Market analysts are surprised: Real estate professionals get an average conversion rate of 10 percent with their real estate listing descriptions.
Of course, that’s not the true, so you don’t have to feel bad about the 10 percent conversion rate, which, by the way, would be awesome.
For those who don’t yet get 10 percent or more, you may wonder how to write a listing description that pops.
You want to focus on benefits instead of features.This requires knowledge about the pains, needs and greeds of your target customers.
Include also pictures that stress these benefits and help to tell a story.
Most of what I have read so far on improving listing descriptions for better conversions give good tips but miss two essential things my article will cover.
One of them is confusing features with benefits, and the other is pictures.
I have seen many different real estate websites in my life and read many different real estate listing descriptions.
What did I find?
There are those who think the listing description is just the space you use to enter the basic information of a particular property, so they keep the description short and make it bullet points.
I feel them because they might think most will only look at the pictures or videos anyways and who reads long copy in 2020 anyway?!
And for the picture or video part, they are partially right.
Look at the following statistic I found on this website:
Listings with high-res photos tend to sell about or just above the list price around 44 percent of the time.
Furthermore, 64 percent of the time, those properties will sell within just six months.
And house listings where aerial photographs were made sell 68 percent faster than properties with standard images.
Then there are others who put quite a lot of time and effort into the description, but, unfortunately, it doesn’t convert visitors into leads.
So, time and likely money is wasted.
Imagine putting time and effort into listing descriptions of your properties or projects, and then…crickets.
Imagine you or your team get all the necessary information on a property, spend hours in front of the screen writing descriptions until their fingers hurt, and adding pictures and videos to your website (the videos will probably need to be edited too) and then you get only a very low conversion rate or no conversions at all.
What’s considered a good conversion rate for the real estate industry?
According to wordstream, across industries, the average landing page conversion rate was 2.35 percent.
Interestingly, the top 25 percent are converting at 5.31 percent or higher.
The top 10 percent convert even at 11.45 percent or higher. (source)
Before Doctoring Your Listing Description – Benefits vs. Features
This might be old hat for you, but it’s worth repeating because I have seen it so many times on different real estate websites, in ads and even in some of the articles giving tips about better listing descriptions.
Let’s take one of the listing descriptions from the realtor magazine.
“Inspired by the glorious chateaus of France, Chateau Ami is a sophisticated and luxurious retreat that reflects that magical merging of inspiration and architecture.
Created by renowned architect Randall Stofft and Cudmore Builders, the estate is a masterpiece of design and craftsmanship featuring inlaid onyx, hand-planed hickory wood flooring, intricately hand-painted ceilings, hand-carved fireplace by Barbara Tattersfield, exquisite crystal chandeliers, plus an elevator to transport from floor to floor.
Sprawling entertaining spaces flow outside to the outdoor living room past the tennis courts and guest house, to the stunning infinity pool and tranquil lake beyond.
On 2.5 acres of premier lakefront acreage, this French Chateau is the crème de la crème in prestigious Stone Creek Ranch.”
This description is, without a doubt, well-written and a lot of thought was put into describing the features of this particular property.
But can you find any benefits in this text?
That’s right, me neither.
When you want to find benefits in a copywriting text you can apply to all the features, the question “so what?!” and “what’s in it for the potential customer?”
To bring this point home, let me first tell you a little story I got from the book “Competing Against Luck” by Clayton M. Christensen and then dissect the above text and convert the features into benefits.
The Little Story About A Condo Project from Detroit That Couldn’t Sell Their Units
In the above book, the author mentions the example of a real estate development company from the Detroit area that needed to close sales quickly.
They offered condos priced between $120,000 and $200,000 with some high-end touches to provide the feeling of luxury.
The company had calculated the cost-benefit analysis of all the details in each unit but had very little idea what made the difference between attracting a tire-kicker and a serious buyer.
They had poor sales and made all kind of assumptions for this, such as underperforming salespeople, bad weather, the recession, holiday slowdowns, competitors and the condos’ location.
They wondered what else they could add to the condos to make them appeal to buyers. Unfortunately, nothing was working.
They still thought in terms of features.
They hired a consultant by the name of Bob Moesta.
He focuses more on benefits and asked the question, what is the actual job the condominium was hired to do for people who had already bought a unit?
The book makes it clear that very often, what we think a product or service helps the client with is something completely different of what you initially assumed it would be.
So Moesta carried out some interviews with people who had already bought there.
He found out that there wasn’t a definitive set of features in the new home that buyers had valued so much that it tipped their decision.
Surprisingly, these features actually provided an obstacle: it was overwhelming to them to have to pick every single detail of a new home.
But that was not the biggest surprise.
The biggest surprise was that conversations revealed that buyers didn’t want to let go of their former dining room tables, which all had a story to tell.
This was because most of the buyers had to downsize and came from larger properties, so they had to decide what to get rid of to move into the new unit.
And very often, these were things that had profound meaning, such as the dining table not fitting in the new condo.
Moesta first thought they were in the business of new home construction, but he realized that the developer was instead in the business of moving lives.
Thanks to this revelation, several changes in the offer were made, such as more space in the units for a classic dining room table and reducing the space in the second bedroom by 20 percent.
Moreover, they reduced the buyers’ anxiety about the move by offering moving services, two years of storage, and sorting room space.
The latter made it possible for the new owners to take their time making decisions about what to keep and what to discard.
By signaling to their target buyers that they understood their real problem, the company grew their business by 25 percent.
That was in 2007, when sales in the industry were down by 49 percent and the market all around them was plummeting.
So, maybe you can see now what I wanted to tell you with this story about features and benefits.
The benefit is actually the part where you ask yourself, “what is actually in it for the customer?”
“What problem or pain are you solving with your product or service?” or, “What job are you actually being hired to do for the customer?”
So now, let’s dissect the listing description example from above.
I don’t know much about the property in question because it was only a text excerpt.
But from the content, we can assume it’s a property in the luxury segment.
We don’t know much about the target group either, which is important to find out to learn the pain points, needs and greeds that can help us find the real benefits and the marketing angle.
So, as you can already assume, researching and maybe interviewing your past buyers or potential buyers is quite important to find out the real job your product or service has to do.
Therefore, let’s assume the target group consists of wealthy individuals who are looking for their third week-end house.
Their needs are, of course, on another level than those buyers who had to downsize in Detroit.
These could be their needs and greeds and the actual job the property needs to do for them:
- Providing social approval and helping them keep up with the Joneses by making them look good in front of their wealthy friends
- To make them feel superior and like winners
- Providing a very exclusive and private location, so they are able to retreat and not be reached very easily, so they can fully re-charge from their busy lives
- Providing above average comfortable living conditions
With that in mind, let’s get back to the text.
“Inspired by the glorious chateaus of France, Chateau Ami is a sophisticated and luxurious retreat that reflects that magical merging of inspiration and architecture.”
“Chateau Ami will be your own sophisticated and luxurious retreat, providing you with everything you need to fully re-charge on an extended weekend.
Because its architecture is inspired by the glorious chateaus of France, your friends will think they are visiting a castle when you invite them over to dinner.”
“Created by renowned architect Randall Stofft and Cudmore Builders, the estate is a masterpiece of design and craftsmanship featuring inlayed onyx, hand-planed hickory wood flooring, intricately hand-painted ceilings, hand-carved fireplace by Barbara Tattersfield, exquisite crystal chandeliers, plus an elevator to transport from floor to floor.”
“Will you have comfort from all angles? Absolutely.
The estate is a masterpiece of design and craftsmanship featuring:
- inlaid onyx
- hand-planed hickory wood flooring
- intricately hand-painted ceilings
- a hand carved fireplace by Barbara Tattersfield
- exquisite crystal chandeliers
- an elevator to transport you from floor to floor.
If you mention the architect’s names in a conversation, you will be met with open ears almost all the time. Why?
Because it’s the well-known Randall Stofft and Cudmore Builders.”
“Sprawling entertaining spaces flow outside to the outdoor living room past the tennis courts and guest house, to the stunning infinity pool and tranquil lake beyond.”
“You will have difficulty avoiding feeling on top of the world when you see the sprawling entertaining space outside to the outdoor living room past the tennis courts and guest house, to the stunning infinity pool and tranquil lake for the first time.”
“On 2.5 acres of premier lakefront acreage, this French Chateau is the crème de la crème in prestigious Stone Creek Ranch.”
“2.5 acres of premier lakefront acreage will give you privacy and exclusivity, making this crème de la crème French Chateau in prestigious Stone Creek Ranch the perfect place to retreat to on weekends.”
Why You Want To Combine Pictures With Text In Your Listing Descriptions
In the section above, I made the case for good listing descriptions and how often the classic copywriting error of confusing features with benefits occurs in the real estate world.
This might have given the impression that the real estate or listing description is the most important element in influencing visitors to become customers.
But that’s not entirely the case.
It’s pictures, but not just pictures. It’s pictures combined with benefits rich text to create listing descriptions that sell.
First, let me give you some interesting facts and inspiring quotes that make the case for visuals or pictures.
The human brain processes visuals 60,000 times faster than text, so you can estimate that about 10 percent of the work is done by the copy and 90 percent by images.
And according to Hubspot, 46 percent of marketers sat photography is critical to their current marketing and storytelling strategies.
Besides getting attention, pictures also develop an emotional connection with your website visitor.
According to Psychology Today, consumers mainly use emotions (personal feelings and experiences) rather than information (features, facts and brand attributes) when evaluating brands.
Since pictures are processed 60,000 times faster than text, the emotional connection with an image is much more instantaneous. The same can be done with text, but it takes much longer.
And according to MIT neuroscience research, “the brain can identify images seen for as little as 13 milliseconds.”
So can you just neglect your listing descriptions and focus on pictures?
I wouldn’t recommend it.
Neglecting listing descriptions and having good pictures is like having a Lamborghini in the garage but forgetting to put gas in it.
It still looks nice in the garage, and makes for nice Instagram stories and business guru videos, but what’s a Lamborghini good for if you can’t brag a bit with it by driving around the block?
So, this means that a great description fuels your media (videos, pictures).
And what happens when you have bad pictures and a great description or copy?
This is worse than the Lamborghini situation above.
Because, since the persuasion power of the description is about 10 percent, it could be the best description in the world, but if a visitor thinks that your property looks terrible, no copy in the world can move the needle and convince your potential customer otherwise.
Since we now know how important pictures are (roughly 90 percent), couldn’t we combine text and pictures?
If you do it the right way, the effect of pictures might be multiplied.
Even famous copywriters have applied this technique, so it’s actually nothing new.
Let’s take a look:
“Don’t run pictures without putting captions under them. Put a brief selling message or human interest message under every illustration you use.” – John Caples
“More people read the captions under illustrations than read the body copy, so never use an illustration without putting a caption under it.” -David Ogilvy
So what is the right way to do that?
Again, always use benefits and never features alone.
If you want to use features, always combine them with benefits. Contrary to features, benefits can be used alone.
How to Use the Text on Pictures Strategically and Why This Can Even Involve Drones
Can you use pictures in a strategic way?
You can when you frame them into a story, ideally consisting of benefits.
The average property listing pictures are usually not structured and are often out of order.
You may see a picture of a living room, then a random bedroom picture, and then a picture of the garden. So there isn’t much flow, which doesn’t show a story.
But during a property showing, you don’t beam yourself and your potential buyers from the basement to the bedroom, then to the entrance and back to the garden.
In order to improve the flow, you need knowledge about the benefits or the specific needs of your target clients and thus the overall marketing angle.
By knowing that, you can align the story or marketing angle with the benefits and/or needs.
So, should you are an investor doing fix and flips or want to partner in a deal, the need would be that the other investor wants to fix up and flip the property for a profit.
This means that the story or angle would have to be customized to the specific benefits the property can provide to your partner investor:
- it’s a bargain price
- easily repairable issues
- a “hot” neighborhood for sellers.
In this case, the story would show, for example, the following pictures:
- A picture with the front view and text on the picture emphasising the bargain price
- Several pictures with the easily repairable issues, displaying the issues and explaining them briefly in the text on the picture
- Pictures from houses from the neighborhood with text such as, “This one was just sold for $300,000”
In case of a buy and hold property for rental income, the story or marketing angle would have to change to different benefits:
- Other lucrative rental properties in the area
- A neighborhood with potential because of a new Wellness Center and Whole Foods opening up soon
In this case, the story would show, for example, the following pictures:
- Pictures of different houses from the neighborhood showing the rental prices in the picture text
- Pictures of the Wellness Center and Whole Foods facility, explaining in the text how close the property is to them (e.g. “Whole Foods just five minutes away”)
Can You Get Into Trouble With Property Listing Platforms?
Absolutely, when you use them to promote yourself and put, for example, your email address or phone number on the pictures.
Each real estate platform has rules on what images can be uploaded, and they are all very similar.
You can use text on pictures, but no branding, advertising or contact information.
Tools You Can Use to Add Text to Your Property Pictures
Which tools can you use to create pictures with text?
In this article, I already got into this topic, while covering ad creatives for Facebook real estate campaigns.
But here is a short list of design tools you can use:
- Design Wizzard: Think Canva, Promo and Shutterstock all in one, an easy-to-use image editor + premium template library, an easy-to-use video editor + premium template library, a free video and image stock website – completely copyright free
Up Your Picture Game with Drones
If you want to up you picture game, you might even want to use drone photography.
I checked some stats for that, and I can already say that it should be approached depending on your target group and your goals.
In several articles, such as this one, statistics from the MLS reported by Real Estate Magazine are cited showing that properties with accompanying aerial images are 68 percent more likely to sell than properties without aerial photography.
I did some further research on that, but unfortunately never found this statistic on the MLS or on the Real Estate Magazine.
So, it should be taken into consideration with a little caveat.
What isn’t said either is which type of properties sell better with drone pictures.
But from logic and what’s already been stated in this article, we can deduce that it is likely true that the use of drone pictures helps to put even more emphasis on the benefits and overall marketing angle or story for your target customers.
I doubt that it will help to move the needle much for a flipper property on a 0.1 acre lot and I tend to believe that it could provide you with its full marketing potential when you’re dealing with a huge property with several acres and a large luxury house sitting on it.
Another selling point of drone photography is less the effect it might have on improved sales, but the commission contract with a seller.
Because, according to this article and a citation of the National Association of Realtors, 73 percent of homeowners say they are more likely to list with an agent who uses drone photography and video.
So, drone photography and video might increase your chances as a realtor to list a house, but the opinion of a homeowner about what efficient marketing is does not necessarily mean that the market thinks the same.
You will have to decide according to your knowledge of your target customers.
The Top 5 Drones for Real Estate Photography
Should you decide to give drone photography and video a try, I have a short list of the top six drones suitable for real estate photography:
UPair One Drone
- Smart battery with a capacity of 5400 mAh for up to 18 minutes of flight time
- U-shape design enabling more stable shooting and better GPS signal accessibility
- A 7-inch LED super large screen remote control
- Special PVC composite materials
- Price: $259
You can check it out here.
Yuneec Breeze Drone
- 13MP stills capability
- Records UHD 4k video
- Can stream 720p HD video to your mobile device
- Five automated flight modes to capture unique shots
- Selfie and Orbit modes for dramatic aerial group photos and video
- Follow Me mode to grab compelling aerial footage (suitable for action sports adventures)
- Position Breeze for beautiful aerial selfies
- Weighs less than one pound
- High portability due to foldable propellers including a carrying case
- Optical flow and infrared positioning sensors enabling it to hold its position while minimizing drift both indoors and outdoors
You can check it out here
Autel Robotics XSTAR Drone
- 4K (Ultra HD) video camera (4K30, 2.7K60, 1080p120, 720p240) with 12-MP still images
- Wi-Fi HD Live View (720p streaming up to 0.6 miles away) and autonomous flight modes including waypoints via the free Starlink app for IOS or Android, follow and orbit
Dual GPS/GLONASS outdoor navigation
- Secure Fly magnetic interference protection, and the Starpoint Positioning System for precise flying where GPS signals are unavailable
- Remote control with LCD display for flight information and one-touch action buttons for starting the motors, takeoff, hover, going home and landing
- Included: 16-GB MicroSD card that can record approximately 30 minutes of 4k video, battery for up to 25 minutes of flying time per charge, one-hour fast charger, spare propellers
You can check it out here
Yuneec Q500+ Typhoon Drone
- 16 Megapixel Full HD 1080p 60 FPS camera with a redesigned lens for lower image distortion
- “Follow me” feature to follow the pilot by adjusting its location to the transmitter
- Flight times of up to 25 minutes thanks to its intelligent 5, 200-mAh battery (2 included)
- Real-time feed from the Q500+’s camera displayed on the 5.5’’ touchscreen of the ST10+ Personal Ground Station (transmitter) giving you access to the view of what the camera sees
You can check it out here
DJI Phantom 3 Drone
- Lightbridge digital steaming provides live viewing of 720p video
- Stable flights indoors due to a vision positioning system
- Includes flight battery and rechargeable remote controller
- DJI pilot app for iOS and Android for live viewing and complete camera control
You can check it out here
Many confuse features with benefits in their listing descriptions and what really moves the needle on your conversions is using benefits.
To have a good understanding of the benefits, you need knowledge of the pains, needs and greeds of your target customers, so you know the real job your property must do.
By knowing that, you can create better real estate listing descriptions that convert.
Ideally, you also have great pictures with which you add benefits to the rich text and then structure the picture sequence with the help of the overall story relevant to your target audience or potential target customer.
And depending on your market and potential customers, you might get an additional edge when using drone photography.