The ultimate real estate facebook ad playbook

Facebook real estate marketing is changing with new targeting restrictions and ad formats. Get an up-to-date guide to running real estate Facebook ads.

Most realtors want to generate more leads.

It’s no surprise then that Facebook advertising–and its sophisticated targeting options–is a cornerstone of many real estate marketing plans.

The problem is that not every Facebook ad tactic is profitable. Not only this, but the platform is constantly changing. 

The purpose of this guide is to give you the broad framework you need to be successful in advertising on Facebook. 

If you’re worried that sounds vague, don’t be. We also include tons of actionable advice.

If you want to build a Facebook ad strategy from scratch or improve the existing strategy you have in place, keep reading.

Do Facebook ads for real estate work?

According to Leanprop, “The average real estate agent spends around $12,000 in marketing each year. […] Most agents commit 6-13% of their gross commission income to marketing.” More and more of that spend goes to Facebook.

There are lots of explanations for why this is the case. The most important and straightforward reason is that it’s where their audience is.

79% of homebuyers use online resources, including social media, at some point in their search. 

When you combine this with Facebook’s ad-targeting capabilities–which allow you to target ads by granular interests–you’ve got a winning combination.

How to create a real estate ad on Facebook

Before we go any further, if you’re completely new to Facebook ads, you’re going to need to take a couple of steps to get up and running.

1. The first step is to create a business page if you don’t already have one

2. Then you’ll need to set up your Ads Manager account

There’s also a structure to your Facebook ad account that’s worth familiarizing yourself with:

  • Campaign: The three attributes of the campaign you can set are the campaign’s objective, how you want to buy the ads, and your campaign budget.
  • Ad Set: You’ll set the audience you want to target, and the length of time you’d like your ad to run.
  • Ad: This is where you’ll enter the creative aspects of your ad, like title, headline, copy, and images.

Before you go any further, Facebook is going to ask if you’re creating an ad in a “Special Ad Category.” You’re going to want to tick the box and then select housing. 

Facebook special ad category selection

Here’s how it defines ads that fall into this category.

Description of how Facebook defines its special ad category

How to approach your real estate Facebook ad strategy

Advertising on Facebook has evolved. 

In its first iteration, most real estate agents created ads to promote listings to a cold audience and hoped it worked. Sometimes it did, sometimes it didn’t. 

Now smart realtors use a more methodical approach. You need to:

1. Define your business objectives and goals

2. Define your target audience

3. Define your desired actions for each audience and how success will be measured

4. Create your ads 

5. Create a precise measurement plan that feeds back into your objectives and goals

We’re going to dive into all of the five steps in more detail now.

Define broad real estate ads objectives and goals

Without clear business goals attached to your Facebook ads, they’re doomed.

A Harvard Business Review study found that 83% of people don’t have any clearly defined goals. The 17% who have goals are 10 times more successful than those without them.

As real estate agents, it can be easy to get wrapped up in creating ads, campaigns, or content, but it’s important to take a step backward and ask yourself, “How will this help my business?”

Most agents and brokers use Facebook to connect with potential buyers for the properties they’re selling. But you need to get more granular. Ask yourself three simple questions:

  • How many leads do I want from my Facebook ads?
  • What is an affordable cost-per-lead?
  • What percentage of these leads do I need to convert into clients for the strategy to be a success?

This will help you determine everything from budget, to whether your ads are working or not.

Define your real estate Facebook target audience

Before you even think about building your first ad, it’s worthwhile to define your target audience in detail. You want to cover:

  • Demographics such as gender, age, income, and marital status
  • Psychographics like personal interests, attitudes, values, desires, and specific behaviors

Let’s say you sell property on the gulf coast of Florida. You find that a lot of your buyers come from states in the northeast and want to either retire in Florida or spend winter there. You know they are:

  • Between the ages of 55 and 75
  • Wealthy
  • Mostly married
  • Parents of adult children

You can then take these broad traits to drill down into your target’s particular interests. For example, someone who wants to retire in Florida might be interested in financial planning blogs or visiting other websites with resources for retirees.

Many realtors and brokers won’t have a static audience and it will differ by property. It’s always worthwhile to take a step back and consider who the likely buyer is before building your audience. We’ll cover why this is such an essential step next.

Using Facebook targeting to reach your audience 

The reason you need to carefully define your target audience is that Facebook’s targeting for real estate ads is changing. Here’s how it defines ads that fall into this category.

The platform plans to remove age, gender, and ZIP Code targeting for housing, employment, and credit-related ads. It also will impose a 15-mile minimum radius for geographic ad targeting. 

That means if you’re targeting wealthy retirees in the northeast of the U.S., you have to use traits and interests, rather than specific demographics such as age and income. (More on that below.)

facebook special ad category guidelines

Facebook is also adding a special section to the Ad Library where people can search specifically for housing ads whether or not they are the target of them.

Facebook real estate ad library

This could help make real estate ads more widely available than they currently are, and help agents reach interested people outside their immediate advertising area.

Create a New Audience

You can choose targeting options for a new audience based on the research you did above. For example, for the example of the Florida realtor, we could target people by interests like:

Facebook real estate ad audience targeting

To create a new audience, just access the Facebook Audience Manager here and follow the steps.

Custom and Lookalike Audiences Setup

There are different types of custom and lookalike audiences you can create.

Custom audiences let you get back in touch with people who have previously engaged with your business, online or off. 

For example, once you install the Facebook pixel on your website, Facebook can match your website visitors to their Facebook profiles. (Here are instructions on how to install the pixel.)

You can target all website visitors or remarket to people who have visited a specific listing. 

You can even set the time frame for how far back you want to go, so you can choose to target only your most recent website visitors, or people who visited up to six months ago.

Lookalike Audiences are based on previous clients or website visitors. These people hold similar criteria to audiences you already have set. 

Real estate advertisers are no longer able to access Lookalike Audiences. Instead, they can create a Special Ad Audience, an audience based on similarities in online behavior without considering things like age, gender or ZIP code.

So, if you pick the right audience to mimic, say previous buyers of similar homes, you could have a better chance at targeting new audiences that will convert.

To create a custom or lookalike audience, just access the Facebook Audience Manager here and follow the steps.

Define your buying type, desired action, and campaign budget

When you go to create a campaign on Facebook you’ll be asked to define your overall objective and buying type.

We recommend choosing the Auction buying type. That’s because:

  • You can’t run lead generation and a few other options when using the reach and frequency buying type
  • Reach and Frequency is best used for brand awareness campaigns which are not as common for realtors

Campaign objective determines what you want to accomplish with a specific Facebook ad campaign (which can include multiple ads within it), and then helps Facebook to optimize your ads for the results you want to see.

The two objectives that are most popular with realtors are:


The traffic objective is one of the more popular and heavily-used options on the list. The goal is to send users to the specific page of your choice. This is typically a listing on your site.

Lead Generation

This is the most popular objective for real estate agents and aligns directly with the lead gen ad format. 

Instead of sending people to a landing page, these ads open up a form within Facebook that’s already auto-filled with their information. It’s quick for users to complete on both mobile and desktop. Here’s an example of how it works.

Facebook ad lead generation for real estate agent

Campaign Budget

Instead of setting individual ad set budgets, you set one overarching campaign budget with the flexibility to spend more on ad sets with the best opportunities, and less on underperforming ad sets.

When it comes to budget, you need to set a sustainable one. 

In other words, it can be tempting to put $1,000 into a Facebook campaign, run it for a week, and hope that it works. The challenge is that it might take some time to see results and find the right combination of targeting and ad creative.

That’s why it’s better to take your budget right now and figure out how you can make it last until your next closing.

Create the best real estate Facebook ads

Here are a couple of tricks you can use to create the best real estate Facebook ads. We also include some real estate Facebook ad examples.

Spy on your competitors

In March of 2019, Facebook launched a tool called Ad Library, which was intended to promote transparency on the platform and fulfill promises they made after the 2016 U.S. presidential elections.

All you need to do is make a list of your top five competitors, search for their ads in the library and make note of which formats or types of media they’re using. Facebook will even tell you when an ad has multiple versions running and will show you what is different about each one.

Use video or great imagery

According to a study by Australian Real Estate Group, real estate listings that include a video receive 403% more inquiries than those without. Consider utilizing videos in your ads to boost performance.

Facebook real estate ad with video

If for whatever reason you can’t use video, ensure that your images are high quality. (Here’s more information on how to take real estate photos.)

Use social proof in your ads

User-generated content (UGC) is the most persuasive type of content our businesses can obtain, largely thanks to the fact that it’s seen as the most authentic and trustworthy. 

Try working testimonials into your ads from previous clients and buyers.

Facebook real estate ad with testimonials

Be clear and upfront about the benefits

It’s important to use your copy to focus on the top features of a property. The clearer you’re in the copy, the more likely people are to interact with the ad. They’ll also be more qualified as they’re interested in exactly what you’re offering. 

Facebook real estate ad that highlights property's specific selling points

Here’s how to write real estate descriptions people will click on.

More real estate Facebook ad examples

We’ve rounded up six more real estate ads to inspire your ad design and give you a better idea of what others are doing.

1. Use a carousel Facebook ad

Using a carousel ad, you can show multiple images of a property. Here’s an example from the real estate agency Live Cameo in Los Angeles.

Facebook real estate ad carousel

2. Highlight your contact details

While this is a lead ad with a contact form, it also puts the agent’s contact details front and center should someone want to call or text them immediately.

Facebook real estate with agent's contact info

3. Add emojis to your copy

Adding emojis to ads can lead to much higher click-through rates and way more engagement.

Facebook real estate ad with emojis

4. Run brand ads

Lead ads are a great way to promote listings, but you can also use Facebook to promote your business more generally so that you’re top of mind when people do need your services.

Facebook real estate ad for brand

5. Promote your events

An often-overlooked marketing opportunity for realtors is events. When combined with Facebook ads, you’ve got a powerful combination.

Facebook real estate ad for event promotion

6. Promote a report or piece of thought leadership

People who want to buy a home are usually doing tons of research into different neighborhoods, average listing prices, and more. You can start to build a relationship with people by offering a free report on your market.

Facebook real estate ad promoting agent's expertise

Track your Facebook ads’ performance

Once you’ve launched your campaign following the above steps, you’re going to want to take a look and see what’s working.

The easiest way to review your campaign performance is to use the Facebook Ads Manager analytics. 

Here, you can filter your campaigns by dates, objectives, and then hone in on any campaign to see how it’s performing at an ad set and ad level.

As you look at this in Ads Manager, you’ll notice the reporting table with different metrics such as:

  • Cost-per-click
  • Cost-per-lead
  • Cost-per-conversion
  • Impressions
  • Unique Link Clicks

This article from Cooler Insights walks you through all of the different metrics you can review in your Ads Manager. It’s worth figuring out what works so you can double down on it.

More real estate Facebook ad tips

Here are a couple of more tips you can use to get more out of your Facebook ads.

Build a Facebook ad funnel

Good marketers capitalize on existing demand. Great marketers generate new demand.

Nowhere is this more true than Facebook. It’s a platform that’s more about socializing than buying. So consider creating ads that nurture your audience into taking action.

Consider advertising a report on buying a property in a certain area. Then people who engage with this ad can be served an ad that pushes them to take further action, like booking a free home-buying consultation.

Continuously test your real estate ads

No Facebook ads ultimate playbook would be complete without mentioning testing. 

Testing lets advertisers uncover what works best for their ads so they can iterate on that to generate more business or increase their leads—getting better results for less money.

Try small tests to start, like testing different ad copy with the same image, or vice versa. Its something that you can do right from within Facebook.

Consider how you follow up with Facebook leads

Most realtors follow-up with real estate leads by email. The thing is, email open rates leave a lot to be desired. The average open rate of real estate emails is less than 18%

On the other hand, the open rate of text messages is 98%. It’s why SMS real estate marketing is such a major trend.

You can automatically send new leads a text when you connect your lead ads to SimpleTexting using Zapier. (Here are some of the best real estate text messages you can send.)

Hey, it’s Tom from Realty Co. I got your message. I’ll be reaching out shortly. Is this the best number for follow up?

The wrap on our real estate Facebook ad playbook

Facebook is one of the top platforms for bringing exposure to your real estate business and can be incredibly effective for connecting with potential buyers and sellers.

It’s just a matter of following the process we laid out. If you feel like you’re on a learning roll, we do have a few additional resources for realtors:

This article was published on November 27, 2020, by Drew Wilkinson, and was updated on August 3, 2023, by Dani HenionNathan Ellering contributed to this piece.