Real Estate Listing Marketing: Then And Now


In the 1980s, real estate agents had to advertise properties in the newspaper to compete. With no internet, almost no exclusive listings, and no co-broking, the only way to attract customers (other than through your sphere of influence) was to attract them with newspaper ads. For us in New York, that meant placing as many New York Times NYT classified ads as we could afford (I remember feeling elated when, at 29 years old, my ad budget was increased to 3 classifieds per week!) and fighting for the coveted spaces in our monthly New York Times Magazine ad. That was it. The Classified section of the Sunday Times ran to a dozen pages in those days, with all the major firms underwriting two or three full columns per week. It was simple. It was direct. It worked, at least in part because real estate agents held the keys to the kingdom of available listings. Buyers couldn’t get in without them.

The internet: Same, same but different

All that changed with the advent of the internet. Today’s system for marketing listings has completely changed, while remaining strikingly much the same. While much more extraneous noise exists around the basic process, that process still involves agents displaying listings (now online instead of in print) and hoping that prospects contact them. Of course, the rise of exclusive rather than open listings has brought other changes. Now agents market as intensively to other agents as to potential clients. This too has become an online process: we create e-brochures which we send agent to agent and company to company through email channels to highlight our properties, and our competitors do the same, all across the country. The big aggregators, like Zillow and, have seen a huge opportunity here to jump into this multi-billion dollar marketplace and create huge, heavily marketed websites which, in one form or another, sell agents the leads which used to come to us directly. Thus the extraneous noise…

Social media advertising

Increasingly, agents also depend on social media to promote themselves, their listings, and their recent sales. Facebook FB -0.8% for the older generation, and Instagram for the younger, both can offer enormous reach to a curated audience for a well-crafted message. Best of all, unless one opts for targeted ads, these promotions are free.

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