Classified Ads – One Of The LEAST Understood, And One Of The BIGGEST Opportunities In Your Business

While the goal of your classified ads is the same as the goal of your editorial-style direct response ads (i.e.. to get prospects to pick up the phone and call you), the urgency of the prospects you will be attracting, and the way you must attract them, is somewhat different.

To begin with, most of these prospects who read the classified ads have already made the decision that they are moving soon, and that’s why they are reading the classified ads in the first place – to “shop” for a home.   As a general rule, then, prospects that read the classified are further along in the thought process about moving, and are now in the doing stage.   They’re starting to carry out their plan.

In the majority of cases, prospects who read your editorial-style ads are looking for information about moving; while those reading the classifieds are looking for a home to move into. (While the majority of the prospects reading the classifieds will be buyers, many of these buyers will also have homes to sell.   I’ll show you how to attract both buyers and sellers with this medium).

The Role of Your Property Classified Ad is NOT to Sell the Property in the Ad

There are really two issues at play here:
You Can’t Sell A House in an Ad
The fact of the matter is you can’t sell ANY big ticket item solely on the basis of an ad.
You Can’t Sell THE House in the Ad
In what percentage of cases does a buyer call you up on one of your listings, come to view that particular listing and then buy it?   Well, sure it happens once in a while.   But what happens more often is that a buyer calls you on one property and then disqualifies it as either to big or too small or in the wrong area etc.   If you end up working with this buyer, in most cases you end up selling him or her another property (which in most cases isn’t even your listing.)

So you can see that your classified ad did a job, but the job was NOT to sell the house in the ad, but rather to get a buyer prospect to raise their hand.   So, if it’s next to impossible to sell the house in the ad, why do agents keep trying to do so by babbling on and on with lengthy descriptions of property features?   In actual fact, there are really only two things a classified ad can do:

  • Pacify the Seller
  • Generate a lead

And it’s only the latter reason that makes any financial business sense because, the fact is that the ad you place to pacify your seller is highly unlikely to sell his or her house anyway.

So, in the back of your mind when you’re writing the ad, you shouldn’t be thinking about how to showcase all the wonderful features of this house, instead you should be thinking about how you can get the highest response.

Importantly, (unlike editorial-style ads), you won’t have to take any steps to fly under the prospect’s advertising radar with your classified ads, because these prospects not only know they are reading advertisements, they’re actually seeking out ads for the information they’re after.   The classified section, by definition, is 100% advertisements, so rather than trying not to look like an ad, your focus here is to understand how to jump off a page which is filled with advertisements from agents just like you who are all trying to get the same prospects’ attention. Rather than flying under their advertising radar, with your classified ads you must instead fly straight in their line of radar and make sure you’re both SEEN and READ.

How To Make Sure Your Classified Ad Is SEEN

First of all, you DON’T want your classified ads to look like big, splashy, full-of-self-interest, “image” agent ads.   Prospects don’t read these type of ads.   However, I’ve found that devices such as a border, bolding, centering, stars etc. can help make your classified ad stand out, particularly in publications where there may be hundreds of other classified ads competing for the reader’s attention.

Now please note that this does NOT mean you should add your picture to your classified ad.   You still do not want your classified ad to look like an “agent ad”, but the kind of graphical elements noted above can help your ad to be seen.


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Getting “seen” is clearly important.   If the prospect doesn’t even “see” your ad, they can’t act on it.   But getting “seen” is not enough.   You have to somehow motivate your prospect to “read” your ad.

How To Make Sure Your Classified Ad is READ

In order for your editorial style ad to be read, you need to top it with a killer headline.   Well the same rule applies to your classified ads, except in this case your “headline” is the first word of your ad.

The most effective classified headlines relate to:

  • Geographic Area
  • Unique Type of Home (i.e. Fixer Upper, Bank Foreclosures/Distress Sale, Country Property, Upscale Home, Golf Course)
  • Type of Prospect (i.e. Investors, First Time Buyers, Homesellers)

Each of these “headlines” immediately and automatically hits a hot button with certain prospects and says some very specific and important things to your prospects.

  • Fixer Upper says “a great deal”
  • Country Property says “rambling, beautiful space away from it all – ultra private”

Emotional Appeal
It is emotional benefits that will most motivate prospects to call.   Specifically for classified ad prospects (whose needs are more immediate), what are the hot buttons you’re addressing?

When you scan the classified section of almost any paper (in other words if you believed everything you read), you might think  that buyer hot buttons are things like: walk-in closets, or close to shopping, or central vac.   After all, that’s what most of the ads from other agents drone on and on about.   That’s the way it’s always been done.

Consider the following two list of words.   the words on the left describe some non-emotional features of a home.   The ones on the right tell you something about what it might be like to live in this home.   Read the two lists and reflect on how each combination of words makes you feel,   What images do the conjure?

Words Which Describe Non-Emotional Features Words Which Hit Emotional Hot Buttons
  • water softener
  • garage door openers
  • built-in dishwasher
  • new roof
  • gas furnace
  • trees
  • fireplace
  • private yard
  • quiet street
  • cozy family room

Which words are motivating to you?   Which words help you picture yourself living in this home?   Which words make you want to know more?

If you’re like most prospects, the simple word combinations on the right will be very motivating because they hit on your emotional hot buttons.   They speak to the primal urge for protection and safety, comfort and security.   When your prospects are shopping for a home, they are NOT craving “a new roof”, “central vac” and “garborator”.   Instead, they’re looking for a safe haven – a private world called home that they can escape to.   The trouble with most classified ads as written by the average agent is that they laundry-list a flat list of features and fail to speak to the prospect’s heart.

Compiled below is a hotlist of the most compelling words you can use in your classified ads to elicit calls from your prospects.

(Hot Buttons: SAFETY, Comfort, Protection & Security)
(Hot Buttons: ESTEEM, Prestige & Status)
Words to describe the area or neighborhood
  • wonderful area
  • safe neighborhood
  • quiet street
  • great area
  • prestigious address
  • exclusive area
  • upscale area
  • gated community
  • executive area
Words to describe the house in general
  • family home
  • lovely
  • comfortable
  • clean
  • beautiful
  • elegant
  • luxury
  • cultured
  • grand
  • stunning
Words to describe the exterior of the house (the property)
  • trees
  • shaded backyard
  • patio
  • deck
  • private yard (patio, deck etc.)
  • big yard (large deck etc.)
  • sliding glass doors to deck
  • privacy fenced backyard
  • trees
  • shade
  • private
  • professionally landscaped
  • wooded backyard
  • huge private lot
  • Golf Course location
Words to describe the inside of the house
  • fireplace
  • 2 baths (Never 1 and 1/2 baths)
  • 3 bedroom (Never 2 bedrooms; instead of 4 bedrooms say 3 bedrooms + office or 4th bedroom)
  • family room
  • cozy den
  • all new (or brand new) kitchen (or bathroom)
  • garage (if you live in a snow belt)
  • french doors
  • cathedral ceiling
  • open concept
  • stunning decor
  • impressive
  • perfect for entertaining
  • gourmet kitchen
  • magnificent decor
  • gorgeous view

You MUST Communicate Affordability

When you’ve successfully hit the emotional hot button nearest and dearest to your prospect’s heart, they will be intrigued.   They will want to know more.   But they’ll also be somewhat skeptical.   If you  say “trees, private yard, fireplace, great neighborhood”, your prospect will probably respond “yes, but how much?”   They’ll be fearful of failure – fearful that when they call on the property they’ll find that it’s way outside their price range.   What good is your offer to satisfy their emotional needs if the solution to their problem is not attainable?

You have two important things to do in this regard.  The first is that you must do your homework on home loans in your area to find out how you can make buying using your services more affordable (i.e. zero down, or lowest down payment home loans, lowest interest rates, lowest monthly payments).

Secondly, you must clearly and specifically communicate affordability to your prospects in your ads because:

  • Most prospects think they need much more for a down payment than they really do to buy a home.
  • Everyone wants a deal

When you’re buying a home affordability relates to down payment and month payment more than it does the actual purchase price of the home.   So if you can pre-empt other agents by offering buyers the ability to buy a home with zero (or a super low) down payment, this will be very contrary to their conventional wisdom and it is highly unlikely that prospects would fail to see your ad.

Classified-Type Ad Samples:

Here are several classified ads that generate hundreds of leads from ready-to-act buyers and sellers.

To achieve proven results, you should run the ad exactly as shown below.  Remember to replace “YOUR TOWN” and  “YOURDOMAIN”,  with your information.

YOUR TOWN – Lovely
detached home, quiet
street, zero down payment.

3 bedroom, large fenced 
lot, quiet street.   Visit

$3,800 down, $975/month –
Bargain, quiet street, trees.
Why rent? 7.2% APR 30yr.

How to Advertise Something Other Than Your listings in the Classified Section and Still Generate Dozens of Calls

There is a way to advertise something other than specific properties in the classified section and pull in hundreds of calls from hot prospects.    These are called Service Classified ads. The way to do this is by advertising information on certain topics that have universal interest to prospects.

For example, in the classified ad below, you offer prospects a free report on recent home sales and current listings in their area.   What future seller wouldn’t want to know what the home down the street sold for?

out what the home down
the street sold for!  Free
computerized list of area 
home sales and current
listings.   Visit

Now any agent in your marketplace could offer this privileged information, but you’re the only one telling prospects about it.

One of the other Service Classified ads you can use is “Distress Sale” where you offer prospects a free list of Distress Sale properties in any area and price range they’re interested in.

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Foreclosures. Free list of
Foreclosure Properties
Receive a free
computerized printout.

Both of these tiny inexpensive ads do exceptionally well.   Why?   Because again, you’re the only one in your marketplace offering prospects the specific information they crave, and you’re making it non-threatening and easy to get it.  Here’s a few more good ones.

Home Evaluation.

SELLERS – Find Out What The
Home Down The Street Sold For.

Free Special Report.

BUYERS – Free report reveals
10 best buys in any price range.

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to the best properties.