At its most basic level, promoting a listing follows the same credo as the famous five “Ws”—who, what, when, where and why. Ultimately, agents are trying to connect an attractive real estate opportunity to the best potential buyer. It’s ‘Storytelling 101.’ But the strategy behind bringing a listing to market and securing an offer is anything but simple.
As with most business endeavors, the process starts with money. What’s missing from the five “Ws” is the sixth letter, “H”—as in how much is this going to cost?
The nuances of setting the right budget to bring a listing to market can make or break an agent’s engagement with a client. There has to be a lot of thought given to the best communication channels, the most effective messaging and the likeliest audience.
All the factors need to be considered because no two listings are ever the same, and every marketing budget is unique as well. Just because a full-page advertisement in the local newspaper worked for one deal last week does not mean that it will work again today even if it’s the same model home in the neighborhood. Too many things are changing all the time with technology, economics and culture to settle on a single “proper way” of finding the right buyer for any particular property.
Even something as basic as putting a property on the MLS has morphed into a potentially big slice of the marketing budget pie. Since the listings feed popular portals such as Zillow, Redfin and Realtor.com, agents pour millions of dollars each year into those platforms to ensure their listings are seen by as many interested buyers as possible.
“Listing platforms have become increasingly important in the digital age, as potential buyers and renters often begin their property search online,” says David Tully, a real estate expert in Reno, Nevada, with eXp. “The percentage of the budget allocated to listing platforms could range from 20 percent to 50 percent or more, depending on the competitiveness of the market and the prominence of these platforms.”
Every listing platform is not equal, and their respective popularity varies from market to market, so agents would be wise to do their own research before allocating funds. Then, a few days into the campaign, the performance can be reviewed and adjustments should be made if necessary.
While modern listing costs can eat up half an agent’s marketing budget, Las Vegas real estate agent Ty Fischer of All Homes Las Vegas notes that it really depends on the size of the budget, itself, as well as the goals and experience level of each agent.
“Generally, I recommend that agents allocate a larger portion of their budget to listing platforms like these than to traditional marketing expenses, especially if they are running them DIY with no experience doing it prior,” Fischer says. “This is because listing platforms like these have the traffic and eyeballs, and they provide a great way to reach a wide range of potential buyers. A budget may go further here thanks to their user bases.”
Production and promotion
Outside of the listing platforms that proliferated over the past five to 10 years, there are still the search giants and social media sites to contend with as well.
Alphabet (Google), Microsoft (Bing) and Meta (Facebook and Instagram) are all heavily-monetized corporate giants that can put your property in front of a massive audience and/or a specifically targeted one based on demographics or even geo-locations – not just a zip code, but a particular address. This marketing technology is getting more sophisticated by the day, plus new social media platforms are always popping up. In recent years, TikTok has emerged as the marketing platform of choice for many agents, and there are always cool new social sites to be on the look for.
Tully notes the shift in allocations has gone from old-school media to modern platforms.
“Traditional advertising channels like TV, radio and print media have historically been used by real estate
agents to reach a broader audience. However, with the rise of digital marketing, the percentage allocated to mainstream media advertising has generally decreased. This could be around 10 percent to 20 percent of the budget, but it can vary significantly,” notes Tully.
While much of the promotional costs are paid directly to ‘Big Tech,’ there are additional expenses for production of the content, itself. This can range from simple photography that an agent grabs with their phone without any cost at all to a six-figure marketing video with drones, music, graphics and Hollywood-style editing. Again, the nature of the listing will dictate the size and strategy of the marketing spend.
The old-fashioned way
As far as we’ve come on the technological front and its influence on the way we buy and sell real estate, there remains much to be said about the human connections that agents have with prospective buyers.
Eric Bramlett of Bramlett Residential, a mid-sized real estate brokerage in Austin, Texas, notes how important it is to maintain a presence in traditional media outlets while pursuing new media campaigns.
“I wouldn’t put all my eggs in the digital basket,” Bramlett says. “Mainstream media advertising, for instance, still holds weight in certain demographics. While it might seem old school, about 20 percent of our budget goes here. Collateral production and events? I’d reserve another 15-20 percent.”
The personal touch is where many agents, including Bramlett, spend their time, effort and marketing budget.
“Personal relationships and word-of-mouth, despite all technological advances, are as priceless as ever,” Bramlett says. “The power of a hand-written note or a coffee catch-up shouldn’t be underestimated. After all, buying a house is not just a transaction; it’s a deeply personal experience. And in our digitized age, these personal touches are becoming rare commodities.”
This strategy is effective in the high-end luxury market, such as the wine country of California’s Central Coast where Jenny Heinzen of Vineyard Professional Services averages more than $4 million per sale.
According to Heinzen, she accomplishes this without the extra investments into listing platforms or search engines. She creates high-quality videos of each listing and invests a sizable portion of her marketing budget on networking.
From industry associations to the high-net-worth social scenes, Heinzen says it’s an important way to reach interested buyers, even if it means traveling for prospect meetings just to get in some quality facetime. When the prospects come to her, she spares no expense, often giving guided tours of her clients’ estate on an all-terrain vehicle she owns for such marketing-related occasions.
“It’s a local business and a local situation,” Heinzen says of her dedication to personal networking. “The people you know are important. All the materials and the marketing are important to getting more interest.”
Though the tactics may change over time, the general philosophy behind most marketing strategies remains the same – reach people with the most impactful selling points your listing has to offer, showcase the opportunity for the buyer, and deliver top-notch customer service.
It’s not easy and it’s almost never cheap. Today’s marketing budgets are a far cry from what they used to be only a decade ago, but if used properly they can be more effective than ever.
“A decade ago, listing platforms had a smaller piece of the pie. Now, their slice is hefty,” Bramlett says. “But as with any market evolution, I’d wager that in another decade, there might be another shift – perhaps a resurgence of hyper-localized marketing, or maybe the rise of a new, yet unknown platform.”