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All About Real Estate Listings: What You Need To Know

Hanna Kielar May 8, 2023

Just like you don’t get a second chance at a first impression, it’s hard to draw in a potential buyer after you’ve botched your real estate listing.

The listing is often the first point of contact buyers will have with your property, so you want to make sure you get it right and put forth a professional-looking profile of your home.

66192659 - mature couple standing outside house looking at property details

How can for sale by owner (FSBO) sellers achieve that same level of professionalism that sellers working with an agent get? No sweat; we’ll teach you everything you need to know.

Basic Listing Description Structure

Every good real estate listing has the same essential components: basic house data (price, address, square footage, number of bedrooms and bathrooms, etc.), photos and a listing description.

While the description may be the most daunting part of creating your listing if you’re not particularly creatively inclined, you don’t need to be a wordsmith to write a description that attracts buyers to your property.

Typically, real estate listing descriptions are written in short, simple, easy-to-digest sentence fragments using plenty of descriptive language to play up the house’s strengths and highlight its best features.

You want to list all the things that are great about your home, starting with the standout, catchiest feature. If your home is close to lots of stores and other amenities, start off your description by mentioning its “convenient location.” If you’ve recently done several big renovations, mention that the home has been “recently updated” – just be sure to include what updates have been done, such as “all new appliances” or “brand new hardwood floors.”

Think about what your favorite parts of your house are, and play around with different ways to describe them. You want to emphasize your home’s aesthetic appeal while also highlighting its practicality. Try things like “beautiful, spacious colonial with lush, fenced-in backyard” or “adorable bungalow with fully finished basement and updated modern interior.”

Be A Copycat

Read other listings and mirror the components you notice people using again and again. You generally don’t want to try anything new or try to be especially creative in your description; real estate listings tend to follow the same formula, and deviating from that formula can make you stand out in a bad way.

Look at listings for similar homes in your area for location-specific guidance. If all the other homes on your block boast that they’re “a 5-minute walk from the lively downtown area,” it’s likely because the agents who wrote those descriptions know that’s a popular feature for home shoppers looking in your neighborhood.

You might even try to recall what was written in the listing for your home when you first bought it. What about it were you initially drawn to?

Be Truthful, Accurate And Specific

Don’t try to dress up the less attractive aspects of your home with flowery language, as that will just come off as disingenuous to buyers when they see the house in person. If your house is fairly small, let the square footage speak for itself. Don’t try to play it up by saying it’s “cozy.”

You want to use evocative, positive adjectives in your listing, but you also want to make sure you’re only using words that honestly describe your home. Otherwise, buyers will feel duped when they arrive at a showing only to realize that your “luxurious, spa-like main bath” is really just an average-sized bathroom with a shower/tub combo unit.

Likewise, avoid using vague phrases that don’t actually tell buyers anything about the property. Unless you live in Buckingham Palace, don’t refer to your place as a “rare, once-in-a-lifetime home.” Instead, focus on adjectives that describe the actual features of your home.

Make Sure Your Grammar Is Good

Spelling errors or improper grammar in a listing write-up can actually decrease a potential buyer’s interest in your home, so you (literally) can’t afford to make any mistakes.

Before you post your listing, have another person (or several people) take a look at it and proofread it for you. They may catch mistakes you missed. Reading your description out loud can also help you catch any errors or confusing syntax.

Provide Lots Of Quality Photos

Your photos are arguably the most important part of your listing, so you want to put the effort into getting them just right.

You might even consider hiring a professional photographer. As a FSBO seller, you might not be too keen on the idea of spending money to have a professional do something for you – after all, that’s why you went the FSBO route in the first place – but professional-quality photos often end up paying for themselves in terms of attracting buyers. Just make sure to find someone who has experience photographing real estate.

If you’re handy with a camera and confident you can get some good pics on your own, here are some real estate photography basics to keep in mind when prepping for your photoshoot:

  • Lighting: As any photographer will tell you, good lighting is the foundation of a quality photo. To take good pictures of your home, you want as much light as possible, with an emphasis on natural light. Take your pics on a sunny day and open up your blinds and curtains to let light in. Turn on the lights and don’t be afraid to move your lamps around to make sure every part of your photo is well-lit and visible. Whatever you do, though, don’t use the built-in flash on your camera.
  • Staging: With listing photos, buyers are trying to get an idea of what the home looks like and see if they could picture themselves in it. Clutter, personal items or outright mess gets in the way of that and makes your listing seem unprofessional. Before you take your pics, do a thorough cleaning of your home. Store clutter somewhere out of sight. Put away things like shampoo bottles and take down hand-drawn pictures and schoolwork from the front of the fridge. Don’t take a picture of your kitchen with a pile of dishes in the sink. Make your space look staged, not lived-in.
  • Equipment: This is a big reason why hiring a professional may prove to be worth it. Pros already have all the equipment needed to get good pics. While smartphone cameras have gotten impressively high quality in recent years, they still don’t generally offer the control needed to get your listing photos just right. Professional real estate photographers use DSLR cameras to control the settings they use when taking photos, wide-angle lenses that allow them to capture more of a room in a single photograph than they would with a standard lens and tripods to ensure that the photos are sharp. If you’re set on taking pictures yourself, see if you can purchase or borrow these items if you don’t already have them. You may even be able to find a good wide-angle lens attachment for your smartphone camera, but make sure it doesn’t cause your photos to look weirdly distorted.
  • Camera Settings: If you’re using a DSLR camera to take your photos, you’ll want to make sure your settings are optimized for this kind of photography. There are three basic elements to photo exposure that you control with your camera: aperture, shutter speed and ISO. Aperture controls how much of your photo is in focus and is shown on your camera as an “F” with a number next to it. When you’re taking pictures of your home, you want the whole photo to be in focus, so you’ll set your aperture between F8 – F11. Shutter speed indicates the length of time the lens is open for when you take a picture. Faster shutter speeds allow for sharper photos, but let in less light, while slower speeds let in more light but are more likely to turn out blurry. If you’re using a tripod, you can choose a slower shutter speed to let more light in without having to worry about blurry photos. Start at 1/60 and experiment with faster or slower speeds to see what gives you the ideal amount of light. Finally, ISO relates to your camera sensor’s sensitivity to light. For your purposes, you want to choose the lowest setting your camera allows, since higher ISO levels make grainer photos.
  • Exterior View: The first picture on your listing should be an exterior view of your entire home. To get this pic just right, take it on a sunny day at a time when the sun isn’t directly overhead. Ideally, you want the sun to be behind you when you shoot, meaning that it’s facing and lighting up the facade of your home. Take shots from a few different angles to see what looks best. You might think that a head-on photo is the best choice, but often a photo taken from a slight angle to the left or right actually looks more attractive and better conveys the depth of the home.
  • Choosing Photos: You want to take a lot of pictures of every room in your home from several different viewpoints, so you have plenty of options. Then, it’s your job to edit your collection down to only the best. Include enough pictures so that buyers can easily get a sense of what the inside and outside of your home looks like, but not so many that it’s overwhelming to look through.

The Benefits Of For Sale By Owner

When you work with, we give you all the information you need to create a real estate listing that shines.

The Independent

With our free package, you’ll be able to create a full-page listing with an unlimited number of photos. Not only that, but we’ll help you manage and edit your listing to attract the most offers. And if you need help, we provide live support from Home Listing Coordinators who can help get you on the right track.

The Partner

Our premium package gives you the ability to create a professional-level real estate listing with the help of an experienced Home Listing Coordinator. With this package, you don’t have to stress about getting your pictures just right; we’ll set you up with a professional photographer who will help make your home stand out with 25 professional photos for your listing.

Beyond help with your listing, with our “Partner” package you’ll get state-specific legal forms, home title review and troubleshooting in select states and an easy-to-install yard sign, in addition to all the perks offered in our free package, including a full-page listing on a site that receives 7x more traffic than any other sale-by-owner site.

Get started online or call 1-888-FOR-SALE (367-7253) to learn more.