Sellers: Does your home’s description appeal to buyers?

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When it comes to marketing your home online, high-quality photos are number one. Second place goes to the keyword-driven home description. It will capture or miss the interest of potential home buyers.

Forty-four percent of the time, according to the National Association of Realtors, buyers start their home search online. Another 17% contact a real estate agent first. At the end of the day, 95% of home buyers will look for their next property online. The home’s description that gets entered into the MLS (we put it in two different MLS systems) follows your home across its marketing platforms, from Zillow to to home flyers, and will play a major role in converting a click — or a drive-by — to a showing. 

So how can you tell if your real estate agent has written a good listing description for your home? What are the words to definitely include, and which can you safely leave out?

Portland Homes – It’s About Lifestyle

Put yourself in the buyer’s shoes for a moment. They start a home search on a site like Zillow or, and they come back with hundreds of results. They might filter that search, or just start clicking on results based on basic parameters like price and number of bedrooms. Once they’re on this home’s page itself, all of the quantifiable information about the listing is there in front of them (square footage, year built, beds/baths, etc.), as well as the photos. 

What’s missing? What buyers want — whether they’re aware of it or not — is a glimpse into the lifestyle the home could provide. A good listing description will definitely feature information about recent upgrades to the home and the amenities of the neighborhood, but will also offer a little something more. That “something more” is an emotional connection to the home.

Rather than dryly listing home features, use them to create mini storylines in buyers’ heads. It’s 

  • “excellent location” versus “two blocks from the MAX line and top schools”
  • “patio” versus “spacious patio, perfect for entertaining”
  • “new dishwasher” versus “new high-performance ENERGY STAR appliances”
  • “claw-foot tub” versus “luxurious bathroom with claw-foot tub”

The best listing descriptions emphasize the home’s best feature. Maybe it’s the awesome kitchen — always popular with home buyers. Great landscaping is also a top seller. But if your home’s best feature is something else, call attention to it.

Top Keywords to Feature

The data-nerds over at Zillow analyzed 4.6 million home sales across the US that took place between 2017 and 2018. They found that certain keywords used in listing descriptions correlated with higher sale prices and/or faster home sales compared to similar homes.

“If you’ve got them, flaunt them,” the analysts say, but they discourage adding any home features based on this research. 

Some of the keywords that correlated with an added premium to the expected sale price were:

  • Kitchen features like steam ovens, prep sinks, pot fillers, or any kind of “professional appliance”: Homes with these features sold anywhere from 24-34% more than average. 
  • Wine cellar: Added 32% to the average sale price.
  • A studio in the shed or garage: Buyers paid 26.5% more than average with this home feature.
  • Heated floors: Added a 26% premium.
  • Outdoor kitchen: Homes sold for 24.25% more. 

Honesty in Home Advertising

Of course, those properties above sold for more than average because, fundamentally, they have above average remodeling for their area, not because someone put in the right words. The lesson here is that buyers are looking for the right words to represent the above average remodeling (if you’ve got it). As mentioned above, whatever you honestly have – flaunt it.

Sell your Portland Home Faster

Keywords that correlated with faster market sales were:

  • Open shelving: Homes sold 11.2 days faster
  • Pergola: 10.7 days faster
  • Mid-century: 10.7 days faster
  • Subway tile: 10.4 days faster
  • Exposed brick: 9.5 days faster
  • Smart light: 8.9 days faster
  • Farmhouse sink: 8.9 days faster
  • Butcher block: 8.8 days faster

…and Keywords to Avoid

Is there such thing as a bad listing description that sends buyers running? Yes, of course! There are so many tired and over-used words that fail to conjure up any sort of image in the buyers’ mind. They include vague adjectives like “great” and “one-of-a-kind”; the tired phrase “location, location, location!”) 

The Zillow research showed that phrases like “fixer-upper” and “needs TLC” are also going to negatively impact prices and sale times. Of course, sometimes “fixer-upper” is a necessary descriptor, but the listing description should also emphasize the home’s better features: the floor plan, lot size, etc. 

Be careful here. It never makes sense to exaggerate or make up details about the home. Painting a picture is one thing, but steer clear of words that will end up in disappointed buyers.

Finally, keep in mind that describing a home or neighborhood as “family-friendly”, “perfect for millennials”, or “retirement haven” could violate Fair Housing Act standards. Your home’s listing description cannot use any language that could be interpreted as discriminatory against any of the seven protected classes: race, color, religion, national origin, gender, disability, or familial status.

More Tips 

  • Don’t be afraid to update your listing description. If your home isn’t getting many showings, and your home photos are top-notch, ask your real estate agent to rewrite — maybe they just didn’t get it right the first time.
  • Don’t pack too much in. Buyers don’t want to be overwhelmed, and it doesn’t pay to talk about the number of bedrooms or any other information that’s listed alongside the price. 
  • Avoid accent marks and any other non-standard formatting. The MLS listing may look right, but when Zillow, Trulia and other listing services pick it up, the text could get garbled. 
  • Don’t be afraid to brand-name. If you paid top dollar for carpeting or fixtures, use the brand names. 
  • Avoid long, run-on sentences. When we read a paragraph, our eyes need a stopping point. That’s why periods are great. 
  • Eliminate abbreviations and acronyms. You and your real estate agent might know what “HES 8” means, but chances are buyers don’t. 
  • Recognize that space is limited. Our main local MLS restricts the description space to barely a paragraph and a half (440 characters including spaces to be exact). This is enough for some properties, but for others we have special tactics to get the “rest of the story” about the home to display on Zillow,, and the rest of the major real estate websites where home buyers are shopping. You’ll have to contact us for details.

Does your home description need some attention? Are you ready to bring in the pros? We have a cutting edge marketing package available for Portland home sellers, reasonable commission, and our top 1% listing agents pay attention to the latest real estate research and know what today’s buyers are looking for. 

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