Choosing the right advertising medium for your brand or business is challenging. What works for one brand in a particular industry may not work for another. However, it seems as though radio ads for real estate are successful in every market if targeting and format are on point.

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Why Radio Ads Work, or Not?

When the advertisers or marketing departments of any business decide to pursue radio ads, it’s risky. One of my favorite lines from our Bunny Studio blog is from The Best and Worst Radio Ads: Be on the Right Side. “For all we know, having a bad ad out is even worse than languishing in mediocrity; a mediocre ad may be forgettable, but a bad radio ad will make you infamous.” This is so true. 

Before researching this piece, I didn’t know how much hate can be mustered for a commercial. There are numerous online forums, including one called This one website has nearly 1300 posts devoted to radio ads that people hate! Luckily, real estate agents seem to be staying out of the fray. Whether it’s because of time constraints, or because real estate agents shy away from kitsch or shock value is unknown. However, there is a real estate agent in my area that has his children do voice-overs for his commercials. I haven’t posted this info to Commercials I Hate, but I could.

To be fair, there is some evidence that suggests that annoying radio ads are some of the most successful. I guess, if you are going for unforgettable, annoying is one way. I mean, I know that guy’s name, and I can’t stop hearing his kids’ voices in my head, so there is that. But, there are definitely more effective ways of reaching both buyers and sellers with real estate radio ads.

Empathy in Real Estate Ads for Radio

In 2018, surveyed 2000 first-time home buyers about their stress levels during the process. Of those surveyed:

  • 44% reported feeling nervous throughout the experience
  • 20% were reduced to tears at least once during the process
  • 28% felt “heartbroken” after choosing a home and having an offer rejected
  • 2 out of 5 claimed that buying a home was “the most stressful event in modern life”

audio ads for real estate

One of the essential elements of successful real estate radio commercials is empathy. In a blog post from a few years back, radio advertising guru Dan O’Day broke down a real estate radio ad by somebody named Rex. In the ad, there’s a lot of, “Rex does…Rex sells…Rex thinks…Rex charges…” Dan breaks it down like this:

  1. Who is Rex? We may never know.
  2. The focus of the ad is not on the listener or their needs.
  3. Buying/selling a house is a significant life move. You won’t trust that to someone whose disclaimer is super-shady and impossible to understand.

Reaching people that are interested in buying a home is tough. The anxiety that consumers have over buying or selling a home can be debilitating. You have between 30 and 60 seconds to reach potential buyers and sellers with radio ads for real estate. That’s a small window to convince them that your agency is the right fit. In that short period you have to:

  • acknowledge their need
  • express authenticity and empathy
  • introduce yourself
  • include a call to action

A personal connection, often using a live read format with popular radio personalities, especially if the on-air person is a client, has been a very successful format for many agents.

Harnessing the Power of Parasocial Phenomena

Local radio personalities have more than just a following. Studies have shown that listeners develop parasocial relationships with on-air talent. Whether they are drive time DJs on the local pop station or sports analysts from talk radio, listeners are devoted. They feel that these are people that they know and trust. In 2012, a USC study found that of the responding listeners:

  • 75% tune-in when their favorite personality is on the air
  • 79% listen to a particular radio station because of their favorite personality
  • 85% are less likely to change the station when their favorite personality is on
  • 72% talk with friends about their favorite personality and their program

According to the Radio Advertising Bureau, “radio reaches 92% of adults who plan on purchasing a home this year.” Most, if not all, of those listeners, likely have a favorite on-air personality that they trust. Agents that build a rapport with radio talent, or work with them on home sales, create very successful live-read ads.

Scripting Radio Ads for Real Estate

Radio ads production may seem pretty straight forward. You have a message or something to sell, and you put it out there. Easy peasy. However, in radio ads for real estate, you have much to cover in only 30 to 60 seconds.

The first paid radio ad ever aired was for a real estate company in 1922. It was 16 seconds long, and it hit every target that advertisers are still working with today.

  1. It named the problem that the listener was looking to solve – crowded city living
  2. It proposed a solution to the problem – community living in a friendly and natural environment
  3. It clearly stated who they were – Hawthorne Court Apartments
  4. It offered a prominent call to action – visit them in Jackson Heights

Of course, back then, 16 seconds was easy to fill. Only 35% of homes had telephones in the 1920s, so providing a phone number would have been virtually useless. Obviously, they didn’t have a website to refer a listener to, but does it seem weird that they don’t offer an address to visit? I thought so, too, at first. But that is because my context was off. 

I have visited Queens many times, but the vision in my mind does not match the reality of Jackson Heights in 1922.  Today, you would have to be Mad Hatter nuts to try to find any neighborhood or address in Queens without an address. However, in 1922, there was no Flushing Meadows, JFK, or Van Wyck, and Jackson Heights was just barely becoming a neighborhood. So, it was entirely reasonable for someone to head out of the city, over the 10-year-old Queensboro Bridge, toward Jackson Heights, without an actual address.

A Familiar Message

While this radio ad may seem very basic and simple, it alluded to something of significant import of the times. The “Garden City” movement, and what would ultimately become suburban living, not for just the ultra-wealthy, but any hardworking family, was for sale. The American Dream: get a job, work hard, get married, buy a house in the ‘burbs, have some kids, work some more, retire in that house. Today, this dream is still alive and well, although restructured a bit.

radio advertising for real estate

The Target Points Remain the Same

While time has marched on, and traditional ideas of family and work-life may look different today than they did 100 years ago, homeownership remains a primary goal of 75% of Americans. Undoubtedly, how real estate professionals reach clients has expanded exponentially, but the message remains the same. The listener has a problem (wants a house, has a home that is too small, needs to relocate for work), and you can offer solutions to that problem. To provide these solutions, they just need to know who you are, why you care, and how you can be reached. Just like the Queensboro Corporation did it in their Hawthorne Court Apartments radio ad in 1922.

Successful Radio Ads for Real Estate Today

The following radio ads for real estate have all of the components that you should look for in a script using various formats:

  1. ERA Strother – Simple and straightforward, addresses the problem, identifies proven success, call to action
  2. Coldwell Banker – Going beyond the live read of popular on-air talent, Kim Douglas built her real estate career while working as a radio personality and voice-over actress in Philly
  3. Stephens Real Estate – Covers all of the basics while using a personified format to develop a story
  4. Davenport Agents – A quality jingle that answers questions and provides all the necessary info

Regardless of the format that you might use in radio ads for real estate, according to the Radio Advertising Bureau, the critical thing to remember is that while “buying a house isn’t an everyday thing, listening to the radio is.” In 2018, radio ads increased new user search in the real estate sector by 3% and, again, radio reaches 92% of adults that plan on buying a house this year. Those statistics alone should drive any realtor, agent or broker, to allocate some of their advertising dollars to radio ads for real estate.