Copywriting 101: How to Write Effective Ad Copy

By Michelle Lee

Beautiful bedrooms, sun-lit spaces, gleaming floors, sparkling appliances, and glamorous finishes fill this stunning home that you’re sure to love… How many times have you read those phrases before? And what are they really telling you?

I’ll admit that I’ve written and published those before, but when it really comes down to it, those words are merely empty fluff and zero-calorie descriptors. In the real estate industry where you only have 1,000 characters to convert a reader into a home buyer, you’re simply going to have to do better than that.

There’s no reason to overcomplicate the matter – a home is a product and the marketing process should be the same. The biggest distinction is that they’re multimillion-dollar life-changing purchases and sales, which makes marketing them all the more crucial. Here are some top tips that help me write seductive and persuasive ad copy:

1. Identify and highlight what makes the home special.

What makes this one home stand out from the rest on the market? Make a top-five list of specific details and use those to build out the rest of your copy. Wean away from subjective adjectives like gorgeous and desirable, and towards hard, tangible facts. Instead of saying “professional-grade appliances,” call out brand names like Sub-Zero and Viking. Identify Brazilian cherry or Lyptus hardwood floors to add meaningful, juicy details to your writing. Dig deep into the remodel history to be able to call out specific dates and architects instead of saying “recently-remodeled” or “newly-built.”

Sometimes this requires looking beyond the home itself and more to its location or its unobservable features, whether there’s a hidden gem of a park tucked right around the corner or it’s in close proximity to schools and downtown city centers. Give more attention to details that aren’t obvious to the eye or cannot be captured in pictures and flag their benefits to potential buyers, such as radiant floor heating or integrated smart home technology.

2. Choose your words wisely.

There’s a fine line between over-describing and under-describing details to entice but not humiliate your readers. This is not the place to prove your advanced vocabulary knowledge or list out every specific material and brand name you can find in the house, because readers won’t understand it all and will be discouraged to continue reading. On the contrary, you also don’t want to avoid calling out any details and leave empty filler words like great and lovely to describe everything because details are still important. Strike a balance by highlighting the key standout features and generalizing the rest.

3. Keep it short.

It’s always easier to write more than less, and there’s no use in trying to restrict yourself the first time around because you’ll just end up with weird, choppy phrases that don’t make sense. Write as much as your heart desires, but remember that there’s power in numbers, not words. People generally have short attention spans and will likely just be skimming through when reading your copy. Don’t confuse them and don’t waste their time. People don’t want to immediately launch into a room-by-room breakdown the first time around; you can save that for a longer bulleted section in a brochure, flyer, or on a website. But in a newspaper or online ad, you’ll simply want to present the main compelling points in a short and sweet manner, generally around 100 words or less.

4. Edit.

The key to all good writing is editing until it barely resembles the original version. There is always room for more editing than you think. Declutter your copy, delete the extra adjectives, and replace any potentially-confusing phrases with clear and concise statements to ensure that you’re actually conveying the correct message. Consult a friend, colleague, or a total outsider and get their honest opinion and to ensure ease of readability.

5. Appeal to your audience.

Quite frankly, your readers aren’t going to care just how great you think something is. They will only value what it will do for them. What problem is buying this home going to solve for them? How will it better their life? Put yourself in the mind of your potential buyer, gear your message accordingly, and make them feel that buying this home will fulfill a need. If your listing is an average-priced, medium-sized home in Palo Alto, you may want to focus on the excellent public-school system, centrality to parks, and other amenities for young, growing families. If it’s a more lavish estate in Los Altos Hills or Atherton, you may want to instead focus on how close it is to top Silicon Valley headquarters, VC firms, and elite golf and country clubs to appeal to executives and booming startup founders.

6. Paint a picture.

It’s important to write ad copy with passion and enthusiasm, because it will shine through to the reader. In order to be compelling to your target audience, you’ll want to illustrate just how nice living at this specific home would be. A monotonous run-down list of details just is not enough. Speak to your customers as if it’s your own home that you’re proud of and let them imagine themselves living there. Is the front porch or that cozy window seat off the kitchen just perfect for sipping your morning coffee on easy Sunday mornings? Would your kids love having that upstairs attic space for playtime? Or would that downstairs flex room work wonders as a home office for you or your clients? Go beyond the observable details and create a world of possibilities. After all, most residential real estate purchases are about a lifestyle, not just a house.

While we are well-known for our fancy 12- and 32-page home brochures, full-page ads, and narrated videos, the words that we use across all of our marketing helps people build an emotional connection to the home. That is why we strive to make every word we write meaningful, intentional, and persuasive.