Even if you have an amazing home in an amazing location, you still need to capture people’s attention and make your place stand out. A great listing. . .
- Has a lively headline that captures people’s attention when they are browsing
- Uses clear, concise, vivid language to accurately describe what your home has to offer and lets people imagine themselves living there
- Includes clear photos that show off your home at its best
Write a Great Headline
When you read a newspaper (print or online), you probably scan the headlines for stories that interest you before diving down into the details. It’s the same when browsing home listings. A good headline quickly conveys key information such as the type, size, location, and availability of a home so people can quickly spot listings that interest them. The words in your headline may also determine how quickly a listing comes up in a search.
Not so good: House for short-term rent.
Better: Spacious, well furnished 2-bedroom home with stunning view available May-June.
Not so good: Condo for lakeside exchange.
Better: Newly renovated 1-bedroom condo on lively city street to exchange with lakeside cottage.
Not so good: Large home near beach for rent in July.
Better: Family-friendly 4-bedroom home 3 blocks from beach available July 2 – 15 (dates flexible).
Tips for Writing a Great Headline
- Start by listing key words. Ask yourself, “What would catch the eye of people who would be a good fit for my home?” Jot down every word or phrase that occurs to you – just keep writing until you’ve run out of words. You’ll edit the list later. Look for words that quickly describe …
The type of home (“single-family home,” “garden apartment,” “cabin”)
The type of area (“city center,” “beach,” “farmland”)
The feel of the home (“family-friendly,” “luxurious,” “modern”)
Landmarks, tourist attractions, or events (“Muir Woods,” “Bach Festival,” “MacWorld”)
A sense of the neighborhood (“lively,” “secluded,” “historic”)
What’s special about the home (“panoramic view,” “newly renovated,” “hot tub”)
What’s special about the location (“gallery district,” “lakeside,” “walk to town”)
- Edit the list. Cross out words that seem vague and circle those that are most likely to grab your target audience’s attention. Add any others that occur to you.
- Draft a few headlines. Play with the words until you come up with some headlines that seem right. Try them out on family or friends.
- Edit the headline. You’ll have a limited number of characters to work with. Make sure that every single word is specific, clear, and needs to be there.
Write a Great Description
The narrative description expands on the promise set by the headline, provides more details, and gives people a sense of what it might be like to stay in the home. A clear, complete, informative description can make the difference between hitting the “contact me” or “book it now” button, or going on to the next listing.
Take a few minutes to read some of the listings for homes like yours on the exchange or rental sites you’ll be using. Which ones make the home sound attractive? Which ones have enough detail to answer your important questions? Which ones offer a sense of what it might be like to live there?
Tips for Writing a Great Description
- Take your potential guest’s point of view. A common mistake owners make is to describe the home from their own point of view, instead of focusing on what interests potential guests. Travelers want a temporary place to stay, not a permanent home, so not everything you love about your home will matter to them – the huge walk-in closets you love mean little to people who have only enough clothes for a week-long stay.
- Be truthful. Your description creates expectations in people’s minds, and it should closely match what they will find in your home. If yours is a studio apartment with the bed tucked into a windowless alcove, don’t call it a 1-bedroom. If it’s a 7th-floor walkup or the “kitchen” is a corner with a microwave and miniature fridge, say so. If the “sea view” can be seen only by craning your neck out the window at just the right angle, it’s better not to mention it. There’s no need to emphasize your home’s less desirable features, but fudging the truth or omitting important details may result in disappointed and even angry guests. If you post on a site that permanently adds feedback to your profile this could destroy your hopes of landing future tenants.
- Use adjectives with care. Descriptive words such as “cozy,” “spacious,” “elegant,” and “comfortable” can quickly convey the feel of your home. But what a Londoner and or a New Yorker might consider a “spacious” apartment can seem little more than a closet to a traveler from Colorado. One person’s idea of “beautiful” or “elegant” might seem gaudy or overdone to someone else. Also keep in mind that too many adjectives, capitalized words, and exclamation points will weaken instead of strengthen your description. Instead, use specific language that quickly and vividly describes the features of your home.
- “Talk” to your readers. Great descriptions speak directly to readers. Use active language to help people visualize the home and the neighborhood. Tell them what you like about living there and why they’ll find it the perfect place to stay.
Not so good: “Our home has been found by most guests to be a wonderful place to stay.”
Better: “Like our previous guests, you’ll enjoy breakfast on the patio overlooking the garden….”
Not so good: “One can walk easily from this house to just about everything.”
Better: “You can walk to the best bakery in town, the twice-weekly farmer’s market, and shops that feature local crafts.
- Be concise. The best descriptions convey useful information in the fewest possible words. Avoid the common tendency to ramble, write wordy sentences, or include unnecessary details.
Not so good: “Three years ago we retired and moved into the city from the suburbs because our children were grown, with children of their own, and we wanted a more urban lifestyle. After looking around for nearly a year, we bought this delightful loft apartment with two bedrooms and two baths which is in one of the liveliest areas of the city but on a quiet street and still right in the middle of everything, with restaurants and cafes, and lots of places to shop….”
Better: “We love our delightful, comfy 2-bedroom, 2-bath loft apartment in a lively neighborhood in one of Atlanta’s best areas. We’re on a quiet street, yet steps away from cafes, restaurants, and shopping….”
- Use ordinary language. Unusual words, jargon, and slang can obfuscate your message, plain English communicates clearly and quickly, even to people who do not speak English as their primary language.
Not so good: “This is some rad condo ….” “You’ll flip out when you see….”
Better: “Our huge windows overlook the river….” “You’ll love our fieldstone fireplace….”
- Mention important details. Do you have an unfenced pool? A deck with wide railings that toddlers could fall through? Lots of very steep stairs? A pet that could trigger allergies? Save everyone a lot of time by including that information.
- Keep it legal. It’s fine to consider the kind of people you want staying in your house – mature, responsible, and reliable, for example. But be very careful not to discriminate against any protected groups, especially if you are renting: (Section 3604(c) of the Federal Fair Housing Act)
Race or Color
Familial Status (such as people with children)
Handicap / Disability (such as people who are blind or in a wheelchair)
Your state and local laws may extend anti-discrimination protections to other categories, such as age, marital status, sexual orientation, or source of income. You may also be prohibited from refusing to rent to people with children.
Although fair housing laws may exempt your home for various reasons, it’s simply good practice not to discriminate in your advertising and choice of guests, whether you are renting or exchanging. Instead of saying, “Not suitable for children (or disabled people),” mention the possible problem – “Our pool is unfenced”; “there are 9 steep stairs from the living area to the bedrooms”- and let people decide for themselves.
What’s Next: How to take great photos