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 true, so you don’t have to feel bad about the 10 percent conversion rate, which, by the way, would be awesome.
Now, you may wonder how to write a listing description that pops for those who don’t yet get 10 percent or more.
You want to focus on benefits instead of features. This requires knowledge about your target customers’ pains, needs, and greed.
Include also pictures that stress these benefits and help to tell a story.
Most of what I read on improving listing descriptions for better conversions gives good tips. Still, it misses two essential things my article will cover.
One is confusing features with benefits, and the other is pictures.
I have seen many different real estate websites and read many listing descriptions.
What did I find?
Some real estate professionals think the listing description is just the space you use to enter the basic information about a particular property.
Therefore, they keep the listing 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 texts in 2020 anyway?!
And for the picture or video part, they are partially correct.
Look at the following statistic I found on this website:
Listings with high-res photos sell about or just above the list price around 44 percent of the time.
Furthermore, those properties will sell 64 percent of the time within six months.
And house listings where aerial photographs were made sell 68 percent faster than properties with standard images.
Then others 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, then…crickets.
Imagine you or your team getting all the necessary information on a property.
You spend hours before the screen, writing descriptions until your fingers hurt.
You add pictures and videos to your website (the videos will probably need to be edited too).
Then you get only a meager conversion rate or no conversions at all.
What’s considered a reasonable conversion rate for the real estate industry?
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)
Benefits vs. Features in Your Listing Description
This might be an old hat for you. Still, it’s worth repeating.
Because I have seen it so many times on different real estate websites, in ads, and even in some 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?”
Let me bring this point home.
Before I bring this point home, I want to tell you a little story from the book “Competing Against Luck” by Clayton M. Christensen.
Then I dissect the above text and convert the features into benefits.
Listing Description Case Study: 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 calculated the cost-benefit analysis of all the details in each unit.
Unfortunately, they had little idea what made the difference between attracting a tire-kicker and a serious buyer.
They had poor sales and made all kinds of assumptions, such as underperforming salespeople, lousy 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 focused more on benefits and asked the question, what is the job the condominium was hired to do for people who had already bought a unit?
The book clarifies that we often think a product or service helps the client with something completely different from what we initially assumed it would be.
So Moesta carried out some interviews with people who had already bought there.
He discovered 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 provided an obstacle: it was overwhelming to them to pick every detail of a new home.
But that was not the biggest surprise.
The biggest surprise was that conversations revealed buyers didn’t want to let go of their former dining room tables, which all had a story to tell.
This was because most 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 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. Still, 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, they grew their business by 25 percent.
That was in 2007. At that time, sales in the industry were down by 49 percent, and the market plummeted.
So, maybe you can see now what I wanted to tell you with this story about features and benefits.
The benefit is the part where you ask yourself, “what is in it for the customer?”
“What problem or pain are you solving with your product or service?” or “What job are you being hired to do for the customer?”
So now, let’s dissect the listing description example from above.
I know little about the property 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 vital 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.
It lets you find out the real job your product or service has to do.
Therefore, let’s assume the target group comprises wealthy individuals looking for their third-weekend 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 can retreat and not be reached very easily, so they can fully recharge 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 recharge 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. You will realize it 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. It makes this crème de la crème French Chateau in prestigious Stone Creek Ranch the perfect place to retreat to on your weekends.”
Combine Pictures With Text In Your Listing Descriptions
In the section above, I made a case for good listing descriptions and how often the classic copywriting error of confusing features with benefits occurs in real estate.
This might have given the impression that the real estate or listing description is the most crucial element in influencing visitors to become customers.
But that’s not entirely the case.
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 a 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 copy and 90 percent by images.
And according to Hubspot, 46 percent of marketers say 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.”
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, 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 the persuasion power of the description is about 10 percent, it could be the best description in the world.
Still, suppose a visitor thinks that your property looks terrible.
In that case, 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 correctly, the effect of pictures might be multiplied.
Even famous copywriters have applied this technique, so it’s 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
Can you strategically use pictures?
You can 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 living room picture, a random bedroom picture, and a garden picture.
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.
To improve the flow, you need knowledge about the benefits or the specific needs of your target clients and, thus, the overall marketing angle.
When you know that you can align the story or marketing angle with the benefits and/or needs.
So, should you be 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 emphasizing the bargain price
- Several pictures with easily repairable issues, displaying the problems and explaining them briefly in the text on the picture
- Pictures from neighborhood houses with text such as, “This one was just sold for $300,000.”
In the 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 the text on pictures to promote yourself. This is the case when you put, for example, your email address or phone number on the pictures.
Each real estate platform has rules on what images can be uploaded, which are very similar.
You can use text on pictures without branding, advertising, or contact information.
Up Your Picture Game for Your Listing Description with Drones
You might even use drone photography to up your picture game for your listing descriptions.
I checked some stats for that, and I can already say that it should be approached depending on your goals and target group.
In several articles, such as this one, statistics from the MLS reported by Real Estate Magazine show that properties with accompanying aerial images are 68 percent more likely to sell than properties without aerial photography.
I did further research on that, but unfortunately, I never found this statistic on the MLS or 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.
From what’s already been stated in this article, we can reason the following.
The use of drone pictures helps to emphasize the benefits and overall marketing angle or story for your target customers.
I doubt it will help you move the needle for a flipper property on a 0.1-acre lot.
I believe that it could provide you with its full marketing potential.
If 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 its effect 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 means does not necessarily mean that the market thinks the same.
You will have to decide according to your knowledge of your target customers.
Many confuse features with benefits in their listing descriptions.
What moves the needle on your conversions is using benefits.
To understand the benefits well, you need knowledge of your target customers’ pains, wants, and needs to know the real job your property must do.
You can create better real estate listing descriptions that convert by knowing that.
Ideally, you also have great pictures.
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 extra edge when using drone photography.
This article has been reviewed by our editorial team. It has been approved for publication in accordance with our editorial policy.
- Real Estate Leads Pay at Closing vs. Relocation Deals - October 7, 2023
- Pay at Closing Real Estate Leads vs. Upfront Payments - October 6, 2023
- Real Estate Leads Pay at Closing vs. Partnerships - October 5, 2023