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How to Write Effective Home for Sale Ads

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Home for Sale

Advertise your home where it will reach the largest number of buyers.

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For sale by owners and sellers who are working with listing agents share a common goal. Each wants to sell a home in the shortest period of time for the highest price possible. To accomplish that directive, home sellers need to effectively advertise the home for sale to the largest targeted pool of home buyers.
A listing agent, whom I suspect is not likely to stay in business for very long, suggested an advertising campaign to a home seller in Long Island. He said, "I don't advertise listings on the Internet, nor do I propose using classified newspaper ads to sell your home. Instead, I am going to make posters and put them up in public places like the laundromat and at movie theaters!" You can't make stuff like this up.

Promotion and writing ad copy is an art, but there are specific guidelines you can follow to make sure your home advertising reaches your targeted audience and increases buyer traffic. There's a saying that to find out where ants are coming from, you've got to watch where they go. With that in mind, answer these two questions:

  1. Where do home buyers look to find homes advertised for sale?
  2. Where do you find home buyers who are likely to buy your home?

Magazine Advertising

Unless you're trying to sell a home that appeals to a small audience and can afford to wait months for results, magazine ads are not likely to produce an immediate buyer. Lead time is the major drawback. The home ad you submit today might not make it to a doorstep for 30 to 60 days, sometimes longer.

Magazine ad reps will claim your home ad will be in front of buyers for 30 days. In reality, the ad will be stuck in the back and ignored as the recipient flips through a couple articles before tossing the magazine into a recycling bin. Few reread magazines.

Newspaper Advertising

Local daily and weekly newspaper readership is declining, but in a few markets, it's still a desired place to advertise a home for sale. Even non-subscribers might buy a Sunday newspaper to look at the ads of homes for sale. Before placing a newspaper ad, get a copy of the paper. If nobody else is advertising, don't waste the money on a newspaper ad.

A local weekly paper might be a better place to advertise your home for sale. But your ad copy should sparkle and be designed to attract attention. Don't make a home selling mistake by abbreviating too many words or trying to cram everything into three lines to save money.

Direct Mail

You can buy specific mailing lists by identifying the characteristics of your potential home buyer and ordering lists that incorporate those particular traits. Look for direct mail list brokers in the Yellow Pages and on the Internet. Printing companies that offer direct mail services are also good sources for this information.

For example, a buyer for your home might be a person of a certain income level, age group or marital status. If you're selling a cabin in the woods, you might want to appeal to nature enthusiasts or hunters by purchasing a mailing list of those who buy hunting or hiking books or shop at outdoor camping stores.

Internet Advertising

Almost all homes searches are initiated online. By far, the most popular site is Realtor.com, probably because it's the easiest to remember. Many newspapers subscribe to local MLS feeds and download the latest home listings online.

Through popular Internet sites such as vFlyer, Point2 and Postlets, you can create online ads instantly, for free. These Web sites will also post them for you on dozens of other frequently visited sites.

Writing Effective Home Ad Copy

1) There is a difference between misleading advertising and ad copy that accentuates the positive. If you're selling a fixer upper home, don't try to make it sound like it's in turnkey condition. You can use terms to soften its rough condition but still convey the point such as:

  • Needs TLC
  • Bring your paintbrush and hammer
  • Handyman special

2) Try to avoid specific facts that could later come back to haunt. Unless you have calculated the square footage, don't site numbers without providing the source such as from the assessor or an appraiser. Use general terms that deliver the same message such as:

  • Large
  • Spacious
  • Abundant square footage

3) Use descriptive adjectives that convey emotion and evoke imagery. Help buyers imagine themselves living in your home. Describe distinctive qualities such as the:

  • Architectural design of your home
  • Entertainment options
  • Layout and flow
  • Special amenities and upgrades
  • Nearby shopping, restaurants, attractions

4) Remember to include the sales price and your contact information. You'll be amazed at how many people forget to include a phone number or disclose the home pricing.

5) Choose an attention-grabbing headline. Don't use "House for Sale," because it describes nothing. Figure out the most important and enticing aspect of your home and use those words. Here are some examples:

  • Spanish Beauty
  • Spacious Mediterranean
  • Entertainer's Delight
  • Charming Cottage
  • Sparkling Pool & Spa
  • Oversized Garage & Workshop
  • Secluded Hideaway
  • Secret Gardens
  • Your Dream Home
  • Magnificent Estate
  • Amazing Arts & Crafts
  • Gorgeous Split-Level on Lake
  • Upscale Urban Condo
  • Fabulous Executive Townhome
  • (Name of neighborhood) Stunning Classic
  • Three Men and a Baby*

*Just kidding. You can't use a headline like Three Men and a Baby because you might get sued for discrimination under Federal Fair Housing laws.

At the time of writing, Elizabeth Weintraub, DRE # 00697006, is a Broker-Associate at Lyon Real Estate in Sacramento, California.

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