Ian Grace suit pic 16 6 07By Ian Grace

What is the most important part of any ad? The top bit! The very first part of the ad that prospective buyers see. People will never read every ad – rather, they skim from ad to ad, letting the photo and first few words (which is normally the headline of the ad), decide for them whether they will read the ad further.

Photos and headlines must work together to grab the prospective buyers’ interest, enough for them to decide the ad has something to offer them and that they should read further.

This is where we will change what the real estate industry has been doing forever and I promise you, the results will be amazing. It’s time for a paradigm shift in your thinking!

Visualize a property that, from the back deck or veranda, has a lovely view down over a lake. Now let’s assume we have a headline, something like Watch the yachts sail by and the body copy might continue, “Relax with your feet up on your back deck, enjoying this glorious view of the lake, the seagulls circling and the yachts sailing by…”

Got the picture so far? Now, what would be the ideal photo to complement that headline? A photo taken from that back deck, with the view prospective buyers will enjoy once they are living, in their new home. Certainly not a view of the front of the house.

Now, just to reinforce what I am saying, go and pick up some magazines and your daily newspaper and look at the professionally put together ads. Looking at what we’ve just done above, notice how the photos and headlines work together to identify prospective customers, their wants, their needs, their problems (and how to solve them), so they will make a decision to read past the headline and to see what the ad has to offer them.

This is where we come across a dilemma – looking at real estate ads, whether on the Internet or in print, the main photo in almost every case is of the front of the house.

However, if the rule of photos and headlines working with and complementing each other makes sense, then if we have all fronts of houses as the main photos, with different headlines, they can’t work together – breaking one of the most vital rules of advertising. The main photo does not need to be the front of the house!

Have you ever looked to buy a property yourself? You look through pages and pages of ads showing fronts of houses – boring, boring, boring. How can people possibly make an informed decision about what it would be like to live there, in that house, with those neighbours, in that area with everything it has to offer, by looking at those ads?

Ian Grace used this photo, rather than one of the front of the house, to sell his home.
Ian Grace used this photo, rather than one of the front of the house, to sell his home.

When I sold my own house, I used this headline: Relaxxx in privacy, after a hard day. The three x’s really emphasizes the relaxing. The main photo showed my wife and I in our hot tub, relaxing with a glass of wine. Now, how easy is it for you to visualize yourself relaxing in exactly the same way? The buyer, who first saw the property on the Internet, asked if it was me and my wife in the photo – it totally personalised the ad, gave it a life, depicted enjoyment and created the perfect picture of what the buyer could do once they owned the home.

Then the copy talked about doing some laps in the pool, or just relaxing in the shallow beach entry area – so, the next photo was of the pool. Then it talked about them enjoying a game of pool and of course, the next photo showed the games room with the pool table.

We had over 20 photos in total, showing the home and all the area had to offer and if there was a photo of the front of the house, it was probably about the last one to be seen. If a house has “street appeal”, then that is a bonus, but not the reason to purchase a house, except on very rare occasions.

Do you get the picture? Can you imagine how different these ads will be and how they will stand out against your competitors’ ads?

Final thing to remember – always make sure your photo matches the headline, not the other way around.

In my next article we will talk more about photos, personalizing your ads and understanding something that is vitally important – putting a media mix advertising campaign together – powerful stuff.

Known internationally as “Mr. Real Estate Advertising”, Australian born Ian Grace is acknowledged as one of the world’s leading authorities on real estate advertising. Since 1994, he has delivered his programs throughout Australia, New Zealand, U.S.A, Canada and the U.K. His articles about real estate advertising have been published around the world. www.iangrace.com


  1. The goals of most sellers are the same regardless of whether or not they list with a real estate professional. They want a quick sale with the highest possible price and the least hassle. For all houses for sale by owner it is imperative to have the right things in the advertisement so that they are able to attract the right kind and the highest amount of buyers.
    I have here an FSBO article where you can learn things on selling your home, from a mahopac real estate broker.

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