There is only one thing I don’t like about being a writer: writing. I’ve been featured in the New York Times and get 400,000 page views per month, but writing is still hard work, even for me.
That’s why I decided to put together this article to walk listing agents new and old through the process of writing creative listing descriptions. I also worked with Olivia Tormenta, Marketing Director for Manhattan luxury brokerage Warburg Realty, to get her take on the subject as well as some examples of truly creative listing descriptions from one of Warburg’s top-producing agents.
Let’s start with some examples:
Creative Real Estate Listing Description Examples 2020
Since the best way to learn anything is by example, here are a few examples of creative listing descriptions from Jeanne Byers, one half of Manhattan luxury team Case+Byers. After each description, I’ll quickly give you my take as an editor on why they work, which isn’t always obvious.
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 with 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 premiere 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.
Why This Is a Great Listing Description
First and foremost, Jeanne’s listing description for this apartment has a killer headline. It does what all great headlines do: sums up the actual value of the product being sold and builds desire for it. It’s also catchy and easy to remember. This is partly due to her use of alliteration—the repeating of the same letter or sound at the beginning of some words in a sentence.
Alliteration is used very frequently in marketing. Once you know about it, you’ll start to notice it everywhere: Bed Bath and Beyond. Dunkin’ Donuts. Don’t dream it, drive it. Intel Inside. Melt in your mouth, not in your hand.
As far as details go, this listing description is chock-full of them, but notice how they all show off the quality of the apartment. There is a lot here, but nothing that doesn’t help sell the unit. With a studio apartment especially, quality matters since space is at such a premium.
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 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.
Why This Is a Great Listing Description
Once again, the headline is doing most of the heavy lifting here. It might not get the listing sold on its own, but it sure helps draw people in and paint a picture of what it might be like to live there. In this case, the headline is aspirational. Even if a potential buyer is not artsy or techie, most people living in New York City wish they were. This immediately links this apartment with the cool kids. Very clever.
The headline also makes use of a technique called consonance. Like alliteration, consonance uses the repetition of a letter or sound, but in this case at the end of the word rather than the beginning. This gives the sentence an almost musical quality, which makes it instantly memorable. There’s a reason why your kindergarten teacher used a song to get you to remember the alphabet!
Also note the use of adjectives here. They’re evocative, sure, but never over the top. Unless you’re dealing with a truly historic mansion, then over-the-top language will almost always hurt your listing description rather than help it.
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 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.
Why This Is a Great Listing Description
While we tend to cringe whenever listing agents attempt humor in their listing descriptions, sometimes a quick pun can add some color. Of course, you need to make sure that if you do end up using a pun, that it actually works for your listing. Easier said than done.
However, this listing does have a certain swanky mid-century James Bond feel to it, and this headline helps reinforce that without going over the top. Of course, they could have just written something like “swanky mid-century apartment” in the headline, but this gets the same job done in a more interesting way.
7 Rules for Writing Creative Listing Descriptions
Now that you have some inspiration for your creative real estate listing descriptions, let’s go over some of the rules to writing your own.
1. 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 own writing, and impossible to give yourself the distance to judge your writing 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 whenever possible. If you don’t have a marketing department, or a formal process for editing copy, just make sure to get another set of eyes on your copy before making it live.
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 listing descriptions before signing off on them.
2. 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 is actually counterproductive to the writing process.
Instead, when you start any writing project, the first step should always be to just 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 editing. 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.
3. Your Listing Description Needs to Be 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, very few people will actually take the time to read every single word you write, so make sure to hit the key selling points of your listing and avoid lengthy, verbose descriptions.
As Olivia Tormenta, Marketing Director at Warburg Realty says, be concise, but precise with your listing descriptions.
4. Avoid Just Listing Features or Details
While lengthy listing descriptions are an issue, don’t think you can just get away with a bullet point list of features either. Here’s Olivia:
“You also don’t want a list of features or details—have some fun with it, and get creative! Think of it like writing a short story. Aim to paint a beautiful picture of how it would feel to live in the home and what makes the space distinct from the rest.”
5. Show Them, Don’t Tell Them
Show them, don’t tell them, is a rule that many fiction writers use to remind themselves that readers usually respond much better to stories rather than “writing.” In other words, try to paint them a picture of what living in the listing might look like.
Here’s Steven Gottlieb of Warburg Realty on showing and not telling in your 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.”
6. Identify the Unique Selling Proposition of Your Listing Before You Start Writing
One of the strategies that Jeanne Byers, the agent who wrote our example listing descriptions, uses to focus her writing is to identify the unique selling proposition of a listing. For example, if your listing is a little small, but has great views, focus on that in your description. If it’s an older home but has lots of charm, focus on that.
7. Approach Your Listing Description Like a Creative Writing Assignment
Whatever you do, you need to take the task of writing your listing descriptions seriously. Rachel Crowl-McGrath, a Realtor from Pennsylvania, finds it helpful to think of them as creative writing assignments. You might not get a grade, but rest assured your readers will be judging you based on your descriptions.
Over to You
Have any examples or tips for great creative real estate listing descriptions? Let us know in the comments. Or, if you’re an experienced agent, join us on our private Facebook Mastermind Group.