Do you know your real estate market? I mean REALLY know it? Do you have a firm understanding of what type of real estate ads your classifieds attract? Just like different priced merchandise or autos, a short informal analysis of your real estate section can lead the planning for increased revenues all year long.

Lets look at a simple 5 step plan to your real estate content analysis.

Step 1: Take the biggest real estate section of the month. How many line ads are FSBO? (Can you assume that any ad that does not say "realtor" is a FSBO?) How many line ads are from Realtors? How many individual homes for sale are there in the display ads?

The above numbers will give you a nice pie chart of how your real estate section is broken out. Here is a scenario from one newspaper case study:

My first impression from this chart is that this healthy real estate section has many display ads from large companies like Coldwell Banker and Century 21, a good amount of FSBO, but line ads from independent Realtors has a pretty small share at 15%. According to a 2003 research survey from the National Association of Realtors (which has 950,000 members), only 45 percent of realtors are affiliated with a franchised company. That means 55% are independent. It is the independent realtor that we often miss in our classified sections. Why? We simply never call them or at least email them (another finding from the survey showed 4 out of 5 realtors "frequently" use email for business purposes.) So on to Step 2.

Step 2: Get a full listing of Realtors in your circulation area. Where? Yellow Pages (online yellow pages are most up to date), lists from your Board of Realtors or Now get a full list of names of realtors who advertise in your product (yes, even all those realtors in the display ads). Cross-reference them on an excel spreadsheet to show your list target market of realtors now currently advertising in your newspaper.

Time now to put some good liner programs together and promote them to your target list. While Realtors working with a franchise broker will continue to advertise in the larger display ads with other agents, the independent broker would probably be more than willing to jump on a good promotional line rate. In fact, after I finally convinced one of my clients that they were not reaching the independent market, they assigned one inside rep to this one area. After a short time getting in touch with the independent market, this sales rep now often brings in more revenue than her outside sales counterpart who works exclusively with the large franchise brokers!

What do you want to promote to these non-advertising realtors? Well, first we have to find out what part of the market we should attack first. So on to step 4.

Step 3: What does your market MLS breakdown look like?

This is a bit easier since you can pull price ranges from a website like or almost any realtor website that has your local MLS available. Get the total number of homes for sale in your circulation area then break them down by price (Under $100,000, $101,000 to $200,000, $201,000 to $300,000 etc.). Create a chart so you can visually see what is happening in your market. Let's see what our case study MLS came up with below:

Looks like the majority of homes are for sale from $200,000 to $500,000. However, there is a large jump for homes over $1,000,000! This chart only tells part of the story, so on to step 4.

Step 4. What are the prices of homes advertised in your newspaper?

Yes, this is time consuming but well worth the effort. Of course, if you have a good website that includes all (or most) of your ads you could pull price ranges from your website. If homes for sale within display ads are not on your website, you'll have to do some ad-by-ad content analysis. At this point it does not matter if the homes are FSBO or by Realtors. Our goal is to find the spread of homes for sale by price in our newspaper. And of course, we then want to chart these results along with the MLS results. Let's see what our case study comparison shows on the chart below.

If we think of the MLS as the universe of homes for sale in your circulation area, then this newspaper had a 20% share of all homes for sale (if we added FSBO to the MLS the share would be even smaller). In any event, this chart shows there is plenty of opportunity to increase share especially in higher priced homes over $500,000!! We can build a precise promotional plan and target those realtors selling homes in that price range who are on our target list (those realtors not currently advertising in your paper). But what should your promotional plan be? On to Step 5.

Step 5: Plan your promotion so it gets results from your target list!

Perhaps you can start a new product (Luxury Homes), perhaps a classy bannered section that runs in a different section of your newspaper (perhaps the Business section to attract high end demographics), or if you are missing lower priced homes, perhaps a new rate which gets lower according to the price of the home on a Run It Till It Sells basis.

One thing I know for certain after training at in so many markets, what works for one market, does not necessarily work for another. You must do your homework and come up with a plan that will attract new advertisers to your real estate section!