Effective real estate ads begin with a compelling headline and pull the audience in by making them understand how they benefit from what’s being promoted. Learn more.

When real estate professionals tell me, “When consumers read my ad, they will understand …” I respond that their ad getting read in the first place is not a foregone conclusion. Statistics show that with all advertising, only one out of five people read past the headline of an ad.

Where It All Begins

Headlines are absolutely vital for any good ad. In fact, the headline and photo are the sole determining factors in whether the prospective buyer decides to read the ad at all. So, your first objective, then, should not be to create an ad that requires people to read through all of it in order to be persuaded by it. It should be to create an ad with a compelling headline to encourage five out of five people in the market you’re targeting to read it.

Remember the HOODOO concept I described in my first column? (If not, go check that out now. I’ll wait.) You need to remember the “who” when you write your headline, then qualify it quickly so the reader knows you’re both on the same wavelength. Thenideally, reinforce or remind about the headline at the end of the ad.

For example, let’s say you have this headline: “Swim in winter!”(The effectiveness of that would depend on which state you’re in, of course). Reading that headline, one would assume that to swim in winter, the pool would have to be heated. Thus, the qualifying statement might be: “The solar-heated pool in this home offers year-round family fun and entertaining.”

When reading an ad, people can get distracted. So at the end of the ad, it pays to reinforce the headline and bring their attention back to what attracted them to the ad in the first place. For example, you could close with: “So, if you’d like to be able to swim this winter, call me today at …”

The Rules for Great Headlines

Powerful headlines must contain one or more of the following:

·        A benefit — stated or implied — for the reader.

·        Something that is novel or topical.

·        A curiosity element (but beware of gimmicks for gimmicks’ sake).

For example, you’ve probably seen or heard ad headlines like, “Announcing the all-new XYZ dishwasher, which saves you time and money!”

Ask yourself, how many of the rules above are followed in that headline? That’s right, all three of them.

Here’s another example —“Hard work does pay” as a headline for a property that needs a lot of work done to it. That headline has two of the rules — a benefit and also the curiosity element. It makes the reader ask “What and how much do I have to do?” and “What will the rewards be?”

What You’re Really Selling

Now is probably a good time to explode a myth in the real estate industry, as it will pave the way for what I’ll be covering in later columns in order to help you to create better advertising. That myth is this: Most real estate pros around the world believe they are selling houses. Sadly, most ads in this business reflect just that. In fact, many real estate ads only seem to prove that practitioners can count — e.g., “4 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, 1 dining room.”

It is vitally important to understand that you are not selling a house. What you are selling is: living there.

You see, that is the picture prospective buyers have in their mind — living in their new home, which may have an extra bedroom or two, so the kids can have their own space and privacy and the resultant family harmony. Or perhaps the extra entertaining areas, where both parents and their children can host their friends at the same time, but separately.

Once an ad matches the picture the prospective buyers have in their minds about what it will be likeliving there, you have a match and have now attracted the right buyer.

When I was presenting at the REALTORS® Conference & Expo some years ago, Colin Powell was the keynote speaker. He told a story about a military officer who was continually transferred from base to base, city to city. Their young son was asked if it was hard for him, always living in a different home. His response was “Oh, no, no, no, no — we always live in the same home, we just put it in a different house.”

It’s a cute story, but it resonates because it’s true. Think about it: If you’ve ever walked through brand-new display homes, they are normally decorated exquisitely. As you look around, you can really imagine and feel yourselfliving there and enjoying what it has to offer.

However, when you buy the house and those furnishings are gone, all you have left are bare floors and walls. It doesn’t look as inviting as it did before, but then you fill it with your own furniture, furnishings, and photos, and make it your home.

Consumers also need to know what living there is all about. What are the neighbors like? How close are the schools? Where are the nearest golf courses? Where is all of the retail? What transport is available and where? What are the best ways to get to work? Are there other children in the area for the kids to play with? The list goes on. Great real estate advertising will answer all these questions for them.

I’ll provide a personal example of this. We sold our own property in Brisbane, before moving to the Gold Coast. The buyers lived a two-hour plane flight away, and only the husband visited our home and made the buying decision.(And yes, I created the ad campaign for our home.)

The day before the family was due to pick up the keys from our solicitor, we agreed to meet them there and demonstrate the pool and the hot tub, their operation, and the necessary chemicals.

While we were doing that, their two children ran around the house saying, “There’s my bedroom, the one with the V-shaped bookshelf.” They knew exactly which room they would be living in, even though they had never visited the home previously. That’s what great real estate advertising does. Oh, and by the way, we had four other prospective buyers lined up, waiting in case the sale fell through.

The photos for these ads definitely played a role, but that’s a subject for my next column. Here’s a sneak preview of the kinds of results you can get from great pictures. I’ll tell you the story of John McKenna, a real estate professional based in Pennsylvania, who recently picked up a listing that had been on the market for three years.

The previous agent couldn’t sell the property for $259,000, and blamed the failure on the price while dropping it to $249,000, $239,000, and finally to $219,000. However, McKenna sold the property in a few short weeks, for $289,000 — $30,000 more than the original list price.

If you’re ready for that kind of success, be sure to check out my next column.

This article is part 2 in a 10-part series on writing great real estate ads. Read more here: 

Part 1: Effective Advertising: It’s All About ‘HOODOO’
Part 2: Write Ads That Sell
Part 3: Match Powerful Photos With Powerful Headlines to Get Ads Noticed
Part 4: Show What It's Like to Live in a Home
Part 5: Humanizing Your Ads
Part 6: Different Ads for Different Markets
Part 7: Media Match: Make all Your Ad Media Work Together
Part 8: Keep the Same (Good) Ad Running

Part 9: Pricing: Take Your Sellers for a Ride
Part 10: Getting Your Sellers to Pay for Advertising
Bonus Tip 11: Research Your Advertising to Guarantee its Effectiveness