Print v online, the costs and effectiveness of advertising: Q&A with Century 21's Alastair Kay

Print v online, the costs and effectiveness of advertising: Q&A with Century 21's Alastair Kay
Print v online, the costs and effectiveness of advertising: Q&A with Century 21's Alastair Kay

Marketing your home for sale through a real estate agent leaves you in their power.

You need to trust them to effectively guide you through how the campaign for your property should be and how much you should be spending.

You must rely on them to ensure you do not overcapitalise, and in a space where the arguments over print versus online advertising and even the use of signboards are rife, it's understandable that you might be feeling a little lost.

For our Tuesday Q&A, Property Observer asked Century 21's national training manager Alastair Kay all about advertising, marketing and his own experiences in real estate.

What was the most exciting property you ever marketed, and how did you express this in your marketing?

The most exciting sale I’ve been involved in was the successful transaction of a property in Banksia Beach, Bribie Island's premier postcode which is known locally as millionaire’s row.Print v online, the costs and effectiveness of advertising: Q&A with Century 21's Alastair Kay

My point of contact for the property was the owner’s son, who lived between the Bribie home and his main residence in Brisbane. The son demanded excellence in everything he was involved in, having previously served in the military and being at that time employed as a well-respected prosecutor.

After much discussion, we chose to take their home to auction as it had only attracted five inspections after having been on the market for over two years. This high risk strategy required a significant investment to ensure we attracted the right buyers, so together we created a professional, targeted marketing campaign which required an investment in excess of $30,000 from the vendor.

The four week auction campaign attracted in excess of 100 viewings, an incredible amount of interest for the global financial crisis and a figure that dramatically exceeded the seller’s expectations. The auction was held at twilight on the deck of the home overlooking the Pumicestone Passage and was sold 24 hours later, after being passed in at the auction.

How do you tailor advertising and marketing to each individual property and vendor situation?

The most vital consideration for tailoring marketing and advertising is finding out what the seller hopes to achieve from the sale, and how they’d like to achieve it. More specifically, I like to ask the vendor questions relating to the sale based around three key areas: price, privacy and timing.

If obtaining the highest price possible is the most important result they want to achieve, I will show them what marketing is available to them and what attracts the most enquiries. I’ll also provide them with all the options and assist them with building their own campaign as the more the vendor can be involved, the better the likely result. Some real estate agents forget this and often present completed marketing campaigns, or only a few options. The danger with this approach is that it overlooks the fact the vendors are transacting what, for most people, is their single largest asset. This means that peace of mind in knowing that everything possible is being done to sell it at the best possible price should be of paramount importance.

Some vendors are worried about their privacy, a concern which may be driven by any number of different reasons. In these instances, I’ve occasionally been asked to design a discrete marketing campaign where a particular group of buyers is intensively targeted, or asked not to advertise at all and merely shop it around to interested buyers I’m aware of in the community.

After much discussion, we chose to take their home to auction as it had only attracted five inspections after having been on the market for over two years.

Timing is also crucial to tailoring a marketing campaign – if the vendor is desperate to sell, the only choice is often an intensive marketing campaign which showcases the property to as many potential buyers as possible.

What questions do vendors commonly ask around marketing?

Generally vendors want to discuss how much a marketing campaign for their property is going to cost, because they are often concerned that there can be no guarantee that they will achieve the price they hope for. These are legitimate concerns which your real estate agent should be comfortable addressing. Typically, I’ll explain how it’s in my best interest for the property to sell as real estate agents only ever get paid when a property settles.

Successfully transacting a property requires a well thought-out, structured and targeted marketing campaign that is designed to meet the vendor’s specific needs and requirements. If your agent isn’t paying adequate attention to your marketing requirements, it’s probably best to consider speaking with another agent to compare approaches.

Turn over page for more, including the difference between auction and private treaty marketing.

How does advertising differ between auctions and private treaty marketing?

There isn’t a great deal of difference, however vendors tend to invest less into marketing when they sell via private treaty. This is because when property is being transacted by private treaty, all that’s required is one passionate buyer to place an offer, as opposed to an auction where you want to attract several passionate bidders to compete for the property.

Regardless of the vendor’s preference regarding how they sell their property, I always recommend investing in the strongest campaign possible, as this has the highest possibility of finding the buyer that is going to pay the most.

I always caution that marketing for a property should be considered an investment – not a cost. This is because vendors often find that they’re able to achieve significantly more for their property through a premium marketing campaign, and doubling, or even tripling, their initial marketing investment.

For which type of properties does print advertising work?

I always recommend vendors consider every avenue of marketing available to them, as the reality is we’re after the buyer for the property – not just a buyer. This distinction is crucial, as marketing for the buyer means that you’re exploring all possible options, not just pursuing the cheapest, easiest option.

When I was selling in a rural location on the Queensland coast, most vendors wanted to choose a local paper that had a readership of 20,000 people every week and more often than not, found that they weren't getting the result they'd hoped for. My consistent recommendation to vendors was that they choose a different paper that had a greater readership of 950,000 people.

Doing this did mean an increased marketing investment; however, they increased attendance at open for inspections by an average of five buyers per week. This helped achieve a premium price for every seller who chose to add paper marketing to their campaign.

The moral of the story is that there’s still a place for paper advertising, especially newspapers that have a larger, more targeted circulation. There’s no use in having 10,000 people viewing your property online if 9,950 are in another state and only browsing for fun.

Are there any aspects of advertising where vendors should be spending less or more?

As you’ve probably realised, I'm a big believer in creating and executing the best campaign possible. Vendors only get one opportunity to make a good first impression and selling your home is no different.

There are ways of cutting costs. But in my experience when vendors try to cut costs in their marketing, they ultimately end up cutting the price they’re able to achieve for the property. I recently sold a unit on the waterfront by auction which the vendors had been contemplating listing at a price and seeing what happened.

The vendors were working on the assumption that because an identical unit above theirs sold for $360,000 only a few months earlier, they'd get a similar price. After talking through a range of options, they chose to invest into the best marketing campaign they could as they agreed that they’d only get one shot at introducing the property to the market.

By taking this approach they achieved a result of $418,500 – well above the recent sale, and a result that only came about because the marketing campaign reached the market completely. Had they sold by private treaty, they had planned on listing for $389,000.

What does the best listings copy look like – and what tips do you have for agents who consistently get it wrong?

Listing copy is one area that does need a lot of work in Australian real estate. Unfortunately, it often boils down to time and writing skills, and often agents will be a little short on both.

The best listing copy will portray the property in a positive light, while providing plenty of detail about the local area with a quirky edge which makes the property stand out. Some agents tend to go a little details-heavy, writing copy that ends up reading like an extended novella. Some agents, on the other hand, try too hard to be memorable and sacrifice too much detail. The ideal copy will get this balance right, which is a delicate process.

How much does it really cost to advertise a property?

For a long time now agents have used a rule of thumb that says that the marketing budget of a property should be roughly 1 per cent of the price of the home. Therefore if the value of the home is roughly $500,000 then a budget of $5,000 would be advisable.

However, this isn't always accurate and my advice is to recommend the campaign which will give the agent the best opportunity of achieving the highest price for the home. Naturally all real estate agents have to work within the constraints of the vendor’s budget, but often the vendor finds it’s worth the extra investment as they’ll likely achieve more at the sale.

One property that I transacted for $1,600,000 had a vendor who invested in a marketing campaign in excess of $30,000. Due to the nature of the property and its target market, anything less than this would have been inadequate and a waste of money. 

If there's someone you'd like to see asked about a topic for a Tuesday Q&A, email

Jennifer Duke

Jennifer Duke

Jennifer Duke was a property writer at Property Observer


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