Listing Descriptions: Make a Good First Impression


Imagine the opening to every blog you read was something like this? You would get annoyed pretty fast.

Unfortunately, it’s not uncommon to find listing descriptions that mimic the style used above: poor spelling and grammar, tacky descriptive words, all capitals, exclamation marks everywhere, highlighting the negative, real estate jargon, limiting your audience… that’s a lot to unpack from just one paragraph.

But, as the popular saying goes, you can never make another first impression and often times, your listing description is one of the first things a prospective buyer will see when looking for a home.

“Listing descriptions over the years have had to change a lot because of the medium they were written for,” says Rob Reynar, a former REALTOR® who’s now Industry Development Manager at CREA. “They used to be written for something that would go in the front window of an office or in a newspaper where characters were limited. Today, it should be about telling a story: sell the reader on why your listing stands out.”

Real estate classifieds ads newspaper and magnifying glass. 3d illustration

In order to do that, it’s important to know a little bit about the anatomy of a listing. The data fields provide the “bones” of the listing—number of bedrooms and bathroom, type of heating, property type, square footage, etc.—while the description ties all that information together.

“There’s a balance. You don’t want to be overly flowery with your words, you want to be practical and pragmatic about your description,” he says. “The data is important, but don’t regurgitate it in your description.”

Another common tactic you’ll often see used is the use of ALL CAPS. This was a tactic used back in those old print days to draw the readers’ eyes to a specific point on the page; however, now that most home searches begin online with prospective buyers using fine-tuned criteria, there’s no need to make it look like your listing description is shouting at the reader.

(Note: Some boards default to all caps when data is inputted into the system. While you may not have the power to change that, Reynar adds, “All caps should be used sparingly.”)

Speaking about fine-tuned criteria, buyers know what they want in a home. Some want a finished basement; others want an in-law suite. Some want a detached garage, others want main-floor laundry.

Whatever it is they want, makes it easy for them to search, so you should stay informed with what terms and keywords home buyers are searching for in your area.

Pro tip: The Insights Report can help make sure you’re using the proper terms in your market to get the maximum exposure possible on search engines.

Another important tip when writing listing descriptions is to stay away from industry jargon.

“A lot of the time agents will use acronyms most home buyers aren’t familiar with, or say things like, ‘the home shows well,’” Reynar says. “Agents talk to agents differently than how they talk to clients, so it’s important to be mindful in remembering that in your listing description; it’s not for agents as much as it is for the buyers themselves.”

Abbreviation What You Should Use
Ac Acre
Aek All electric kitchen
Brk Brick
C/Vac Central vacuum
Cp Carport
CCR Conditions, covenants, and restrictions
Gdo Garage door opener
Mba Master bedroom with bathroom
NOO Non-owner occupied
OO Owner occupied
Osp Off-street parking is available
Q pos Quick possession
Sub2 Subject to existing financing
Wic Walk-in closet

Studies continue to show buyers want as much information as possible online, but in a quick, digestible fashion. So, if your listing description says, “Nice home in good neighbourhood. Shows well,” and that’s it, well, that won’t garner you any more leads either.

“Again, it all comes down to telling the story of the home. What does it offer? How would you describe it to someone who was standing outside and looking at it for the first time? What unique features or updates are there and what renovations have been made that enhance the character of the home? These are the things you can focus on in the listing description.”

Below is a break down we’ve prepared on some Dos and Don’ts REALTORS® should consider when writing a listing description. Remember, the advice in this column is for a general audience and might not necessarily work for your market or marketing strategy.

Be concise but tell the story of the home. Be creative and descriptive, but don’t make your description read like a novel. Rehash information available in the data fields (for example, number of bedrooms and bathrooms)
Write a catchy headline and opening statement. “Condo in Calgary: This Beltline beauty has a private deck and great, sweeping views of the city.” Make grammar and spelling mistakes.
Refer to Local Insights to see what the most popular search terms in your area are and include them. Examples are: garage, parking, in-law suite, barn doors, fenced and finished basement. Don’t use all caps (if possible) or use an abundance of exclamation marks.
Include a call to action. Entice readers to get in touch with you– be aware of your board or association’s MLS® Rules on self-promotion in public remarks. Make assumptions about the demographics of your clients. (For example: “Attention, millennials: This house is for you…” This alienates a large portion of potential buyers.)
Focus on selling points: are the appliances new? Are they a great brand? Is it a smart home? Are there energy efficient initiatives? Exaggerate the property or its features, but don’t focus on the negative either.
Be mindful of Search Engine Optimization and choose appropriate words. For example, say “deck” or “porch” instead of “veranda.” Use industry jargon that everyday people wouldn’t understand.

What are your listing descriptions tips? Have you ever come across one that stood out, for whatever reason? Let us know in the Comment section below!

Matt Day brings his experience as a nationally-recognized multimedia journalist to the Canadian Real Estate Association as a Communications Advisor. Matt provides professional writing, digital media and communications support to CREA and assists in developing engaging social media content. He is regularly featured in the CREA Café where he provides interesting and entertaining content for REALTORS® to enjoy. Matt is a professional photographer but has dreams of becoming a rock star. He also enjoys mountain biking, skiing, hiking, and using the Oxford comma.

2 thoughts on “Listing Descriptions: Make a Good First Impression”

  1. “ Local Insights to see what the most popular search terms in your area are and include them.”

    Tried but could only find old national terms not local, current terms. How do we find local current search terms.

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