Tell It to Sell It—How to Write a Great Listing Ad

By Steve Flanagan

No one can tell the story of your home like you can. No one knows its selling points like you do. So when you sit down to write your listing ad, be passionate about what makes your home stand out, what makes it a great place to live.

Start by capturing the basics. Every home listing needs to have standard information including asking price, location, and number of bedrooms and bathrooms. Then, make a list of the top 10 reasons a potential buyer would be interested in your home. Near great schools? Include that on the list. Finished basement? Include that too.

Pay special attention to features that are known to attract buyers. Newly remodeled kitchens with updated appliances, new heating, air conditioning or plumbing systems, recent home additions and large, cozy family rooms are just some of the features that make buyers respond. Patios, decks and gardens are also important to many buyers. Speaking of green (as in gardens), if you’ve made energy efficient improvements consider those for your list. Next, rate those reasons from most to least important.

You’re almost ready to move into the writing phase, but before you write that great description take a look at ads for the featured homes on our site or other homes in your area. You’ll see that the most effective ads are short, simple and to the point. They fulfill the most important job of all: telling buyers what they want to hear.

Write It Up
The number one rule of writing a good ad is to be direct and to-the-point. Since many house hunters only skim through property listings for homes within their price range and desired location, leading with the home’s selling price will immediately attract serious buyers to your ad. In addition to the selling price this first line should include name of your neighborhood or a precise geographic description of the area of where the home is located. Include terms that will appeal to both search engines and knowledgeable neighbors: the ZIP code; a nearby well-known street or intersection; the nickname of the neighborhood; the name of the historic district, if your house is in one.

The next phase of writing your ad is describing the qualities of the house itself. That’s where you top 10 list comes in. First, mention the number of bedrooms in your house, then dive into the attributes that make your house stand out. And really focus in on features (for example, a large updated kitchen that leads into a backyard deck) rather than positive maintenance factors (new roof, newly painted bedrooms, etc.). An appraiser will acknowledge your positive maintenance record. Your listing needs to sell buyers on how terrific the home is at its heart.

Avoid Potential Deal Breakers
As you describe your home, keep in mind that you do not want to give so much information that some qualified buyers are immediately able to eliminate your home from consideration. Many times, prospective buyers will end up purchasing a property quite different from what they have in mind. Your listing ad needs to draw them in enough to take a look at what you have to offer while limiting as much as possible the number of buyers who will immediately spot a deal breaker and look elsewhere.

Here’s an example of what we mean: Have a large master bedroom suite with large closets? Include that in your listing. Most buyers would consider that an automatic positive. But if your favorite feature is cozy (tiny) sewing room left over when a staircase was added to your house, consider not including that in your ad. If you mention the truncated nature of the room some buyers will be turned off. If you leave that fact out some buyers may be disappointed when they view the room. Better to leave it out and let it appear as an extra on your home tour.

When you are finished, step away from the computer for a while, then come back and review what you wrote with a critical eye. Edit your ad in ways that you feel make it stronger, then enlist a relative, neighbor or friend to look over the ad and give you feedback. Hint: It might be especially effective to have someone who has recently bought a new home review your ad.

You’re now ready to tell the world about your home by posting your listing ad on ForSalebyOwner.com, social media sites and the Multiple Listing Service. Since many buyers are home over the weekend and freer to search for a new place than during the work week, set your listing ads to premier late in the week.