Being a freelance copywriter is a lot like playing Monopoly. No, not the part where you keep landing in jail, missing out on free parking or paying too much rent. I’m talking about your next source of income being determined by the roll of a dice – by chance.
To help offset this unpredictability, it can be a great idea to find consistent income streams which offer steady work all year round. Writing the fortunes in cookies might be one. Greeting cards maybe. Or you could try real estate copywriting.
Real estate ads – they walk among us
Think about your town or suburb. At any given time, there are more “for sale” signs on front yards than you can poke a stick at. And if you do decide to poke a stick at them, they’re not moving, because have you seen some of those signs? They’re like billboards. Anyway.
It doesn’t matter if we’re in a boom, bust, bubble or big bang, the truth is that humans are constantly on the move. Did you know that 90% of Australians will have lived in at least 12 homes by the time they are 30 years old? That’s a compelling statistic, and the fact that I just made it up shouldn’t detract from the agency-window evidence that there are always many homes for sale. And of course, where there’s a sale, there’s copy that needs writing!
Back in the old days – you know, back before there were 284 different versions of Monopoly (I’m looking at you, Cat Lovers Edition) – real estate agents would write the sales descriptions themselves. Sure, this made sense, but generally these people were better at selling than writing, so we ended up with an industry filled with nest-or-invest, neat-as-a-pin, accomadation-spelt-wrong cliches.
Okay, that’s a bit harsh. A lot of agents CAN write, and good on them. (They’re those kids at school who were good at everything and sorry, they still are.) However these days many savvy, smart and successful agents are choosing to outsource the words to specialists. (Pssst. Grab your cape; this is where you come in.)
Top FIVE real estate copywriting tips
Writing copy for real estate is unlike any other product you will ever write copy for. Here are five really important things to consider before you first pass GO.
1. It’s a big, human transaction
Often as copywriters, we write for target audiences and we may even go so far as to identify an ‘avatar’ or typical individual who may buy the product. However, buying a house is deeply personal – and it’s important you remember the human-factor at all times. It can never be just a list of rooms and fixtures – it’s someone’s dream house. Making that human connection with a potential buyer is more important than ever – because this is not some supermarket checkout impulse buy. It’s one of the biggest things they’ll ever buy.
2. Be positive
Forget about what’s on the surface – remember, you're selling a dream. Even if it's the worst house in the street, it could be someone's dream to restore it or knock it down… or simply do nothing to it because they love it the way it is. As a writer, you are this home’s wing-man or wing-woman – talking them up to any potential suitors. And that’s why your copy needs to be aspirational, confident and dripping in gold chains. (Okay, that last one is optional.)
3. Location, location
Adding value as a copywriter means thinking about the entire package – after all, someone isn’t just buying the address, they’re buying its context. Think about the neighbourhood they’re going to be living in – the local parks, playgrounds, schools, nearby cafes and services. If it’s appropriate, ask the current owners questions. Even if you’re not physically in the area, there are plenty of ways to find out more about the postcode.
4. Follow the brief
This one may sound obvious – after all, it’s a good idea to get a brief for any copy job. But especially with real estate copy, there may be limitations on word counts and space simply due to the high volume mediums that are used. Plus of course, every agent and every house will have a different marketing strategy, so nothing should ever be assumed. The deadline is a big part of the brief and considering the fast-paced nature of the industry, it’s a good idea to stick to the time you’ve been given. Often you’ll have just 24 hours, sometimes less. (Hint: If you're starting out, providing something 75% there and on time is better than 90% and late.)
5. Spot the trends
You may not know what house you’ll be selling, but it’s a really good idea to keep an eye on where the industry is at. This means studying the magazines, websites and the fake-drama-filled reality TV shows to see which interior features are hot right now. Because if you know them, you’ll be able to quickly identify them as something to make more of a fuss about in your ad.
Remember, you don’t need to know how to actually sell a house to be a real estate copywriter, but you DO need to know how to sell the dream. Learn to do that with your clever words, and you could enjoy quite a monopoly – with more work than you can poke a stick at…
Dean Koorey’s new online course in Real Estate Copywriting includes tips on getting into the industry and writing engaging listings. Check out the course page here.