove the unneeded words and complexity.

Mark Twain once said he could write a 2,000-word story in a day, but a story one-quarter that length would take him at least a week.

Don’t be put off by the challenge. Instead, take inspiration from these words from Apple co-founder Steve Jobs:

“Simple can be harder than complex: You have to work hard to get your thinking clean. To make it simple. But it’s worth it in the end because once you get there, you can move mountains.”

10 easy ways to keep your writing simple

  1. Use short, simple words.
  2. Break up lists into bullets and numbered items.
  3. Make your paragraphs short.
  4. Communicate only one thought in each sentence.
  5. Never use abbreviations, acronyms or specialized jargon.
  6. Avoid regional or national slang.
  7. Focus on the most important points. Leave the rest out.
  8. Use headers and subheaders to break your text into easy-to-read blocks.
  9. Delete any words, sentences or paragraphs that aren’t necessary.
  10. Break these rules whenever you must, to preserve clarity — but only then.

Andrew Taylor is co-CEO of Juwai.com, a real estate portal linking Chinese buyers with property in the U.S., Canada and a total of 54 countries.


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