How to Write Better Listings, From Wording to Fair Housing

By Hope Walborn | April 25, 2024 | 4 min. read

When it comes to real estate, writing a good listing could be the difference between a sold home and one that stays on the market for a while. From knowing how to word your listing to avoiding language that may violate fair housing, here are some tips on how to write better home listings all around.

Draw Readers In

An opening statement should pique potential homebuyers’ interest while also telling them the most important, unique and/or desirable details of the home. Write an opening that sounds attractive to buyers but also gets straight to the point. Here are descriptive words and phrases for inspiration:

  • Newly remodeled
  • Spacious
  • Cozy
  • Contemporary
  • Bright
  • Elegant
  • Historic

Pairing these types of adjectives with the style or type of home can immediately tell the reader a lot of what they need to know in only a short sentence. Introducing them to “a newly renovated ranch-style home” or “a bright and cozy cottage” helps stimulate interest, sums up the overall feeling of the home and sets the scene for the rest of the listing’s details.

Be Honest

Enticing potential buyers is important, but be honest while writing listings. Highlight the home’s features, but don’t exaggerate, embellish or lie. Dishonest listings can lead to disappointment and distrust, along with possible ethics complaints and/or state real estate commission complaints.

“One of the common questions we get is about advertising the number of bedrooms in a house,” says PAR Assistant General Counsel Desiree Brougher. “Some property owners may be using certain spaces – like a basement – as a bedroom even if local codes don’t allow it. Listing that space as a ‘bedroom’ in advertisements may seem like it makes the house more desirable, but it could create legal problems for both the seller and the agent, especially if the new buyer is told by the municipality that they can’t use the space that way.”

Embrace Creativity…

A well-written listing should be worded in a way that flows and engages readers. Avoid repetitive words or phrases by using a thesaurus to vary language and sentence length/structure. Descriptive adjectives will help readers imagine the feel of the home, and some creative descriptions can help them picture how they might fit into it.

Here are some examples of enticing words to try in place of more vague adjectives:

  • Big: spacious, expansive, lofty
  • New: modern, updated, contemporary
  • Calming: peaceful, secluded, picturesque, serene
  • Beautiful: stunning, captivating, breathtaking

…In Moderation

However, it’s best not to get too poetic. When browsing multiple listings, homebuyers typically want the home’s features laid out straightforwardly. Be descriptive but be sure to be concise and to the point. Use desirable adjectives to highlight the home’s best features, but don’t overdo it.

Avoid Fair Housing Violations

It’s crucial to avoid including language that violates fair housing in your listings. Aside from all the general fair housing rules, Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission regulations contain a list of words that should be avoided in advertisements.

“One way for agents to avoid issues is to concentrate on describing the physical property and not their idea of who might want to live there,” says PAR Chief Legal Officer Hank Lerner. “For example, if you’re listing a 1400 square foot, two bedroom house, don’t also describe it as ‘great for newlyweds or empty nesters’, since that could look like you’re steering families away from the property. If someone wants a house with more space or more bedrooms, they can figure that out for themselves by looking at the physical description.”

Lerner also notes that many multiple listing services use technology to screen and flag listings that use certain words and phrases, so members may want to check with their MLS to see what those policies are.

Learn more about fair housing in the Legal Corner section of PAR’s website, which includes PAR’s Fair Housing Guidelines and other fair housing resources.

Always Proofread

Always be sure to read and reread your listing. Better yet, have someone else look over it as well. A listing with typos, grammatical errors, poor wording and ill-crafted content may deter potential homebuyers from further pursuing the home, especially if the errors cause confusion or make the listing unreadable.

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