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    How to Write a Creative Real Estate Listing That Sells (Hint: Combine Images & Text)

    Real Estate Listing Writing Guide

    Real estate listings is like app store copy, only 5% to 10% of the sales work is done through the copy.

    10% of the work is done by the copy.

    90% of the work is done by the images.

    Just remember:

    If someone thinks a house is terrible, there's almost no amount of copy that will change their minds.

    So what's a copywriter to do in this situation? I mean, the images do all the heavy lifting right?


    What if we combine the copy and the images, kind of like a slideshow presentation? 


    A good friend David Shapiro let us use one of his live real estate listings for this experiment:

    David Shapiro real estate

    Look at that handsome fella!

    Here's the house we're going to try and sell:

    house pic

    David's Listing: [Link]

    Zillow Listing: [Link]

    Redfin Listing: [Link]

    It's a 3 bedroom, 2 1/2 bathroom, 2,022 sqft townhouse built in 2017 going for $337,900.

    We chose this listing because it's a pretty standard house....nothing extremely crazy or lavish about it....which makes it perfect for showing off the power of combining text + images.

    But before we slap a bunch of text on the images of the house, we've got to know the rules of the platforms we post them on:



    Rules of Real Estate Listing Platforms (No Personal Promotion Allowed):

    No personal promotion on real estate platforms

    Keep in mind every single real estate platform has rules on what images you can upload, and they are pretty much all the same: Text is allowed on photos, but ZERO advertising, branding, or contact information can be included. We checked on the big three platforms and they are all the same:


    MLS (Multiple Listing Service)

    Photos:   |  Text on Photos:   |  Branding:   |  Contact Info:

    "Digital images and photo description text shall not contain legible contact information such as names, phone numbers, email addresses or web site addresses, including the use of embedded, overlayed, or digitally stamped information." [Source]



    Photos:   |  Text on Photos:   |  Branding:   |  Contact Info:

    "No advertisements (this includes rental adds or For Sale by Owner listings). No photos that only include people. No large group photos." [Source]



    Photos:   |  Text on Photos:   |  Branding:   |  Contact Info:

    "Zillow Group restricts the inclusion of self-promoting information on listings. This includes, but is not limited to, an agent's name, company, logo, phone number, email address or branded watermarks." [Source]


    Your own website:

    Photos:   |  Text on Photos:   |  Branding:   |  Contact Info:

    On your own website you can do whatever you want!



    Let's Tell A  "Story" In Our Pictures:

    Telling a story in our real estate listing about a family

    So many real estate listing photos simply "jump around" with out of order photos. You might see a picture of a kitchen, then a random basement picture, then a picture of a backyard. It doesn't have any flow, and it sure as hell doesn't communicate a story.

    Most good real estate agents know there is a certain "flow" and "story" when showing a home in person. They size up the buyers and try to first identify WHY they are buying the house:

    Are they trying to make this their family "forever home"?

    They will customize their story to why this home is great for a growing family, has plenty of space for kids, great schools, and a family oriented community.

    Are they trying to fix up and flip this house for a profit?

    They will customize their story to how this home is a bargain price because of certain issues, and how those issues can be repaired quickly, and how "hot" this neighborhood is for sellers.

    Are they trying to make this house into a rental property?

    They will customize their story to how lucrative other rental properties are in this area, and how the neighborhood is a bit iffy right now, but there is a new Whole Foods popping up down the block, and there's a rapid influx of money into the area making this a fantastic longterm opportunity for renting.



    We're Going to Use Google Presentations to Make These Image/Text Slides:

    [See the Full Doc Here]

    All we did to improve this real estate listing was correctly order the pictures, and add "captions" to each one so it tells a linear story.

    Since we did the whole thing in Google Presentations, we can easily change around images, and even download each slide as a JPG for easy posting on other platforms.

    You can see the entire presentation laid out here:

    As you can see, a person browsing this listing is taken on more of a "Journey" through the house than simply viewing random photos.

    At the end we even show some neighborhood rental stats that show the value of this zip code going up significantly, which should appeal to many buyers rational side. Even if they are not buying this home as a rental property, it's always helpful to know your property value has the potential to go up.


    Now let's modify the listing text:

    Now that we've made the presentation and told the "story" and "flow" of this house, we can re-iterate that inside the actual listing description.

    Since the Images + Text we made already do 90% of the convincing (as that's what most people view), we don't even have to spend that much time on the listing.

    Previous Listing Text:

    That's a pretty standard listing description, however with our newly captioned photos we can literally steal the text from them and add the, onto this listing. Here's how it turned out:


    UPDATED Listing Text:

    As you can see by this new listing description, it was taken from the same structure we used in our Presentation Doc to make the images.

    All of this was done with no special tech, and it transforms the entire listing!



    Neville Signature

    P.S. Checkout my collection of favorite real estate flyers.

    P.P.S. Do you have any other ways you'd improve this listing? Or have you seen any really effective strategies realtors in your area use?? Leave a comment below:

    User Feedback

    Recommended Comments

    Thanks for the tip on using Google Presentations. This looks like it would take forever in Photoshop!
    Link to comment
    Guest Neville Medhora


    Oh yeah, using Photoshop for this stuff is overkill. Even programs like Canva are great for this kind of simple image editing.

    However with Google Presentations you can manage a large amount of slides and order them easily. Then you can just save all the images and upload them directly to any real estate platform all in order!

    Link to comment
    Guest Christoph




    thanks, very informative, will soon get your course.

    quick question: my sense of flow has expected the green behind the houses to be shown directly after the slide you mentioned it?


    Link to comment
    Million thanks for sharing this info. I believe your kopywriting course teaches Google presentations.  Real estate copywriting is a good niche.
    Link to comment
    Guest Mitchell Cohen


    Awesome example, thanks for sharing. It's helpful seeing real examples in different industries!
    Link to comment

    Nice idea to add captions to the images! You asked for other ways to improve the listing. When I look at pictures like these I often get a lot of questions in my head:

    Privacy wall. You mentioned that there is on side, which immediately makes me think "Is it possible/allowed" to build on on the other side as well.

    Shared backyard. Pets running around in the shared backyard is nice if you have pets and like pets, but there are plenty of people who don't. They probably don't want the neighbours dogs running around their backyard or even into their house/patio ;) This raises even more questions in my mind about the shared backyard.

    Outdoor images. I know it's hard to affect the weather, but a grey/rainy/wet day is not perfect when you want to make a house look great! ;) Perhaps mention something like "On a sunny day the lovely colour of the house really pops!" If it's ok to joke maybe even something like "The house looks great even on a rainy day ;)" or "Sorry for the weather ;)"

    You mentioned in one slide that there are no neighbours behind the patio. Great, but then I immediately want to know if there are any neighbours who can see into the bathroom windows ;) Perhaps it would be better to skip this comment all together instead of making the reader conscious about the other windows?



    Link to comment

    The fundamental crux of real estate is that margins are abnormally high, supply is high, and costs for a realtor are very low.  A sale on a $300k house with 7% commission is $21k.  There aren’t many widgets you can sell with a $1 Facebook ad that bring in $21k. There is also an unlimited number of houses to sell for someone really good at selling them.

    As a result the entire game is customer acquisition.  While everyone focuses on selling houses (optimizing this listing), the opportunity is in capturing all the people who might buy or sell a house at any time in the future (every person in Austin).  By building a relationship with them, they come to you before they have a house for sale or before they want to buy.

    Because each sale is so valuable you have a customer acquisition budget in the thousands per customer.

    So if we were doing a part two to this article we would focus on optimizing ads for David himself rather than any specific house.

    - How to buy real estate for 23% less

    - This simple checklist will save you thousands in...[realtor fees, closing costs, etc]

    - 8 warning signs that....

    - How to get the money for a new house when the bank turns you down

    - New government program provides cash for first time home buyers

    - Your house may be worth thousands more than you think

    You provide something useful, funnel them into an autoresponder, the usual deal.

    Then when they’re just thinking about buying or selling, they call you rather than their uncle’s cousin who might be a realtor.

    Next because you need other realtors to sell your house, selling houses quickly being important, you might do similar things to make other realtors aware of your listings.

    The best guys I know have an email list that goes out to other realtors with their listings.  Each week the realtors tour his new listings all together before the listings go up.



    Link to comment

    Random thought. Add a neg to the images, just one. Like the downstairs powder bath:

    "Downstairs bath, a bit small, but nice tile finish." It gives an honesty, we all know it is not perfect.

    Link to comment
    Guest Neville Medhora


    Hmmm, not quite sure what ya mean by that Christoph? Clarify a little, I'm down to change something if it looks wonky :)
    Link to comment
    Guest Neville Medhora


    Hey Siti, it definitely is since the average purchase price on houses is extremely large!

    This is also why real estate agents can afford to blanket entire zip codes with direct mail drops just to sell a single unit.

    Link to comment
    Guest Neville Medhora


    You're welcome Mitchell! Lemme know if there's other industries you'd like to see :)
    Link to comment
    Guest Neville Medhora


    Bahahhaha great suggestions Henrik!

    Yeah my biggest qualm with this set of pictures was the bad outside pictures (I don't believe those were taken by the professional photographer, just someone's phone on a rainy day).

    Adding those captions would definitely make it better!

    And yeah, the patio thing is a difficult one. It's not ideally completely private....but I also didn't want to "overly sugarcoat" as that borders on lying.

    I think if a house comes with a downside (depending on whose viewing it), it should be known. This way it won't waste everyone's time.

    Thanks for the feedback Henrik!

    Link to comment
    Guest Neville Medhora


    Hey Allen! You're 100% right in a way, and David does have a pretty awesome referral network of in-person people....and YES, that is probably 90% of a good real estate agents job!

    However these real estate platforms extend that range. If someone is looking to buy in a certain neighborhood and doesn't already know David, then if he has a great listing it can capture some of that attention.

    And yes David has a list going out already, but these listings on huge real estate platforms have such a crazy huge reach that it's always wise to ALSO go after some of those eyeballs :)

    Link to comment
    Guest Neville Medhora


    Wow Doug.....that's actually a REALLY good idea!

    That's always something I was thinking about when making these images: That some descriptions can seem "too rosy" which makes people skeptical.

    It's like when realtors use euphemisms to make crappy things seem better:

    Cozy = "This house is small as fu**!"

    Charming = "This house is old and gross!"

    Quiet Area = "This house is in the boonies!"

    Unique = "This house is weird looking"

    Link to comment
    Thanks for sharing, this makes all the sense in the world -- but response is what really matters, not what we think. It will be interesting to learn what change in response he receives versus other comparable listings.
    Link to comment
    Guest Neville Medhora


    Hey Alex that's true, although a bit difficult to gauge sometimes (you don't get very advanced statistics from these listing platforms).

    However in the real estate world 1 extra lead can often result in HUGE profits if a sale is made, so putting some extra effort into these listings is always wise.

    Generally the most "saved" listings on these large platforms have professionally done photos and good descriptions.

    Link to comment
    Guest Carolyn


    Finally, improvements to the same ol same ol listing wording: love it! Comments:

    The caption for the "kitchen lighting included" threw me off: I was more interested if  the pool table is included and could be moved to the basement! Never heard the term "Jack and Jill". I don't like pics of toilets. The backyard with no private yard is discouraging, I would not buy it for that reason, so add if fencing is allowed.

    Add picture of front door, it just seemed 'off' that I couldn't see the private entryway that was mentioned.

    Fantastic to see how easy this is, thanks for doing this!!!


    Link to comment
    Thank you for this post. Can you make the same about hotels. I mean, how to improve hotel descriptions on a website like booking.com
    Link to comment
    Guest Neville Medhora


    Glad you liked this method Carolyn!

    One of the main lessons I've learned as a copywriter is that you want to attract people to your product who would be a good fit, and ACTIVE REPEL people who are not a good fit.

    So we could sugarcoat how the backyard looks and such, but then people would visit the house in person (which costs us time and money), and then never purchase, which WASTES our time and money.

    However on Zillow or other platforms, it costs us zero time/money to show the true colors of this house. So this ad did it's job correctly: It repelled you from wanting to buy!

    But for the right person where this is a good fit, it will attract them :)

    Link to comment
    Guest Neville Medhora


    Good idea Alex! Not sure if that's another post we would do at the moment, but I imagine the process would be almost exactly the same:

    1.) Get great photos of the property.

    2.) Put text descriptions on the photos.

    3.) Tell a "story" within those photos of why that hotel is a wise choice.

    Also on hotel websites, I think reviews are probably an EXTREMELY important factor. So while a great description always helps, the reviews are often more trustworthy than what the hotel itself claims it offers.

    Link to comment

    Good points by Allen, however, you can have a bunch of people in your network, but if you don't have the reach, in other words, a system to engrave your message in front of all those people, you won't scale your business after a certain point.

    Yes - you can create relationships, and yes - they can all call you, but in the end, you need business coming to you through scalable ways, which is where listing platforms provide value!

    I would love to think of all the things that Neville showed in this post as "home stretch effort". It is sooooo essential because it is the conversion step.

    For e.g. think of email list that you have built, now you have this new listing with you. You create a beautiful email and send out a blast to your list.

    What next?


    This is why you need images and copy in your email that converts. (Holy grail of businesses - conversion)


    Link to comment
    Guest Neville Medhora


    Very true Vivek, a COMBINATION of marketing avenues is always better than just one.

    Outside of the physical relationships a person is able to maintain (generally just a few hundred) the internet is a fantastic way to massively expand that reach, and this should help that reach just a bit :)

    Link to comment

    Nice presentation. Your first image. Do you teach anywhere in your courses how you actually make these images as you do a lot of them. I can see the benefits of being able to make your own main image stand out from the crowd, or any image.


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