Open House Ads

OK, this may sound like a bit of a rant. (some of you are saying…”what else is new?”) Open House ads in the newspaper make me crazy. Last Friday morning I called the San Francisco Chronicle and placed an ad in the Sunday open home guide for a new listing of mine. During this process I create the ad itself, stipulate it’s length and pay for it at the time with either a credit or debit card. After we had worked through all of the details they gave me a confirmation number for the ad. Just for your info, a three line open house ad in the Sunday real estate section cost’s $118.00..slightly more if you want bold type. Sunday morning I went and got the paper from the driveway, pulled out the open house guide in the Real Estate section and guess what…no ad.

Of course, I called the Chronicle Monday morning to find out what happened and had to leave a message because nobody could help me…I’m still waiting for them to return my call.  I know from several past experiences just like this that it’ll come down to one of two problems…1) They (or I) transposed a number from my ATM check card and thus it didn’t go through (they never call you back when that happens, and who knows why they just don’t run your card while you’re on the phone with them)..and/or 2) the ad ran in the wrong community or county, oops! I’ve finally come to this conclusion…who cares?

Here’s one of the great secrets of the real estate business folks…Sunday Open House ads are worthless and Realtors buy them knowing that full well. They do it to appease their sellers, who want to be assured that they’re getting their monies worth out of the commissions that they’re paying. Many sellers think an Open House Ad is critical and we resisit illuminating them. We don’t want them to think we’re cutting corners on their marketing so we pay it, sort of like hush money. With each successive year of Internet technology, print ads have  gotten more and more irrelevant. In spite of missing the Chronicle’s ad on Sunday I had at least 100 people at my open house. They came from the directional signs, Craigslist and MLSlistings open house guide. For the last 3 or 4 years I’ve asked people at my open houses how they found the place…90-95% say from one of these 3 options. It’s rare to hear anybody mention a print ad. Yet I see 10 and 12 line ads in the Chronicle every weekend complete with photos of the houses…I’ll bet they cost $500.00 or more. There’s no way they bring one single person more than a 2 line ad will…if they bring anybody at all. Obviously, this is a very technologically sophisticated area where potential buyers see new listings instantly via multiple on-line resources, print Open House ads are an anachronism.

Last year I had a seller who called me at 8:15 one Sunday morning when he noticed the Chronicle didn’t run our ad.(Sound familiar?) He was really panicked that nobody would come to the open house. We ended up with more people that week than we did the week before with the ad! Once upon a time Sunday open house ads actually may have introduced a potential buyer to a listing…can you imagine that being said now?


  1. I’ve had the paper miss one of my ads more than once. I’m sure the sellers always thought I had screwed up. I don’d think the ad is that important and if I run an ad it’s to satisfy the seller and not for traffic. Over the years I’ve estimated that only 10% of the traffic (at best) came from an ad.

  2. I look forward to the day when seller’s realize this. I stopped most print ads more than 2 years ago!

  3. Must happen everywhere…Two other agents and myself had one ad put together for our 3 properties a couple of weeks ago…It didn’t run…Answer?… ‘Forgot to put it in’ !

  4. Many sellers cannot get past the traditional ways of doing business. Statistics seem to work well when explaining why I do what I do.

  5. Jim,

    Amen Brother…..and the Seller does not get it….

    Those early Sunday morning calls are classic…..yes it happens here too

  6. JIM – You obviously are doing a great job in marketing your listings, and you know that open house ads don’t work. My question to you is…why are you still paying the hush money instead of letting homeowners know that you don’t do newspaper advertising because it doesn’t work?

  7. Thanks Adam…that’s the epiphany I finally came too! Who knows why, you compete for listings and you pull out all the bells and whistles. It’s pretty basic, it’s about learning appropriate boundaries for me!

  8. As it turned out it was option 2 from this post. The Chron actually placed the ad in the new Peninsula community of San Manteo. Since the Open House guide lists homes alphabetically by community and by price we ended up between the highest priced house in San Carlos and the lowest priced condo in San Mateo. I suspect nobody who visited the open house saw that ad…do you think?

  9. Same here, Jim. I ask callers where they found the property that they are calling about. IDX systems, Craig’s list, google, mainly online or the yard sign. If it were only that easy, place an add in a print publication, sell a property. Some of the real estate little papers are published a week or two after they receive the ad! Online is immediate!! I love posting all the photos! Looking into the flip video camera next.

  10. Jim-I did an Open House on Sunday, I ran no ads, just the MLS, and signs. It was the best open house I had this year.

  11. Hey Jim,

    I’m with you 100% about newspaper ads. I do use the on-line version of the San Jose Mercury and SF Chronicle ads however; my sellers appreciate that (makes them feel they’re getting presence in the local papers), it costs a fraction of what a print ad costs and stays up much longer.

    See you around town, Lottie

  12. Thanks for the info. My clients never listen to me when I tell them the ads do not work.

  13. Regina Lundeen says:

    We advertise our Open House in the newspaper and post them on websites galore – why do most of the people come? Signs and balloons. So why do the other stuff…just in case.

  14. Newspapers are only good for one thing… to line the bird cage!

  15. This is one reason I rely on craigslist when posting my open house. In the Bay area, we are so in tune with craigslist since it started here, that many of my prospects use craigslist more often than they use

    It’s not rare for people to show up at my open houses with printouts of my postings on craigslist. And since companies like postlets and vflyer provide templates to make the postings look good, I rely on them to enhance my postings

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