Digital marketing is a blessing and a curse for real estate agents

'Agents are bidding costs up but don't understand what they're buying'
  • Some industry veterans say they see agents spend wastefully on digital marketing because agents fail to vet products, don't adopt lead-conversion systems and don't track return on investment.
  • Spending on marketing by agents and brokers has increased by two-thirds since the height of the housing boom.
  • Those who've found success with the methods say that operational support and long-term marketing to leads are key to extracting value from digital advertising.

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Arlington, Virginia-based Realtor Coral Gundlach spent $100 to $200 marketing a listing when she entered the business in 2004. Today, she sometimes shells out more than ten times that amount. Twelve years ago, she spent up to $200 on postcards, flyers and a few listing photos. She would also sometimes buy a newspaper ad. But now she forks over up to $1,500 per listing on home staging, professional photos, video, 3-D virtual tours, CMA software and Zillow promotion, among other things. “Now we have virtually limitless options for marketing both ourselves and our listings,” encouraging agents to sink much more money into marketing, said Gundlach, an agent at Century 21 Redwood Realty. "The real estate technology boom has streamlined things a bit, but it has also made the business more complicated and expensive for agents, no doubt." Driven by the rise of digital advertising, spending on residential and commercial advertising by agents and brokers jumped 65 perce...