Writing a property description is part art, part skill and part pixie dust. Over the years, I’ve found that it’s the single writing task that agents dread the most, yet it’s the one they run into again and again.
Although you might not yet be an expert at writing property descriptions, you can certainly avoid some of the biggest mistakes and pitfalls. Avoid these seven common problems, and you’ll instantly improve your next listing.
1. Not writing one at all
Some people argue that no one reads the property descriptions and that great photos are all that matters. In reality, people use property descriptions to help them understand what they are seeing in the photos and learn more about the home and the community.
Whether you are working with an MLS description of 500 characters or have virtually unlimited space, you owe it to your clients to use every available avenue to provide meaningful information as you market their property.
2. Repeating yourself
We’ve all seen those property descriptions that simply repeat information found elsewhere in the listing. “1,642 sq ft, 3 br, 2 ba. Won’t last long!” The MLS description is valuable marketing real estate (no pun intended), so you should use it to provide information that doesn’t appear elsewhere on the page.
Share something special about the house, the neighborhood amenities, or the house’s proximity to other features in the area. Talk about something that you can’t see in the photos — the beautiful view from the kitchen window or the short distance to the neighborhood clubhouse.
3. Burying the lede
This mistake is one of the first things I wrote about for Inman, and it still holds true: There’s no point in saving the best for last when it comes to marketing and content. Start with something exciting and unique about the property, something that buyers in your area are looking for, to grab their attention and keep them reading.
Generic information about the area, the building or the community makes buyers think that you’re downplaying the property itself. Tell them something extraordinary about the home right up front so that they make sure to see it fast. It’s a fast-paced market, and buyers need to make quick decisions. Don’t give them a reason to prioritize another listing over yours.
4. Saying too much
Although many agents struggle with a too-short MLS character limit, others have virtually no limit at all. Unfortunately, this leads to MLS entries featuring endless descriptions that go on far longer than any buyer could possibly want to read.
Some agents use this space to cut and paste an article about the home, building or neighborhood from the local newspaper or write blog-length articles about the house. That’s not what buyers are looking for. They want a quick and thorough synopsis of the features that are most compelling so that they can decide whether to visit the home in person.
5. Not asking the homeowner for input
Who knows more about the house than the people who’ve known and loved it for years? Your clients will probably have plenty of great insights to offer about what makes their home special. Maybe it’s the fact that their balcony offers the perfect place to watch the sunrise or that they enjoy ideal proximity to the local playground.
In addition, it’s always helpful to include recent updates to the HVAC, roof, water heater and other major systems. These details offer added peace of mind and can be attention-getting elements that draw in potential buyers.
6. Allowing the homeowner to have too much input
While it’s great to get the homeowner to weigh in on the elements you’ll include in the property description, you need to make sure that you don’t allow them to take over the process. Some homeowners fancy themselves frustrated poets and want to write an “Ode to Their Home” filled with flowery language and purple prose that’s sure to amuse and confuse buyers — but not to interest them in seeing the house itself.
Still other homeowners have kept detailed records of every nail, flange and gasket they’ve ever replaced, and they want to make sure that you include them all in the property description, along with the date of replacement and the estimated value added.
This level of detail does nothing to give buyers a sense of the big picture when it comes to the home — and it suggests that the homeowner will be difficult to negotiate with during the transaction.
7. Failing to proofread
So many fun listing description bloopers come about when agents don’t proofread their property descriptions. I recall one home in my former neighborhood: It’s best selling point was the kitchen with its “spacious panties.” I once saw a home in my client’s market featuring a “heated pook.”
Although these types of errors are fun reading for us, they’re not great for the sellers. Proofread your copy and, if possible, get a second person to do so, as well. Putting your best foot forward means taking the time to ensure that your description is readable and accurate.
Christy Murdock is a Realtor, freelance writer, coach and consultant and the owner of Writing Real Estate. She is also the creator of the online course Crafting the Property Description: The Step-by-Step Formula for Reluctant Real Estate Writers. Follow Writing Real Estate on Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.