A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words…Right?

Not necessarily. In real estate, the quality of your text makes the difference between a potential buyer merely skimming past your listing and having that buyer make first contact with you.

A picture is the “grabber” – it captures immediate attention and entices your target audience to read. But, the description is the “cincher” — it compels your audience to call you, e-mail you or visit your website. And, once you establish contact, you begin the real work of making the sale.

Words add depth and character predisposing buyers toward or against a property they have just discovered. Image and “feel” are particularly important. You must paint a picture, one so personalized they can see themselves stepping into it. The property should be described in terms that make it not merely a house, but a place they want to call home.

The language and perspective of a description should be personal, using terms like “you” and “your.” Utilize your knowledge of the target market to appeal to those individuals specifically. Beware of limiting yourself by appealing to your audience on the basis of their current lifestyle. When considering a new home, people expect a change of locale to help them more closely approximate their “dream” lifestyle. It’s your job to describe their “dream” home.

Tailor your descriptions. When courting the luxury homebuyer, avoid highlighting economical features. Instead, use your text to emphasize features that add visual impact, describe exceptional interiors and highlight extras that lead them to consider this property uniquely “them.”

The $500K+ homebuyer is probably well educated, well read, and older — possibly all three. This audience typically depends on text more as a conveyor of information than younger or less educated buyers. The descriptions for this audience should be a bit longer and more detailed.

As an example, let’s take this description from a Tech Valley Homes offering (www.techvalleyhomes.com) in Abany, New York and revamp the description to be more appealing to the target audience for this $509,900.00 home:

Fall in love with this wonderful & charming colonial with approx. 214’ lake frontage all sitting on 10 acres. The house and 1.88 ac is available for $354,900.

Type: Colonial
Bedroms: 4
Bathrooms:2 full
Realtor: Susan Lynne Sommers

This agent offers a PDF fact sheet download, and a virtual tour utilizing the 360° wrap around camera technology, both of which are fantastic extras and will help generate interest. But, she could still “pump up” the appeal of this property with a more intimate snapshot of the property through an expanded and more compelling description:

Ten acres with trees and well-established landscaping surround this impressive home to provide the privacy you seek. Edging Ballston Lake, this home offers over 200’ of lake frontage with an enclosed back porch and deck offering a fantastic view of the water.


This expansive four bedroom, two bath colonial boasts two fireplaces: one in the living room and second one, of natural cobblestone, in the family room. Two full baths and details such as: hardwood floors, knotty pine walls and ceiling in the living room, crown molding in the den and family rooms, a large bay and expansive windows throughout, add to the allure of this luxury home. The well-appointed kitchen has large windows for natural light and solid cherry cabinets to add warmth, while Corian™ tops the surfaces and breakfast bar with style.

The possibilities for this property are endless. The full basement offers additional room for expansion, the two-car garage could be converted back into a cottage, and the storage area on the second floor could be used as an office. The patio offers yet another option for gracious outdoor entertaining. Call Susan L. Sommers at 518-435-9944 for more information or to schedule your private viewing.

On the other hand, to appeal to buyers seeking a starter home, concentrate more on the charm of the home AND outline features that will save money. Make home ownership more appealing than renting.

Statistical information about a home sketches it in black and white for your audience. For example:

Beautiful 3 br, 1.5 bath starter home on dead end street offers triple pane windows and hard wood floors. Large eat-in kitchen, formal dining room, and great room with fireplace. A must see!

Appeal to this buyer group by emphasizing the emotional aspects of home ownership and enliven your text with descriptive particulars with full color, inviting details:

This spacious home offers the perfect environment for your family to grow and prosper. The large country kitchen encourages gathering in the heart of this inviting home, while the adjacent formal dining room means you can host the holiday meal and let the rest of the family do the driving this year. With three bedrooms, a large bath upstairs and a half bath downstairs, there is plenty of space for each family member to enjoy their privacy. Plush, thickly padded carpeting upstairs adds warmth and sound insulation where you need it, while the downstairs floors offer the beauty and ease of natural hardwood.


This home makes life easy. It’s built with the economical advantages and security of triple pane windows and offers maintenance-free vinyl siding and trim to permit to spend less time maintaining your home and more time enjoying it. The vaulted ceiling and gas fireplace in the 20×20 great room makes entertaining a joy and weekends at home a pleasurable retreat. The home is built in a charming neighborhood and is surrounded with a generous lot at the end of a lushly landscaped court to ensure quiet, peaceful surroundings. Call Jenny at 867-5309 to see this home for yourself.

Notice the psychology of key words and descriptions that appeal to most first-time homebuyers. A “spacious” place for their family to “grow and prosper,” appeals to the renter who is tired of not having enough physical space, the word “grow’ will appeal on a more personal level to couples planning to start a family soon without insulting those who don’t have such plans, while the word “prosper” gently appeals to their financial dreams.

The description offers an opportunity to move into the host role during the holidays, this “rite of passage” is usually reserved for established family members. Buyers in this phase of life are often overwhelmed with the details of life, career and/or raising a family. Their time is at a premium. This description tells them that the house “makes life easy” and promises more time to enjoy life. Hassle-free entertaining is highlighted to remind the buyers they no longer want to worry about what the upstairs/downstairs/next door neighbor will say if they have a few friends over.

Highlighting the size and use of the kitchen will be of interest to apartment dwellers since those rental kitchen areas are often small and inconvenient. Having lived in an apartment situation, the insulation between floors will be most important to the potential buyer with children, as will the expanded description of the neighborhood.

Property descriptions should be sensitive to the difference in the connotative and denotative meanings of words as they relate to the desired audience. Use words that “sell” to describe your listing, and avoid negative words. For instance, the term “dead end” should never be used. It is a negative concept used to describe a positive geographic attribute.

Always use the word “children” rather than “kids” or other terminology to describe the younger members of the family. Many people are insulted if you call their offspring “kids.”

Don’t assume anything about the composition of the family in the description. For instance don’t use “him and her” references. Don’t assume that a family includes two adults or that two adults in a family will be of opposing gender. Don’t permit your description to limit your market for the sale.

Your description should enliven a photo with particulars that appeal to the ideal– the dream — of your reader. Quality photos and compelling descriptions determine the first impression a potential buyer will have of the property you have listed. Make it the best!

© Copyright 2003 by Angela Allen Parker of Wicked Wordcraft

This article first appeared in the “Word Magic” column at www.epowernews.com in February 2003.