Help! How can I write good real estate ads that will work for my new business?

real estate ads,property,advertising,writing,estate agents,Suzan St Maur,, How To Write Better

Dear HTWB Agony Columns

I run an independent estate agency in the UK (North Americans would call it a real estate brokerage, I think?) and much as I’m no writer, I’m appalled at the awful way British property sales people write their ad copy which is full of grammatical and other mistakes. [Read more…]

How to use classified ads to sell your stuff – emotively

Despite our ever-increasing dependence on the internet, classified ads in newspapers are still a popular place for buying and selling anything from garden manure to entire homes. And even online, the style of classified ad text that works in print can be transposed very effectively to eBay, its clones and numerous other sales sites.

So how can we make our product – whatever it is – stand out from the crowd? Here are some emotive thoughts you might find helpful.

I know, I have castigated British estate agents (real estate brokers) before about their terrible ad copy and this article isn’t going to make things any better. Sorry guys, but most of you just don’t get it.

As you know, property ads are probably amongst the most badly written examples of advertising copy in the world, and therefore – once again – are the best example we can choose to illustrate a more effective way of writing words that actually sell.

Most estate agents / real estate brokers write their own descriptive copy and in North America at least, it does tend to be accurate without the awful grammatical goofs you see in British ad text (oh, yes, that old “comprises of” banana skin again…)

However, in the interests of cramming as many properties into the allocated space as possible whether in a printed publication or online, even the North American real estate wallahs tend to suffer from a bad case of abbreviationitis and choke descriptive sections of their ad copy to within an inch of their lives.

So how do we get around these issues?

For starters, if you are a private individual rather than a business, you are not restricted to cramming an entire house’s inventory into 50 words, or a car’s vital statistics into a couple of lines. Provided you are willing to pay for the space you’re free to use some creativity, provided, of course, that your factual information is accurate.

And although the space involved will cost you whether online or offline, the benefits it affords you are probably worth it. Anyway, you’re only selling your own item – not those of umpty-dump others. So let’s get a bit creative…

A real-life example of how that works

A while back a friend of mine wanted to sell his old cottage in a lovely location some 30 miles outside London, England, and because a) he wanted to sell it direct and b) he trusted me to write his sales copy for him, he booked an ad in the key quality UK Sunday newspaper. Here’s how an estate (real estate) agent had suggested writing the text…

“Three bedroomed Georgian cottage located at XXX Green. Accommodation comprised of two reception rooms, modern bathroom, fitted kitchen. Oil-fired central heating. Covered car parking. Established garden. London 30 miles. £XXX,000 freehold.”

Boring! And about as emotive as a dead fish.

Anyway, although that ad copy tells you all the necessary features, (as well as including the inevitable “comprised of” banana skin) it doesn’t give you a hint – not even one word – that suggests the character of the place. If it were an old three-bedroomed house in a row with 50 others that look identical, there wouldn’t be much personality to pull out of it. But in this case, the cottage was unique.

Here’s what I wrote (and it was all true)…

“An original rose-covered cottage overlooking XXX Green where (well-known Victorian novelist) lived, just 30 miles from London via the (XX) motorway. Warm, rich Georgian brickwork encloses exposed oak beams … sitting and dining rooms … three bedrooms … bathroom … big, country kitchen … carport. Large cottage garden with roses, orchard and lawns. Oil-fired central heating plus two open fireplaces. Offers over £XXX,000 – phone 01234 567 890.”

Ah, you can see yourself there now, can’t you? Curled up by a crackling fireplace with a cup of cocoa and a muddy, smelly spaniel at your feet?

And the phone never stopped ringing all day. By dinner time on the Sunday more than a dozen house hunters had viewed the cottage; the owner had had four offers all well over the asking price and had accepted the best one.

The moral of this story is that although a classified ad needs to be factual i.e. full of boring features, you can throw in the odd benefit even if the space is very limited. An emotive adjective here and there will do, and won’t interfere with the ad’s accuracy – especially important because in some cases the ad copy can be considered as part of the legal specification.

You CAN think benefits into property and other classified ads

Let’s take another example, this time for a used car:

VW GOLF 1.9 GLS FOR SALE:  20XX, 80,000 miles. Red. Bodywork in need of some attention. Engine and other mechanics in good running order. Five new tyres. Offers over £XXXX.”

GOOD HOME WANTED FOR LOVABLE BRIGHT RED VW GOLF 1.9 GLS:  20XX, old family friend for 80,000 miles sadly must be sold. Bodywork needs some attention, but she runs really well and all tyres are new. Offers over £XXXX.

Which car would intrigue you more?

How to sell more of your stuff – and you, too:

“Super Speeches”…how to write and deliver them well

“How To Write About Yourself”…how to make the most of yourself, whatever you need to write

“Business Writing Made Easy”…everything you need to know about writing for business in English