Property Descriptions 101: How to Write Listing Descriptions That Sell

When buyers (and their agents!) are browsing online real estate listings, professional photos are what grab their attention first, but it’s the listing description that really tells the story of the home.

Listing descriptions are an essential part of real estate advertising, and a well-written one can help your house stand out from all the other listings in your area. Remember, your real estate listing description won’t just show up online — it’s what will be used on flyers, social media, open house materials and more.   

Whether you’re selling your house for sale by owner (FSBO) or want to ensure that your agent has written an effective description for your home, here are the things you need to know about great real estate listing descriptions.

Keys to writing a great listing description

  1. Format your description
  2. Use creative words to highlight your home’s best features
  3. Avoid words that are known to deter buyers
  4. Mention brands, upgrades and unique features
  5. Pay attention to length, grammar and accuracy

Formatting: How to write a property description

The first thing to keep in mind is formatting. Formatting your description is important because it helps buyers understand your home’s appeal and makes it easy to share the unique features that set your home apart.

Your whole description should be 250 words or less, not only because of text space limitations on your local multiple listing service (MLS) and sites like Zillow, but also because buyers are unlikely to read a very long description. Aim to be concise throughout the whole description. Note that some sites have a special field for headlines, and on other sites, your headline will just be the first line of text in your main description field. Either way, you should include the headline in your total word count.

Write an engaging headline

Keep your headline short and descriptive, while focusing on a benefit that is location-specific. If you’re using an agent, they should be able to give you some guidance on what’s popular in your  area, but you can also review other local listings for inspiration. Here are some good examples of headlines that pair location details with something unique about the home:

  • Condo in Chicago: “West Loop condo with private roof deck and sweeping city views”
  • House in Seattle suburbs: “Stunning craftsman home in red-hot Kirkland”
  • Townhouse in the Bay Area: “Loft-style living in Mill Valley”

Construct an opening statement

Your opening statement should answer the buyer’s question, “What am I looking at?” It should give buyers a reason to continue reading. It’s also a great place to showcase features that you couldn’t fit in the headline, but that buyers will love. Here are a few examples:

  • “Check out this top-floor condo in an all-brick, elevator building with a deeded indoor parking space.”
  • “This spacious, single-family home in Boston features both modern amenities and architectural character in a fantastic location.”
  • “This recently renovated tri-level townhome lives like a single-family, without the maintenance.”

When writing your opening statement, here are some popular features that, if your home possesses them, you should definitely include:

  • Parking (especially in city listings)
  • Double garage (or larger)
  • Private backyard or outdoor space
  • Mountain view
  • Lakefront property
  • Near transit access
  • Renovated kitchen
  • Mother-in-law suite (or other passive income potential)
  • Flexible/room to expand
  • Lush landscaping

Detail a listing description

The description text makes up the bulk of your word count, and it’s where you should review all of the home’s main features: beds, baths, square footage, lot size, location, upgrades, etc. But don’t just rattle off a list of all the features. Use compelling, creative language to highlight details that make your home special. Your description should pique buyers’ interest enough that they want to schedule a tour, and as the owner, you are in the unique position of being able to tell a story about what is special about the property.

Offer special promotions

If you’re trying to sell your home quickly and want to incentivize buyers, you can add a special promotion to your listing description. Some of the most compelling buyer concessions include:

  • Home warranty: For just a few hundred dollars, you can purchase a one-year home warranty for your buyer. It’s a nice little value-add that buyers appreciate, as it offers piece of mind for their purchase.
  • Credits toward closing costs: In buyers markets, where sellers are competing for offers from a small pool of buyers, offering to pay for some or all of a buyer’s closing costs can be very appealing.
  • Seller financing: Seller financing is when you act as the bank for your buyer for a period of time, often until they can get approved for a conventional bank loan. While you’ll have to assume the risk of the buyer defaulting, it can open up your home to a bigger pool of potential buyers.
  • Flexible close date: If you’re able to accommodate either a quick close or a longer close, mention that in your description. It can be very attractive to buyers with a rigid time table.

Include a call to action

A call to action is a closing line in your description that tells buyers what you want them to do next: “Don’t miss out on this captivating home. Schedule a private tour today!” Or, “This home isn’t going to last — schedule your showing before it’s gone.”

Man writing a home listing description on a laptop.

Writing creative real estate listing descriptions

Using the listing words proven to attract buyers

Using the right words in your home description can mean more money in your pocket. That was one of the findings of the book “Zillow Talk: Rewriting the Rules of Real Estate,” written by Zillow CEO Spencer Rascoff and Chief Economist Stan Humphries. It highlights some of the listing words that can attract buyers.

  • “Luxurious:” According to the book, homes with a median estimated value in the bottom third of their market that were described as “luxurious” beat their expected sales price by an impressive 8.2 percent.
  • “Captivating:” Also from the book, homes with a median estimated value in the top third of their market that were described as “captivating” beat their sales price by 6.5 percent.
  • Other words: There are plenty of other real estate marketing words that Zillow found valuable, including “stainless” (as in appliances), “granite,” “basketball” (as in a court), “landscaped,” “pergola,” “remodel,” “tile,” “upgraded” and “updated.” More descriptive words that were also winners were “impeccable,” “beautiful” and “gentle” (as in rolling hills).

Need some inspiration for creative real estate listing descriptions? Here are just a few examples found on Zillow:

  • For a listing in downtown Portland: “From the remodeled open layout to the unique landscaped roof deck with skyline views, this home is truly captivating.”
  • For a listing in Cleveland suburbs: “Step into your newly upgraded luxurious chef’s kitchen, outfitted with stainless steel appliances, new granite countertops, and slate tile floors.”
  • For a listing in Brooklyn: “No stone was left unturned during the recent remodel, which includes updated hardwood flooring throughout and a brand-new subway tile backsplash.”
  • For a top-tier home: “Brush up on your game on your own private basketball court, then cool off underneath the pergola in your scenic and secluded backyard.”

Features to include in your listing description

Zillow researchers found that mentioning certain keywords in your listing makes an impact on both how much you can sell your home for and how quickly it will sell. Here are a few of the home features that got sellers the most bang for their buck and helped them sell faster:

  • Listings descriptions with “barn doors” sold for 13.4 percent more, and 57 days faster.
  • Homes with “shaker cabinets” sold for 9.6 percent more than expected, 45 days faster.
  • Another popular kitchen feature, “farmhouse sink” helped homes sell for 8 percent more.
  • “Subway tile” garnered almost 7 percent more, and 63 days faster.
  • The term “quartz” helped homes sell for 6 percent more, compared to “granite” at 4 percent.

Real estate advertising words to avoid

In the same way that there are words that help your home sell faster or for more money, there are definitely some terms you’ll want to steer clear of. Unless you are truly selling your home as a fixer-upper or a flip, avoid these nine real estate marketing words: “Fixer,” “TLC” (as in the home needs some TLC), “cosmetic,” “investment,” “investor,” “potential,” “bargain,” “opportunity” and “nice.” While “nice” is a positive word, it can be highly subjective. Instead of saying you have an “older home in need of TLC,” say something like “A classic abode that can be customized to your liking.” Or instead of “Calling all investors!” say something like “Renovated homes on this block are selling for top dollar.”

Here’s some data to illustrate the point. Out of 24,000 homes analyzed by Zillow, listings with “fixer” in the description sold for 11.1 percent less, on average, than expected. Listings with “potential” sold for 4.3 percent less. And listings with “opportunity” sold for 2 percent less.

You’ll also want to avoid useless fluff like “must-see” in your property description. If you find yourself short on space, you can cut down on mentioning the house’s main stats, like square footage and number of bedrooms, since those data points are displayed in a different part of your listing, anyway.

Reframe negative features in a positive light

Of course, no home is perfect, so you don’t want to completely omit less desirable features — especially if they’re obvious in the photos. Instead, spin them as a positive or add in some creativity or humor. Here are a few examples:

  • A small bedroom could be a home office.
  • A closed-off floor plan could be described as creating separation for privacy — your dinner guests won’t see your messy kitchen!
  • No yard means low maintenance.
  • A lack of natural light in a garden-level condo saves on cooling costs in the summertime.

Which selling points should I include in my home description?

Your property description should highlight any notable home brands, recent upgrades, and all energy efficiency additions. Don’t be afraid to name drop!

  • Kitchen: Appliance brands like Viking, Sub-Zero, Wolf and Bosch.
  • Smart home/electronics: Bose sound system, Nest thermostat, Ring doorbell and any other smart home upgrades.
  • Energy efficiency: Mention any upgrades that provide practicality, utility cost savings, and convenience, like a smart thermostat, high-efficiency washer and dryer, or solar panels.

Home description best practices

In addition to following the guidelines above, consider these best practices for writing property descriptions.

Use your word count

Take advantage of all 250 words available. Zillow Talk found that homes with longer listings consistently sell for more money. And it’s not surprising. Buyers want to know the details of your home, and those extra words can give them the additional information they need to decide if your home is one they’re interested in seeing in person. But, while some real estate listing sites will let you include many more than 250 words, buyers don’t want to read a novel. Focus on 250 really great words instead of rambling on just because you have the space.

Ask for a second opinion

After you’re done writing, ask a friend or neighbor who knows your home and the neighborhood to review your description. Have them identify the features of your home that make it unique, and be sure to include those.

Provide accurate portrayals of renovations

New countertops do not equal a full kitchen renovation. Make sure you’re being honest about the level or work that was completed.

Don’t use all caps or too many exclamation points

Potential buyers don’t want to feel like you’re yelling at them — and all caps and endless exclamation points do just that.

Avoid jargon

Don’t use real estate terminology that the average buyer won’t understand.

Be careful with real estate abbreviations

You may be tempted to abbreviate in order to save space in your listing description, but be careful that you’re not sacrificing clarity for space.

Actual home feature Don’t use this abbreviation Instead, use these listing words
central air conditioning CAC central AC
fitness center FT CTR gym
3 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms 3/2 3BD/2BA
formal dining room FDR frml dining
heating, ventilation, air conditioning heat, vent, AC HVAC
half bathroom HB 1/2 bath
natural gas NGS nat. gas
square feet SF sqft
available avbl AVAIL
washer & dryer lndry W/D
hardwood floors HDWDFLRS HDWD floors

Don’t shorten words buyers may search for

There are some words you won’t want to shorten, in case people are searching specifically for that term. Examples include “waterfront,” “quartz,” or “renovated.”

Be honest

Don’t embellish. Buyers know what they’re looking for, and if you make your home seem like something it’s not, you’re just wasting a buyer’s time.

Follow Fair Housing guidelines

It’s illegal to mention race, national origin, gender, disability, or familial status in real estate listings. So, that means you can’t include things like ,”This family-friendly home is perfect for new parents,” or “Large makeup of international residents means great nearby restaurants.”


Edit your description for accuracy and grammatical errors. Buyers might assume that a careless listing description means a careless homeowner.

Create options

Consider writing 2-3 versions of your listing description that focus on features that appeal to different buyers, so you can swap out if needed.

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