• English
  • Español
AGENTS: Did you know you can share a personalized version of this post? Learn more!

Myths: The Earth Is Flat and Newspapers Sell Houses

It is amazing how masses of people can believe something that is absolutely untrue. The greatest example of this is that at one time the vast majority of people believed the world to be flat. Today, we want to debunk another commonly held belief – that newspapers sell houses. Somehow this notion gained believability even though the facts consistently prove it to not be true.

We should know what methods perspective purchasers use to find the home of their dreams when we are selling our house. That would enable us to develop the best marketing strategy to attract a buyer. The National Association of Realtors (NAR) has just released the 2010 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers*. This report is recognized by most as the best compilation of data on today’s buyers and sellers because of the enormous amount of data available at NAR’s fingertips.

Let’s look at the actual search habits of today’s buyers as reported by NAR:

It might interest everyone to know that less than 2% looked in newspapers, magazines or home buying guides when starting the search process. What do most buyers do?


We can see that buyers today want to explore their options online (combined 47%) or check with industry professionals (combined 27%). You might be ready to argue that the use of the internet is a new phenomenon over the past year or so. However, the report looks back over the last nine years. Though it is true that the percentage of those using the internet has dramatically increased (from 8% to 37%), it might interest you to find out that even back in 2001 only 9% of buyers found their home through print media (again, that number is now 2%).

If you want to develop a great marketing strategy to give your house maximum exposure, forget newspapers and look toward the internet. Where on the internet? The NAR report breaks down the most searched web sites this way:


The buyer is attracted to the type of sites that have the greatest number of listings. These sites are normally generated by the real estate industry. You should make sure your home is on as many of these sites as possible. That will give you the best chance of attracting your buyer.

Bottom Line

Print media never was a great way to market a house for sale and its effectiveness is diminishing each year. Meet with a local real estate professional and put together an internet marketing strategy worthy of your home.

* NAR members can get further analysis & download the complete report here.

Members: Sign in now to set up your Personalized Posts & start sharing today!

Not a Member Yet? Click Here to learn more about KCM’s newest feature, Personalized Posts.

22 replies
  1. Teresa Mullenmaster
    Teresa Mullenmaster says:

    Hi Steve: Caught your webcast from NO and found it was super! This is another bit of information I will share with my sellers. Can I come work for you????? T

  2. Chad Hayes
    Chad Hayes says:

    From the 2009 NAR Survey, there were two other charts that have been helpful in debunking the flat earth/newspaper theory. I expect the 2010 numbers to diverge even more.

    Sources used during home search
    90% used the internet during their home search.
    40% used a newspaper during their home search.

    Usefulness of search source
    Less than 1% found the internet “not useful” in finding their home.
    84% found the newspaper “not useful” in finding their home.

  3. Richard
    Richard says:

    I downloaded the NAR report. The first thing I read on page 5 is “Despite an official end to the Great Recession in June 2009,…” I’m supposed to give this report credibility when they write something like that?

  4. Steve Harney
    Steve Harney says:

    @ Paul – 89% use the internet in the search (see below). We were blogging on how many START the buying process on-line.

    From the actual report:

    “When STARTING the home buying process, the Internet plays an ever increasing role. Thirty-six percent of buyers looked online for properties for sale as their first step. An additional 11 percent began by finding information online about the home buying process.”

    “Eighty-nine percent of home buyers USED the Internet as one of the information sources in their home search process.”

  5. Edie Carlson
    Edie Carlson says:

    I’d like to see the numbers on how many listings agents garner because they DO run ads…just as open houses sell few houses, but give the agent access to potential buyers, newspaper ads sell few houses, but bring the agent listings. Any info on that? Thanks for a great article.

  6. David Schure
    David Schure says:

    Yet, it amazing how many properties are posted on the internet with sub-standard quality photos, scant descriptions and the apparent belief that 1. The sellers are never going to look at how their property is presented, and 2. The listing agent must not believe in the power of the internet. If buyers are searching for a possible property to purchase while still at a distant location and can not easily drop by for a better look, there is a high risk of losing them right away.

  7. Bill Terry
    Bill Terry says:

    I agree, I have had this conversation with my broker and agents and recently had them show me their demographics and print media hardly showed up on the sheet. It’s obvious that most folks start their serch in their easy chair with their computer!!!!

  8. Jim
    Jim says:

    We’re talking about buyers here, and I agree that marketing to buyers involves nice websites, etc., which I have. However, we all know that “listings” is the name of the game. How do you attract “sellers”? Of course, a referral is the best/easiest way, but my print advertising (which promotes my listings and myself) has become a nice local source of what sellers use when choosing their Realtor. I currently have 5 listings at this moment that I can track directly to print advertising. If only one of these homes sells (which several have thus far in 2010), the commission will exceed the amount of my print advertising for the entire year. I’m glad others are ignoring this outdated marketing tool.

  9. Steve Harney
    Steve Harney says:

    There have been several comments on this post that discuss print media as a good way to get listings. That is true. There are two distinct forms of advertising: direct response and institutional. In direct response advertising, you are trying to get a potential customer or client with an immediate need to reach out to you. In institutional advertising, you are trying to build your brand or deliver your message. I believe the KCM Crew did a great job of dispelling the myth that print media is a good vehicle to use as direct response advertising for a buyer. They did not address the issue of print media being a good form of institutional advertising to attract sellers.

    If you are going to use print media to attract sellers, I am not sure if a page of homes for sale will bring the best results. You will show you have homes for sale (doesn’t every one of your competitors?) and you might make the point that you are more aggressively marketing your listings. However, there may be better ways to communicate the differences between you and the competition. For example, a page of homes for sale with 33% of them having a “SOLD” banner across them lets the seller know that you are successful in getting houses sold in today’s market.

    There are many agents that use print media to keep the region abreast of what is happening in real estate by sharing current information on the issues with which sellers are most concerned (ex. foreclosures , prices or interest rates). They position themselves as the trusted expert in the market who has the answers to the tough questions.

    I believe that these are much better uses of print media as institutional advertising in building your brand with sellers in your area. If you want graphs, charts, data and insights to help you with this, the KCM Crew has a monthly service to assist you. For more information, click here.

  10. Joe Lebron
    Joe Lebron says:

    Thanks for the great info.100% accurate. Bottom line is open houses & pronto media do not sell houses, real estate agents sell them, whether through their customers/client base or aggressive online marketing campaigns through ‘real estate industry’ websites. Numbers don’t lie. Millions of viewers daily beats the heck outta neighbors walking through your house looking for decorating tips and being nosey. Note that people buy newspapers for news, not to shop for homes, but when they visit a real estate website , their only business being the is to search for real estate.

  11. Al Ryer
    Al Ryer says:

    This is what I have been saying for a couple years now……..and for the record in WNY (Western New York) if a house is not priced correctly, it won’t even drive in an offer from a perspective buyer……

    Al Ryer
    Remax North

  12. Mike Kerber
    Mike Kerber says:

    This article is a huge bunch of crap. Let’s just all assume that buyers have a computer and know how to use one. What about the elderly, what about
    the factory workers or truck drivers that all have such a raging need for the internet. In 2001 realtor.com predicted that there would be no use for
    Newspapers or Realtors. How’d that work out for them? Where I would agree
    that newspapers rarely sell the houses that are advertised, putting a
    Real Estate ad in the newspaper does bring attention to the brokerage. If your Realtors are awake they should be able to convert these calls into sales.

    Let’s not assume the KCM blog is accurate. Was it not this blog that predicted interest rates to be around 7% by autumn of this year? If I were putting my money on a publication to be accurate I would buy the Farmers Almanac

  13. jerry tranes
    jerry tranes says:

    Hello Steve,

    You are still one of my favorite real estate people!

    I am glad you agree that print ads do help on the list side of the business; however, the first set of figures for the buy side are somewhat misleading. Take the three categories below that add to 30% :

    “contact a real estate agent’ 19%
    “talked with a friend” 7%
    “visited Open Houses ” 4%

    I believe a good portion of these categories, that is, a subset of these categories, is the print media. For example, the buyer “talked with a friend” but how did the friend refer us? Perhaps, due to a print ad! Same with contacting a real estate agent, partially, thru print ads?

    The original survey did not go into this detail so we will never have the true stats; while I do not agree that with the original premise, I do agree with a modified one that “classified ads do not sell houses” any longer. Yet, even here we have some value using a leads per unit approach.

    To understand this on a macro level, for many years we have been saying that as the number of transactions in real estate goes up or down so does the number of active salespeople. In other words it is not the total size of the pie but the size of one’s slice of that pie that counts. In the same way, as print ad realtor volume decreases so does lead volume, and conversely as internet lead volume increases so does the realtor participation. Which of these marketing methods offer the greater result per unit? Of course, we must factor in cost per unit to make this even more complex.

    Diversifying is the answer and available resources will dictate the chosen marketing programs. What I find interesting is that print advertising is not going away but merely surfacing in new forms. For example, “Banner Advertising” on various web sites at various levels can be very costly; this is one example of the new institutional print media. Priority placement of a home
    for a fee on various sites is another example. Are these really different than newsprint? At the same time, most home buying guides as well as newspapers are available online which may blur the results of the original survey.

  14. Steve Harney
    Steve Harney says:

    To both Jerry and Mike,

    I realize that both of you have extensive experience with print media. Thanks for caring enough to take the time to leave a comment. I love your passion.

    The evolution of marketing in every industry is exciting to watch. The next ten years will deliver tremendous opportunities for those who stay current.



Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *