Writing copy for property brochures is an art where you need to find the perfect balance between attractive features, effusive language and the facts. It takes time, but once you get used to it, it can be a lot of fun.
Let me take you through the approach I use when creating the copy for general property brochures. This can be for developments ranging from a boutique collection of 4 or 5 distinctive homes through to 25-30 two to four-bedroom units. Yes, larger developments or estates exist – I’ll update you when I’ve written for them!
Starting from scratch can feel a bit daunting. So it’s a good idea to break down everything you need to cover into distinct elements that you can manage individually. But, before we do that, let’s cover some general information first…
Remember you’re not writing only for the house-buyer. You’re writing for the developer.
House buyers will, in the end, buy on what they see and feel when they visit a showhome or check out the CGI, the video and the raw specifications. In my experience, visuals and data have a greater impact on them, and most are cynical about sales copy or ‘advertising talk’. They’ll probably have checked out the town, village or region themselves and already decided whether they want to live in the area. It’s just down to them liking the house.
Developers, on the other hand, are heavily invested in the houses and justifiably feel a deep sense of pride in what they’ve built. They’re very keen for their homes to be put over in as favourable light as possible. They take pride in the quality of the build, the style of the design, the details, features, fittings, fixtures and division of spaces – and so should you. This enthusiasm should shine through in the text, so if or when the buyers actually read the brochure they’ll feel it too.
Starting from what’s gone before
The developer, designer or agency might send you an example of a previous brochure to follow in terms of layout and text, or a pagination document with rough word counts. You might need to count words in blocks of Lorum Ipsum. Needing to write copy to fit with a design can create problems for the writer – either in trying to keep their word count down or needing to find more material in order to bring the word count up.
It’s important not to over-worry about this – with some extra thought you will be able to re-phrase sections to fit, see what is best to omit, or work on the human side of the subject to fill it out a bit.
What do I mean by the ‘human side’? Anything about the development that impacts on a person’s emotions. This could be the environments in or around the houses and how they play on the senses: noises, sights, light, textures and the spaces. Or it could be something more esoteric: memories, enjoyment, imagination and the future.
It’s worth taking time to check out a few existing brochures to see how other writers might have handled sections where they’ve had to expand on a subject, or refine their writing to sum up an aspect in just a few words.
You will probably receive various drawings, maps and plans for the development site, and if you’re lucky a CGI image or two. However, it pays to get a feel for the location before putting pen to paper. Where is it, and what’s nearby? What will it be like to live there?
Occasionally, I’ve written for new developments in or around the town where I live, where I’ll already know what it’s like to be there, and what key features nearby to pick out. This makes things pretty straightforward.
However, if the site is a long way away, it won’t always be practical to drive there to check it out (unless you’re getting paid to do so, of course). In this case, Google Maps is your friend. Satellite view and Street View make it very easy to appraise the site’s positioning in the local area, check out the surrounding environment and amenities, and actually take a virtual wander around the roads to see the neighbourhood. You can easily get an impression of the local shops, paths, schools, existing styles of housing, playing areas and more from Google Maps.
What can you see, hear and touch? Is the site adjacent to rolling green fields or panoramic farmland, or positioned close to the town centre? Are the local roads modern, wide thoroughfares, charming country lanes or something in between? And is the nearby existing architecture made up of heritage stock, or contemporary designs, or a mix where quaint Victorian cottages rub shoulders with Edwardian townhouses, farmhouse conversions and tasteful 20th-century additions?
What does being in the thick of town, or miles from anywhere, mean for the people moving there? And what can you surmise about the type of people who would want to? These are all factors to keep in your mind as you write.
Now it’s time to get to work. It’s important to define the sections you need to write – this will give your work context within each section, and avoids repetition within the brochure. So, without further ado, let’s get to it…
Planning your sections
A quick disclaimer: some brochures might conform to this approximate format, but many will not. Some brochure designers, developers or agencies might decide to leave out whole sections, only need shorter versions, or might roll two sections into one. You might need to chop and change information to suit.
What follows is a guide to the aspects you should bear in mind when writing for housing developments, and it should stand you in good stead however they decide to format the information in the brochure.
This is an ‘elevator pitch’ for the development. A very quick introduction summarising what the collection actually is.
I like to ask myself: what’s the story? Stories have characters, scenes and outcomes, so what’s the equivalent here? With the homes as the character, the locality as the scene and the lifestyle as the outcome, you can craft a decent opening line.
“An outstanding collection of family homes (character) set at the edge of historic Colchester (scene), perfectly positioned for the very best of both town and country (outcome).”
This is very simplistic, but you get the gist.
What this section does is set the tone for the rest of the brochure. You can keep the development’s ‘story’ in mind for those times when you might feel stuck.
Context and welcome
This is where you expand on the opening intro and pick out the key features or benefits around the development. Tell a bit more of its story, if you like.
You could use a “Welcome to [development name] …” line to start this section, or indeed end with it – it’s effective either way.
Alternatively, you could start with “[Developer and/or estate agent] are (extremely) proud to present [development name], …” leading into a line reiterating what the development is about, but in a slightly different way to the intro, mentioning the location by name.
If you’re stuck for ideas, you could use a template like this as a starting point: “…a brand new collection of [adjective] [X]to[X]-bedroom family homes in the [adjective] and [adjective] village of [name] in [area/county].”
That looks like quite an ugly way to explain it, but I’m sure you can imagine how the finished version might look.
To add a little more to the picture, you could mention more about the location and what’s in or around it. This should only be quick touch-points, as you will come back to this subject in more depth later. Here are some kickstarter phrases to get you going:
“Located close to [travel connections] and [nearby notable or historic centre].”
“Offering residents [benefits] whilst being within easy reach of [places/things].”
“Providing you with… (peace, space, other desirable outcomes).”
From now on, the writing process will feel like you (and the reader) are slowly zooming in on the development – down to the homes, rooms and kitchen fittings – before zooming back out again.
This is a kind of ‘scheme summary’ or ‘setting’ section, and is usually accompanied by an illustration of how the development will look when finished.
This section will focus on the character of the development, its setting within its surroundings and the planning of the collection in terms of how houses are arranged in relation to roads, geographical features, shared spaces and each other.
Here, you’ll touch on:
- The character of the development and possible themes
- Styles of houses
- How properties are positioned or arranged
- Any focus points, features, trees, foliage
- Surroundings, context and backdrop
- Careful consideration in the planning
Here, you’ll look closer at the homes themselves and what makes them stand out and appeal to the prospective buyers. You might start with a line like: “A beautifully-designed collection of homes positioned/complimented/boasting/featuring [something].”
You’ll probably mention:
- Quality of workmanship (that the developer is renowned for)
- Interior spaces (whether substantial, open-plan, cleverly-arranged, etc.)
- Light, windows, glazed doors
- Fittings and fixtures (integrated appliances, feature woodburners, modern sanitaryware)
- And what the homes actually are: X-X bedrooms, X storeys, detached/semi/townhouse/bungalow…
- how each of the above will relate to buyers (spaces to relax, gather with family, enjoy in summer, etc.)
The level of detail you need to go into here might be influenced by how much information you need to include in the next section. The more you include in the housetype descriptions, the less you’ll need to go include here, and you might need to simply just touch on them.
Within the collection, there are likely to be three or more styles of houses or template plans. The developer or agency might even have given each of them names (like ‘The Hornbeam’ or ‘The Hawthorn’), or simply left them as ‘Plots 1, 2 and 6’, ‘Plots 3 & 4’ and ‘Plots 5 and 7-10’.
The brochure will feature a CGI image of each, often with accompanying floor plans. You’ll need to craft a description of the interior rooms, fixtures and fittings, and perhaps touch on the garden and parking facilities (depending on how much space you have).
A housetype description could be anything from 50 to 200 words, depending on the designer or developer’s philosophy. Some prefer longer descriptions whilst others like them very short and will let a specifications list on another page do the talking.
Rather than spell out the elements, it’s easier for me to quote a 95-word description for a typical mid-range 3-bedroom new family home:
“This carefully-planned home makes the best use of space at every turn, with a dual-aspect study room for extra light, a well-proportioned living room with bay window and glazed double doors onto the rear garden, plus a utility room with outside access and extra storage. The expansive kitchen/dining and family room is ideal for family get-togethers, whilst through the hallway you’ll also find a downstairs cloakroom and extra cupboard for coats. Upstairs features a master bedroom with en-suite shower room, a further double and well-sized single bedrooms, and a stylish family bathroom.”
I only regret not slipping ‘features all the latest integrated appliances’ into the kitchen reference.
This section could be anything between 300 and 600 words, depending on the design and how much the nature of the development will rely upon the benefits of surrounding features. It’ll be accompanied by numerous lifestyle photos and attractive pictures of the people enjoying the best of what the location has to offer.
You’ll need to cover what residents will find in the immediate locality, facilities nearby and slightly further afield, as well as their highlights and benefits.
You might quickly set the scene and mention anything of historical interest before focusing on:
- Schools (from nursery to college level, noting Ofsted ratings)
- Eating (high-class restaurants and eateries, as well as quality pubs)
- Groceries (all daily needs met locally, or a wider selection of groceries and household items can be found at…)
- Shopping (high street brands, household names, trendy boutiques and flagship stores)
- Entertainment (cinemas, theatres, clubs, nights out)
- Lifestyle activities (gyms, sports clubs, sailing, golf, walking and cycling routes, etc.)
Again, in this section, Google Maps is your friend. You will easily be able to locate all the nearby schools, pubs, boutiques, restaurants, places of interest, gyms, supermarkets and shops, and quickly read reviews for each to find which are best to recommend.
All the while, paint pictures of how residents might spend their time – strolling down historic streets, browsing through latest fashions, meeting friends for a day or night out, and so on.
Very rarely, you might find a town or village where the best thing about it is actually the new development you’re writing about! In this case, you’ve just got to do the best you can to draw positives and something of interest out of the area – there’s always something to pick up on, even if it’s just the vicinity to main roads that can whisk you off to nice places and attractive beaches within easy driving distance…
Finally, it’s worth imagining how residents will feel living in the area and close by, bringing thoughts back to development. It’ll be a great place to put down roots and have space to grow.
What else within reach, and travel
You’ll start by touching on the immediate location, but then looking further afield, connecting the development to the wider region and beyond.
- Nearby cities and towns (attractions and amenities they have to offer)
- Out-of-town retail parks and shopping villages
- Destinations like beaches, areas of outstanding natural beauty, well-known landmarks and places of interest
- Major roads and rail connections (linking to popular places and urban centres, particularly with commuting in mind)
- The nearest airport, offering residents a gateway to Europe and beyond
Remember to include distances in miles and rough times for how long travelling will take. The tip here is to maintain a feeling of potential. Keep it upbeat, and then, as before, bring thoughts back to the development
Closing / directions
This section in the design will feature a simple map of the region with the development clearly marked, with the address and contact details.
You may need to write a quick closing summary – which might be remarkably like the opening intro but with a slightly different slant – and then simple directions to the development site from the nearest motorway junctions in every direction. There’s no dressing this up. It’s just a plain old run-down of which roads and turnings to take.
And that will cover it for a typical brochure for small to medium sized developments in urban, rural or semi-rural locations. Before we wrap up, there are a few last factors to consider…
A sensory delight: high-end property brochures
Smaller developments of two to five-bedroom family homes is one thing. But when you’re writing for properties with seven-figure price tags in exclusive locations, you need to change up a gear. The developer will have brought a feeling of quality throughout such a home – in the features, materials, setting and the design – which will be much more distinctive and demand more attention.
More focused on the product than the location, these homes will typically incorporate more open-plan spaces, thoughtful room layouts, high-quality flooring, stone work surfaces, designer fittings, bespoke walk-in dressing areas, under-floor heating and don’t forget to mention the secure gated driveway with video intercom and retinal scan technology.
My tip with these is to make them a walk-through experience. Typically, the brochure will be structured to profile every room, and you should describe each space in detail, using creative descriptions to bring the house to life and make the reader feel they are already inside it.
Pay attention to details. The taps, door handles, tiles, shower fittings, water filters, heating controls and security consoles are likely to be of superior quality, from well-respected suppliers, which should be mentioned by name.
It’s likely that each section (except the intro) will need a quick headline. You might be able to think of something quick, snappy and easy, which will probably be absolutely fine.
But it’s worth taking time to think a stage further, and to try to find a phrase to sum up the section. Consider the outcome or the feeling of already being there.
You might first think of something simple like ‘Excellently located’ or ‘A truly beautiful setting’. But what does ‘excellent’ or ‘beautiful’ actually mean in this context? What is it that makes those qualities?
“Perfectly located for a balanced lifestyle’ or ‘Set against an idyllic countryside backdrop’ carry more depth and meaning for the reader.
You could even get more specific and say ‘A location where you can enjoy work, leisure, fine meals and spectacular views’, or ‘Set against rolling green fields and luscious ancient woodlands’, but that might just be too wordy for a headline.
When writing brochures, you’ll often come up against possible repetition of certain words or phrases. You’ll want to do your best to avoid this in order to provide an enjoyable reading experience.
It’s useful to have a rich lexicon of words to draw on in these situations, and I wholeheartedly recommend searching for ‘[common word] synonyms’ on Google and marvelling at the results you get.
On the other hand, it’s also handy to have a cheeky list to glance at quickly when your mind is a blank, or you need an alternative to the usual words. Here are a few examples from a list of my own:
Designed – planned, created, devised, formulated, produced, conceived, arranged
Stunning – outstanding, breathtaking, spectacular, impressive, sensational, remarkable, exceptional, phenomenal
Stylish – sleek, elegant, refined, sophisticated, desirable, high-calibre
Mix – combination, blend, fusion, marriage
Spacious – generous, substantial, well-proportioned, open, expansive, extensive
Modern – contemporary, current, latest, top of the range, up to the minute
Location – situation, position, setting, site, context, surroundings, backdrop
And there are more. I’m sure you’ll create your own lists as you go.
In the course of writing the brochure, you might come up with a phrase that works particularly well that could be worth emphasising. Many brochure designers like to use ‘pull quotes’ – lines from the text that have been enlarged, perhaps put in a different font in italics, and sometimes placed over an image – to sum up the mood or point of the spread. Something like:
“You can’t help but be impressed at how every home has been built with modern lifestyles in mind.”
Following on nicely from the variety of flowery terms, nouns and adjectives, it’s worth mentioning style guides.
Just as not all brochures conform to a set format, neither do all developers. Some may have introduced a style guide to curb the greater excesses of description used by brochure writers in the past – for legal reasons or to make sure the text does not inadvertently offend or exclude any readers.
You might be asked to stay as factual as possible to play it safe, and to avoid subjective terms that might be difficult to prove, or mean different things to different people. You may also need to avoid terms such as ‘within walking distance’ (assumes ability to walk a certain distance), ‘peaceful area (there may be plans for new roads, etc.), and ‘double garage’ (cars may vary in width).
Also, avoid crossing the line into misleading people – for example stating ‘attractive views of the countryside’ if there is a power plant or municipal depot in another direction, or implying that the whole house is fitted with carpets, double glazing and heating if not all rooms come with these.
You should still be fine to use positive words to describe possibly negative terms, like ‘bustling’ or ‘dynamic’ instead of busy, or ‘cosy’ and ‘intimate’ instead of small. And, generally, most effusive terms are no problem unless they stray from the facts. ‘Spacious’ must mean a larger-than-average room, and ‘private’ must definitely indicate a non-shared space.
If in doubt, always ask if the developer has a guide for the terms you can use in their brochures to avoid any issues over the tone of voice or descriptions that may constitute ‘misdescriptions’ in law. And use common sense.
Don’t forget to ask questions and request any further details to help you write if you need it. Even if nothing more is available at that moment, you will at least look professional for coming forward.
The best way to learn more about writing property brochures is to study what’s gone before and then simply get on with writing. If the client sends back your first draft with a string of minor edits on every page, don’t feel annoyed or downcast. This is normal. Many developers and agencies have a way of phrasing things that they are used to, and they might get nervous if your copy deviates too far outside their comfort zone. Just take it on board, challenge them once if it’s about something you are confident about, and then make the changes.
And if they come back with no amendments and all is fine – rejoice! And send the invoice.
About the author
Doug Smith writes mainly for websites, landing pages, ads and chatbots, but loves turning his hand to brochures for a change of approach and pace. The common ground between online and print media is that there is always a human on the other side of the sales process, with needs, hopes and feelings just like you.