Quick Answer Series: What About Ads in Home Magazines?

I think advertising in home magazines can be a good investment, or it can be a total waste of money.  If done properly, home magazine ads can be a very affordable source of new business while making your listing clients happy at the same time.  Done incorrectly, it can put you in the poor house with next to nothing to show for the expense.

When I had about 60 active listings, I personally experimented and tested various ads in several magazines.  At one point, I was running 8 full pages each month divided between 3 different publications.  I tried lots of different ad formats, and I constantly experimented until I got it dialed in.  In the process, I spent a ton of money and learned a lot about magazine advertising.  Here are the basics that I learned.

First, what not to do.  The typical “bad” home magazine ad, much like the typical “bad” real estate website, is all about the agent.  Trust me, customers don’t care about you.  They are looking at the magazine for one reason: to look at houses.  They don’t care about your company either.  So don’t waste a lot of ad space with your photo, your company logo, your personal philosophy, or anything except what that customer wants to see. Homes.

Another big mistake many agents make is including only a small number of homes on the page.  That’s generally because they only have a small number of listings.  If you are advertising in the magazine to get phone calls, then you need to put as many listings as possible in the ad, even if you have to borrow them from your broker or from other agents.  The more homes the better.

Still, probably the biggest mistake you can make when it comes to magazine ads is giving the home price.  I know many top coaches and speakers preach to always include the price.  But I’ve tested it, and that’s just plain bad advice.  Typically, the only reason shoppers will even consider calling in is to get the price of a home they like.  If you give them the price up front, there is no reason to call, and they probably won’t.  Don’t forget why you’re advertising — to get leads.

Now, let’s talk about how to create the ultimate magazine ad.  In real estate there are three things that are important — location, location, location.  In magazine ads the same is true.  Studies have been done and about 50% of the population are front flippers. (In other words, they start at the beginning of the magazine and flip from front to back.) The other half are back flippers.  (They start at the back of the magazine and flip forward.)  To maximize visibility, you want to be as close to either cover as possible.  You also want to be on the right hand side, because ads on the right side, studies show, typically pull 50% better.

Next, you absolutely need to have an IVR system (call capture hotline) in place.  There are three reasons for this.  First, by offering “free recorded information” instead of the threat of a live REALTOR® on the other end of the call, you will see that you increase your call volume by a factor of 10.  Why?  Because 90% of home shoppers will typically be in Phase 1 of the buying cycle and won’t want to talk to an agent yet.  Only about 10% will be willing to actually talk to you.

The second reason for using an IVR system is that you can measure your results.  I happen to know that my cost per lead in one magazine was nearly twice the cost per lead of another magazine, running essentially identical ads.  If you can’t know where your various calls are coming from you can’t determine which ads are the most effective, nor your cost per lead.

The third reason is that a hotline phone number works 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, while you may turn your phone off when you go home at night.  Trust me when I tell you that you’ll get calls on your hotline in the middle of the night!  (And you thought bats lived in caves, not houses!)  The best part is that you don’t have to answer the call in order to capture the lead.  I looked at a number of hotlines, and ultimately chose Proquest Technologies’ Provantage System.  I found it to be very good, reliable, and low-priced, and personally used it for years. Of course if you are one of my coaching students, you will have our LCM phone gateway (our integrated IVR technology) included free of charge.

Now for the ad itself.  Put as many pictures of houses as the page will allow.  Don’t waste valuable ad space with your picture, or a big brokerage logo.  I typically put 20 homes on a small page (like The Real Estate Book) and 30 homes on a large page (like Homes & Land).  The more homes, the more calls.  The better the photos, the more calls.  Don’t list the price! Here is a typical blurb I might use:

3BR, 2BA Only 2 minutes
from Fort Bragg!
Extension 1003

Using that format, I have produced as many as 2300 leads in one month using only 8 pages.  That’s an average of 288 calls per page!  Most agents are lucky to receive 10-15 phone calls using typical ads without a hotline.  Ouch!

Here’s my bottom line:  If you choose to advertise in home magazines, get a hotline, and put lots of pictures and very little information on the page.  That way customers will call in to hear your recording and you will capture their phone number.  If you don’t do it that way, you will rapidly go broke advertising in magazines.  And that’s my quick answer.

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Comments 13

  1. author John C. Spain posted November 24th 2010. 6:23 pm Reply


  2. author Al Dana posted November 24th 2010. 9:32 pm Reply

    great article- I wish I knew this 30 years ago. I did O.K. but could I have done better knowing this? You bet!

  3. author Michael Benninger posted November 24th 2010. 9:50 pm Reply

    Matt this is really going out and putting the facts right.

  4. author Matt Jones posted November 24th 2010. 10:31 pm Reply

    Thank you guys for your nice comments.

  5. author Paul Bacon posted November 24th 2010. 10:46 pm Reply

    Good stuff! Thanks

  6. author Debra Williams HomesandLand posted November 24th 2010. 10:56 pm Reply

    I must say, I agree too!!!

  7. author Joyce A. Smith posted November 25th 2010. 9:15 am Reply

    Great information that is usable.

  8. author Steve Farran posted November 25th 2010. 4:52 pm Reply

    Just had a discussion about advertising the price on the actual yard sign. Seems to be a catch 22 you miss leads but get fewer wasted calls! Which way to go?

  9. author Matt Jones posted November 25th 2010. 5:28 pm Reply

    In my opinion, Steve, yard signs are not there to sell homes… agents sell homes. Signs are there to attract buyers. If you put the price on the sign, you take away the number one reason anyone would call and cut your lead count down to a fraction of what it would be without price. Of course, that’s just my opinion.

  10. author Trisha Lee posted November 26th 2010. 4:43 pm Reply

    Well, we were doing it partially right – have ProQuest but I’m changing the next ad to your format to see if our drawing potential increases. Thanks for the insight.

  11. author Matt Jones posted November 26th 2010. 5:28 pm Reply

    Thanks for all the great comments! Proquest is the very best, IMHO, and I know the owners and they are great guys. You couldn’t ask for a better company to do business with.

    I tested lots of ad combinations until I found what produced the most leads. I trust you will see great results!

  12. author Cynthia Laboile posted November 28th 2010. 6:13 pm Reply

    Totally agree! Though I’ve found that all print ads are fading, Proquest produces great results for seller-clients, and that’s important in this strong buyer’s market. I love the tracking method, so I know where I’m wasting ad money! Thanks for sharing your thoughts

  13. author Lynne Forrestal posted December 9th 2010. 1:49 pm Reply

    We have a hotline that captures phone numbers, but it does give the price of the property, so if that is all they want, they will get it without talking to an agent…but we have their number and do follow up calls to them….and have gotten some prospects working with us that way. Thanks for the idea about photo but no price in ads, will give it a try

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