How to write better property descriptions

It can be hard getting your property descriptions to stand out, but there is a simple and sure-fire way of making them unique; use your own voice.

It sounds totally simple, right? Yet it’s one of the hardest things for people to do. Estate agents and property developers are fantastic at talking about property – some would give Stephen Fry a run for his money when it comes to eloquence – but when it comes to getting those words onto paper, it all goes to pot. “I can’t write” is the general response, and so everyone ends up writing in exactly the same voice, the standard property one, which no-one actually speaks in.

So how can you get your own voice across?

The simplest way, is to record yourself talking to another person about property. Or get a colleague to write down what you’re saying. You’ll be amazed at the contrast between what you say and what you write. Different word choices, sentence structures, grammar, tone, everything. Then all you need to do is copy what you’ve said into your software system of choice. You may have to do a few tweaks – words like ain’t and erm probably shouldn’t make it to the final cut – but I’m willing to bet that what you write will surprise you in how good it is, and how much of an improvement. Give it a go. And while you’re at it…

Give it some thought
Estate agents can see the property description as a simple means to an end; something to knock out as quickly as possible to get the property on the market, so they can get out on the next viewing, or call up a possible lead. Well, yes, and understood. However, while a particular property description may not be the crucial deciding factor for someone when considering what property to commit to, what you write will have a direct impact on your company’s place in the market. If your descriptions are boring, run of the mill, uninspiring affairs, you can bet it will get noticed. It might only get a slight smile or rolling of eyes toward heaven from a buyer or tenant, but it will get a lot worse from a potential vendor or landlord; they may never call you. And if you want to take yourself into a slightly – or dramatically – higher marketplace, well, no matter how many sold boards you have up, people with property like that will care IMMENSELY about how you say things. It’s amazing how the best ways of bettering your business are generally free, and this is a great example. Thinking costs nothing, but if you spent five minutes more than you currently do thinking about each property description, PEOPLE WILL NOTICE THE DIFFERENCE.

Ban the jargon

Think of all the words and phrases estate agents use in their property descriptions – but never use while speaking – and then ban them. Amenities; facilities; comprises of (bad grammar!); well-appointed; truly unique (as opposed to what kind of unique?); as vendors sole agents we are delighted to offer to the market (boring filler); internal viewing is strongly advised (when is it not?); blah. You can say everything you want to say MUCH BETTER than this. English has the largest vocabulary of any language, including beautifully succinct and comprehensible words. You don’t have to write Shakespeare (mainly because no-one understands it anyway), but you don’t have to write a shambles either. Where do you go for a newspaper? The amenities, or the shops? How do you get into town? With excellent transport links, or by train? Be specific, be real. You can write fabulous, professional, engaging and truthful text without resorting to jargon. Jargon makes your descriptions sound the same; not just like each other, but like the other agents as well. How can you stand out if you do nothing but fit in? Jargon distances you from the reader. You want to draw them in, not push them away. Ban it.

Spell it right

This may sound obvious, but you’d be surprised at the amount of spelling mistakes in property descriptions. Some are careless (buidling, radiaotr, conservatry), and some are down to a lack of knowledge. You can’t be expected to know every last word in property, so take the time to check your spelling, look in a dictionary, or get a colleague to look over what you’ve done. People that can spell – and there are quite a lot of them – will notice your mistakes. It probably won’t stop them coming to view a property you’ve got on the market, but it might stop them calling to give you theirs.

Ignore the mundane.

This mostly comes into play with individual room descriptions, which I would argue are pretty redundant and best replaced with a floor plan. But, if you’re going to continue using them, ditch anything obvious. If you’re only going to write ‘window’, then leave it out; every room has one. They all have power points too, so you don’t need to write that. I really think you’re better off filling the front page with the stand-out features and, on the back, having just a floorplan and any essential information (service charge, ground rent, council tax and, if you must, T.B.A.). Saves time, and looks better. Be ruthless with yourself, and your colleagues. Compare some property descriptions. Do they all state the obvious? If so, remove it.

Read more books.

This is obviously longer term, but if you find a book you really enjoy, try reading some more by that author. You may well find it’s their vocabulary you’re enjoying as much as the story. I love Bill Bryson, Ben Elton, Stephen Fry and Jasper Fforde for their word usage and also their knowledge of other stuff. I find it widens my view and my vocabulary. It gets me interested in other writers or other styles. Sometimes I see a word and think “right then, I’ve gotta get that into a brochure”. It makes it fun. I hadn’t realised until fairly recently how much these writers had influenced how I write and speak. Find one that fits your style, or, if you don’t like your style, find one that gives you a nice new one!

Have an angle.

What is it about that particular property that is going to sell it? Whatever it is, focus on it. Might be the location, the size, the decor (and yes sometimes it IS the decor), the style, the history, the garden, the whatever. Why did the current owner buy it? Why did the previous vendor sell it? Really take the time to explore this to find out exactly what it is – or are – the main selling point or points. And trust me, there is always something. You might not see it, so don’t just trust your own eyes. If you’re struggling, send a colleague round to see if they can spot an angle.

 Get a copywriter.

Hey, gimme a break; I gave you 6 for free, okay? You could offer professional copywriting as a standard service, and a pretty good one at that. OR, how’s this for an idea? For your premium property vendors, offer them a premium upgrade. They might even pay you for it, and it’s an interesting marketing add-on to what you already do. You make up a package of upgrades to sell to them (fancier details, fancier photos, fancier text, whatever) and take the extra cost upfront, with the sales commission coming at the end. Just a thought.