Regardless of the price range in which you work, writing great ad copy is important. In the luxury market, it’s even more essential. What are the elements that distinguish features and benefits as opposed to telling a marketing story?

In a recent post on the Raise the Bar Facebook Group, moderator Michael McClure asked a provocative question: “A term that I’m starting to hear occasionally, and which is still very new to me within the context of selling real estate, is ‘storytelling.’ Can someone please enlighten me as to what this is all about?”

Laundry list or lifestyle?

In part four of this series, Rick Goodwin, publisher of Unique Homes Luxury Media, emphasized that when you are marketing a luxury property, you must do much more than just providing a list of features. Yet when you look at most real estate ads, including those for multimillion-dollar estates, this is what you will normally encounter:

“The main home features 11,420 square feet, 5 bedrooms, 6.5 baths, a 2,000-bottle wine cellar, 6-car garage, security cameras, and a expansive game room with a full bar, cigar closet, media center and screen, and gaming machines. The outdoor kitchen includes two built-in big-screen televisions, an infinity pool and stream, a zip line and tree house for the kids, plus much more.”

Now compare this ad:

“Enter your personal world of glamour and style at La Montana, a breathtaking new 6-bedroom and 8-bath masterpiece in Aspen. Lavishly entertain your guests in the baronial public rooms with 24-foot hand-carved ceilings or adjacent to the sparkling indoor pool overlooking jetliner views of the valley below. After a great day on the slopes, enjoy your state-of-the art home theater, work out in your fully equipped gym, or unwind in the sauna or steam room. Peace, relaxation, luxury — when you are at home at La Montana, you know that you have truly arrived.”

What’s the difference between the first and second ad? The first ad is feature-based and relies primarily upon adjectives. The second ad paints a picture of the lifestyle and how you would live in the house. The secret to “painting the picture” is to use verbs rather than adjectives. Only a small portion of both regular and luxury real estate ads use this approach. An even smaller proportion, however, tell the story of a home.

How to tell a story

How can you go about telling the story of a home? One of the most powerful stories I ever saw was an interview with a seller whose family had lived on a ranch for more than 100 years.

In the video, he described what it was like to live there when he was a boy. He also described how the area changed as well as what life was like for him and his family. As he spoke, a tear came to his eye. This type of unscripted moment is one of the most powerful ways to market a property. If the agent wanted to take this even a step further, he could shoot a video of the property while riding horseback.

Here’s another example: We have friends who live in Santa Fe, N.M., who built a “straw” house employing the same construction techniques used in the 1700s when this area was first settled. When you walk through the property, they have two different places where a piece of glass reveals the straw bales beneath the plaster.

The owners explained how a local artist created the vigas (the heavy rafters made from logs that support the roof in American Indian and Spanish architecture of the Southwest) using the original construction (cutting and curing) techniques from 200 years ago. They also explained how they had installed mud floors stained with ox blood, again, the same way they did in the past. The doors to the den came from a 300-year-old Spanish church that was being demolished.

The ultimate luxury marketing experience

One of the best ways to motivate a luxury client to purchase a property is to let them experience how the lifestyle fits their vision. Former Realtor Darlene Richert, who has extensive experience selling in the ultra high end in Scottsdale, Ariz., shared a great example that uses this approach. When a couple expressed an interest in a custom home site, she wanted them to see and feel more than just the raw land.

Given that there was no house to show, the challenge was how to provide the couple with a lasting memory that would motivate them to purchase. Darlene’s other goal was to position herself as the agent to whom this couple would always refer any future real estate business.

Her solution was to plan a champagne dinner on the property at sunset. She hand-carried a bistro table and chairs to the site and had a catered gourmet meal waiting. The clients arrived on site to discover the quaint setting and a special evening that Darlene had arranged. She took a quick digital photo of the couple and then departed so that they could enjoy the beautiful sunset while sipping a glass of the finest champagne.

The clients had an extraordinary experience, one that they would talk about for years to come. More importantly, it was the first dinner on the property where they would later build their dream home. Darlene created the ultimate real estate buying experience, as well as a story that would be repeated over and over by her buyers.

Would you like to know more about storytelling and how it applies to marketing luxury properties? If so, don’t miss part six of this series that describes how America’s top luxury builder uses storytelling to market his ultraluxury listings.

Bernice Ross, CEO of, is a national speaker, trainer and author of the National Association of Realtors’ No. 1 best-seller, “Real Estate Dough: Your Recipe for Real Estate Success.” Hear Bernice’s five-minute daily real estate show, just named “new and notable” by iTunes, at

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