Real estate copywriting: The 16 items needed in every ad
By Janet DeGeorge
There is so much talk about online real estate ads that I think many have begun to neglect the print line ad. Let's face it, not everyone is an online user and if a homebuyer is short on time, it is easier and faster to scan a print page of well organized real estate ads instead of looking at ads one at a time on a website. In addition, your real estate classified pages are portable and have the added benefit of being able to easily circle several ads on the print page among the hundreds of homes for sale in the homebuyers local area. No doubt this is still a method many prefer. So what can we do for our Realtors and FSBO customers to make sure their ad copy gets their phone ringing?
What Realtors Think about Newspaper Classifieds
According to the "Field Guide to Creating Effective Classified Advertisements", Michele Cordero, Information Specialist at the National Association of Realtors writes, "even with the popularity of the Internet, newspaper classifieds are still one of the most effective means for getting information about real estate and homes for sale to consumers. The Newspaper Association of America states that 80% of consumers actively involved in buying a house had read a local daily newspaper in the past week and five out of six had read a Sunday newspaper in the past month. The National Association of REALTORS(r)' own research shows that 41% of buyers used classified ads to find information on homes for sale in 2001."
And the news only gets better. In the 2003 National Association of Realtors Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers, that 41% of buyers who used classified ads to find information in 2001 has rose to 49% according to the table below.
Information Sources Used by Homebuyers in Home Search-2003
Real Estate Agent: 86%
Yard Sign: 69%
Newspaper Advertisement: 49%
Open House: 48%
Home Book or Magazine: 35%
Relocation Company: 14%
Source: The 2003 National Association of REALTORS(r) Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers
Realtor & FSBO's Ads
Realtors use line ads for many different reasons. One of course is to sell the house in question. But there are often other agendas. Some realtors may just list a property to appease the home seller, others may list a more generic home description that fits several homes they have for sale. Others may use line ads just to get their phone to ring, attracting as many home sellers as homebuyers. In many of these scenarios, a Realtor, who works on 100% commission, usually buys the minimum linage you allow, unless you have a terrific deal to include photos, logos or unlimited word specials. (And by all means, make it as easy and economical as possible to include pictures in both line and web ads!)
FSBO's, (For Sale By Owner) classified advertisers have a completely different agenda. They are trying to sell the home themselves and save realtor fees. It could be that they do not have enough equity in the home to pay realtor fees and come out ahead while some just want the flexibility to lower the price but still make a profit without paying additional fees. Let's see some of the ways we can best service both these real estate advertisers.
In either of the above scenarios, it is your job to make sure the ads are organized so that readers find what they are looking for and the advertiser's phone starts ringing. Classified ads don't sell homes, but we do put those buyers and sellers together on the phone! We do this first with a well designed real estate section with the proper classifications that well represent your particular circulation area
Check your real estate classifications. How are they organized? Do you have one section for Homes for Sale? If so, are they in strict keyword alpha sort by area? Do they have some consistent organization even if by price, North, East, West and South, by names of cities? What I am trying to say is there some consistency in how ads are place so that homebuyers can easily find what they are looking for by either location or price?
Have you met with your board of realtors or your biggest local brokers and asked how it would help them if your classifications were organized differently?
And what about the homebuyer? Have you done any surveys of your readers to see how they might like to see the homes for sale organized?
What about your website? Is it merely a repeat of the line ads, complete with those horrid abbreviations? Homebuyers expect more when they go online, so I hope you have the bells and whistles to go along with your ads such as mortgage calculators, additional photos, information about the area and schools, a link to local jobs in the area, even weather reports! And of course, most of this info is free from your local chamber or board of realtors! Check out all the additional info a homebuyer can get from Realtor.com and see how you can spiff up even the dullest web version of your print line ads!
There are 16 essential copy points for real estate ads
1) HEADLINE (What Makes It Special, By Owner, Call to Action)
2) Location (City, area of town, or cross street if not specific in class name.)
5) Square Footage (often left out but of huge homebuyer interest!)
6) Style of Home (2 story, Ranch etc.)
7) Type of Neighborhood (without breaking any FHA rules)
8) Living Room features
9) Dining Room features
10) Kitchen features
11) Bedroom Features
12) Front yard features
13) Back yard features
14) Garage size
16) Contact information (Phone with area code, And Realtor Name and company if by a realtor)
Composition of the Ad Copy points
After the essentials of headline, location, bedroom and baths, the rest of the ad should be written as if you are taking a mental tour of the home. If the ad is not in a logical order, the reader will almost subconsciously skip it after reading the first line or two. Lets look at one ad and see how different it could sound.
THE WRONG WAY: Visualize taking a tour of the home below as read. It can almost make you dizzy!
BY OWNER, Fremont, 5 bedrooms, 2 baths, big backyard with fruit trees, upstairs master bedroom, 2 car garage, kitchen with new appliances, fenced front yard, living room with fireplace, near park, dining room seats 12, tool shed. $250,000. 555-555-5555
RIGHT WAY: Now, lets put it in a more logical order.
BY OWNER, Fremont, 5 bedrooms, 2 baths, living room with fireplace, dining room seats 12, kitchen with new appliances, upstairs master bedroom, fenced front yard, big backyard with fruit trees, 2 car garage and tool shed, near park. $250,000. 555-555-5555
Now we have a "tour" of the home. We start our description as if we just entered the front door of the home with the living room and other downstairs rooms like the family room and kitchen. We don't go "upstairs" until we finish downstairs (or don't talk about the bedroom features until you've described the living room, family room and kitchen). We don't go outside until we finish inside. Once the room features are explained, its time to talk about what is in the front of the house and then the back yard and garage, finishing with price and contact information.
Your advertisers look to your sales reps as the "experts". Train your reps to advise advertisers what needs to be in their real estate ads as well as how to put the information in the order the reader will best respond to. Then all the advertiser will have to do is answer all those phone calls!