Home Exchange

Tips for writing a listing description that makes your home stand out

Guest Post by Janis Fisher Chan of Travel on the House

When you search for a home exchange, what makes one home seem more appealing than another? It might be the way the home is described. Along with great photos, a vivid description makes your home stand out from the competition.

These tips will help you craft a clear, compelling home description that gives potential home exchange partner a good sense of what your home is like.

Tip #1. Write for the reader, not for yourself

Those of us who write for a living know that it’s the reader’s point of view that’s important, not our own. That’s why we start by thinking about what the reader needs and wants to know.

Suppose you’re about to have a conversation with someone who’s looking for a place to stay in your area. What questions might the person ask? What could you say about your home, your neighborhood, and your town or city that would give him or her a good idea of what it might be like to live there?

Tip #2. Write the headline

If you were searching for a place to stay when you and your kids visit your parents next summer, which of these listings would you look at first?

“House for Exchange”


“Comfortable Family-Friendly 2+ bedroom Home Close to Lake for 1-2 weeks in July”

The second headline would be far more likely to catch your attention. It not only tells you at a glance that the home is large enough, welcoming to kids, and available on your dates, it conveys a quick sense of what the home is like.

Jot down some descriptive words that might convey that kind of information about your home. Then draft a few headlines. Write quickly, and play with the words until you come up with some headlines that seem right.

Once you settle on a headline to use, edit it to make sure that every word is specific, clear, and needs to be there.

Tip #3. List key content for the description

List the most important (from the reader’s point of view!) features of your home and its location. Don’t try to write complete sentences, put the points in order, or worry about grammar, punctuation, and spelling. Doing any of that is almost guaranteed to stop the flow of ideas.

Tip #4. Write a quick first draft

Read through your list. Then put it aside and start writing.

Use active, specific language to help people “see” the home and the area. Say what you like about living there and why they’ll find it the perfect place to stay. Write quickly, without stopping to critique or edit your writing. (You’ll clean it up later).

Tip #5. Edit the draft

Now step back and see how you can make the description better so that it makes your home come alive and answers travelers’ most important questions. Some guidelines:

  • Compelling writing is specific and concrete, not vague and general. Maybe you wrote, “We live in a wonderful home.” What makes it “wonderful”? Better would be, “Our balcony overlooks the park”; “the Master Suite has a new firm, comfortable European Sleepworks bed”; “The apartment is on a quiet street, yet within walking distance of shops and restaurants.”
  • Active language “talks” directly to readers. Rewrite wordy, passive sentences such as, “Our fieldstone fireplace is greatly appreciated by visitors on evenings that are chilly,” so they are active, direct, and concise: “You’ll appreciate the warmth of our fieldstone fireplace on chilly evenings.”
  • Use short sentences and short paragraphs. Your description tells the story of your home, but it’s not a novel. Make it crisp, clear, and to the point, avoiding the common tendency to ramble or repeat yourself.
  • Descriptive words such as “cozy,” “spacious,” “elegant,” and “comfortable” can convey a sense of what your home is like. But what a Londoner or a New Yorker considers “spacious” can seem little more than a closet to a traveler from Colorado. What one person thinks is “elegant” can seem gaudy or overdone to someone else. Overused adjectives, capitalized words, and exclamation points will weaken the description. Instead, use specific language to vividly describe the features of your home.
  • Your description creates expectations, so be accurate. A studio apartment with the bed in a windowless alcove is not a 1-bedroom. A view isn’t a view if you have to stand next to the window and crane your neck to see 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 home exchange partners.
  • Before posting the description, reinforce your credibility by checking to make sure the punctuation, spelling and grammar are correct. Once it is, you’re good to go!

A published author and passionate traveler, Janis Fisher Chan recently launched Travel on the House, an informational web site with tips and advice for people who want to make travel affordable by swapping or rent out their homes. You can reach her at janis@travelonthehouse.com.

1 Comment

  • As a ghostwriter of business proposals and White Papers, I found the description tips to be excellent reminders of good writing.
    Remember not to rush through editing, for you will likely find edits you would like to make on perhaps the 4th, 5th or later reading of the document. On our TrustedHousesitters description, I’ve probably made over one hundred refinements in words to even whole paragraphs.

Leave a Comment