10 Ways You’re Ruining Your Real Estate Listings

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Copywriting Real Estate & Property

I walk you through 10 things you shouldn’t be doing with your real estate listings.

Good real estate listings are essential for getting prospects to pick up the phone.  Here’s 10 ways you might be compromising your property’s chances.

1. Randomly capitalising things

Random capitalisation is a strange phenomenon that seems to occur largely in social media or online ad copy.  It ends up Looking Something like This – people Capitalising words that are not Proper Nouns or the First Word of a Sentence, for no apparent Reason.

I’m genuinely not sure why real estate agents do this (or why anyone does it), but it’s grammatically incorrect, adds to a reader’s cognitive load and can be downright confusing, especially if people think you’re referring to some sort of special term.

Don’t do it.  The only things you should be capitalising in real estate listings are the first words of sentences, proper nouns like street names and suburbs, or initialisms like FHOG.

2. Using inconsistent styling

Because many online listing platforms don’t have good formatting options, agents have to substitute bullet points for characters like:

*

**

~

^

None of these are inherently ‘wrong’.  I’d personally select either a hyphen or a tilde (the squiggly line), because both asterisks and carets typically indicate a footnote or special annotation.

It’s important, though, that whatever you choose is used consistently.  Don’t create two lists and use different characters for both.  Don’t use the same character for two different purposes.  It’s confusing and off-putting for readers.

3. Having bad grammar

I won’t go into all the issues that stem from bad grammar here, but, to put it bluntly, bad grammar is probably the best way to ruin your listing copy.

If you can’t afford to hire a professional copywriter or editor and you’re not completely confident in your writing ability, here are a few tips:

  • Use short, simple sentences. You’re less likely to use incorrect sentence structures.
  • Watch your apostrophes. A plural (“these two properties both have great pools”) doesn’t use an apostrophe.  A possessive (“the property’s manicured exterior”) does use an apostrophe.  Don’t get them mixed up.
  • Use proofreading software like MS Word or Grammarly to pick up obvious errors. Don’t just type the listing out and immediately publish it.
  • Read it out loud afterwards. If it sounds awkward or wrong, it probably is.

4. Using all caps

When I see a listing or a heading that is completely capitalised, the first thing I think is: “Why are you yelling?”

Most people associate all caps with urgency, importance or anger (head over to Facebook for examples of the latter).  Unfortunately, shady online marketers have had their caps lock keys superglued down for the last ten years, so the visceral impact of capitalised words has pretty much been nullified.

Using all caps in real estate listings isn’t smart – it flags you as spammy, desperate and possibly even aggressive.  It also makes your writing objectively harder to read, as explained in this article from design website UX Movement.

Just write normally.  Prospects will like it more, I promise.

all caps listing
This isn’t the worst example, but it still comes off as slightly carpet salesman-esque. Source: realestate.com.au

5. Using ugly photographs

Pretty much everyone knows the importance of excellent property photography.  Except, apparently, more than a few real estate agents – I’ve lost count of the downright ugly photographs I’ve come across on listing platforms.

There’ll always be times when you’re on a budget, but, if you’re going to skimp on something, please don’t let it be a photographer.  Real estate is one of the few industries where photographs have an impact that’s equal to or greater than copy.

Good photographs will literally be the difference between someone scrolling past your listing or clicking, and trying to take good photos on your iPhone 11 simply won’t cut it.  You need to hire a pro with the requisite styling and Photoshop skills.

6. Only including one photo

Including multiple photographs seems like a no-brainer, but there are still some listings out there boasting just one or two pictures.

If you’re guilty of this, it’s time to put yourself in a buyer’s shoes.  How can they possibly know whether they like the property if you just give them one or two shots?  Answer: they won’t, and, rather than giving you the benefit of the doubt and scheduling an inspection, they’ll hit ‘Back’ and click on your competitor.

Include as many photos as possible, and make sure they give buyers a comprehensive overview of the whole property.

7. Presenting unstyled properties

A property stylist can seem like an unnecessary expense, but I’d contend that they’re as important as any other designer – they take function and create beauty, which sparks prospects’ imaginations and increases the probability of a sale.

Even if your client can’t afford a full campaign, hiring a stylist company for a single photoshoot can result in significant returns. A good stylist will coordinate with the agent on the property’s overall messaging, making it more likely that prospects will view your property.

Need proof?  Check out these two images, both from same-area properties advertised at $500,000 to $600,000.  Which one would you click on?

real estate styling comparison
Source: realestate.com.au

If your client requires convincing, let them know that styling can have a measurable impact on sale price, with some sources estimating increases of up to 10%.

8. Using deceptive price ranges

Because most real estate listing sites use search filters like location, price range, property type, beds, and so on, some agents use variable price ranges and offers with an unrealistic lower bracket so their property gets in front of more people.

Don’t do this.  It wastes your prospects’ time, and someone searching for a $350,000 property probably isn’t interested in a fancy $600,000 house.  That said, there are exceptions – properties that are extremely hard to sell, or clients who really do want to receive every offer, no matter how low.

9. Not optimising for SEO

We live in an age where listing platforms dominate online property searches, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a role for your website to play too.  It’s not just a nice landing page for sellers who are looking for an agent; it can also compete in the SERPs for valuable keywords.

Many searchers still prefer typing search phrases into Google and other search engines than using the unpleasantly slow search filters on listing platforms.  For example, the keyword ‘houses for sale maryborough’ draws roughly 3,300 searches every month; ‘houses for sale deception bay’ pulls a staggeringly large 5,700 searches a month*.

If you’re a real estate agent in Deception Bay who isn’t optimising for search, that’s 5,700 missed opportunities.  The same holds true no matter where you are in the country.

As long as technical factors like site speed, crawlability, external/internal links and so on are all up to scratch, optimising the property listings on your website should be relatively simple.

Pick an appropriate keyword, integrate it into your copy and headings, make sure your on-page images are optimised, ensure the copy is well-written, make sure the page is indexed, and you’re good to go.  You almost certainly won’t rank on the first page for broad terms like ‘houses for sale gold coast’, but, for long-tail keywords like ‘two-bedroom units for sale upper coomera’, you’ll have a fighting chance.

*Data taken from Ahrefs.  Current at time of publication.

10. Presenting features instead of benefits and outcomes

There’s two easy ways to differentiate professional real estate copy from amateur writing: the technical quality of the writing itself, and whether the copy creates a vision of lifestyle for the readers.

If you don’t understand the difference between features, benefits and outcomes, I’ll explain it with an example:

Feature: A property has Crimsafe screen doors.

Benefit: Crimsafe doors are harder to break through than regular flyscreen doors, which means residents are less likely to suffer from burglaries and home invasions.

Outcome: Residents can enjoy a safe, relaxed lifestyle in an environment that keeps their family and belongings safe.

No-one ever bought a property because of its features – they bought it based on the benefits those features would bring to their lifestyle.

Think about when you pitch to a prospect at inspections.  What do you focus on?  The answer: it depends on who you’re selling to.

If the buyers are a couple, you might focus on luxury lifestyle points.  If it’s a family, you might emphasise security, closeness to schools, the quality of the neighbourhood.  An ageing couple?  Closeness to essential services, accessibility, easy maintenance.

Your listing copy shouldn’t be any different.  User expectations demand a list of actual features, but the rest of the copy should evoke a picture of the life your prospects will get when they buy that property.

By Duncan Croker

Duncan is a copywriter with a background in editing and storytelling. He loves collaborating with brands big and small, and thrives on the challenges of hard marketing.

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