Facebook’s New Ad Product for Real Estate: Power with No Control

Imagine Porsche came out with a new model that was the fastest it had ever produced, but it lacked proper steering controls. It may be super cool news, but would you buy the car? That is essentially what happened today with Facebook’s first product for the real estate industry.  

The solution is an API driven product where you to tie your website and your listings into the Facebook’s ad platform, and then they will distribute ads of “relevant” properties to users who have visited properties on your website.

This announcement sounds appealing, packed with buzzwords like “dynamic” and “cross-device intent.” It is highly targeted, and it leverages Facebook’s algorithm to remarket to potentially interested buyers.

The problem is control.  

Facebook decides what properties to show, and best we can tell, Facebook controls the creative. (We should note that there appears to be some way to exclude certain properties based on keywords, but that means your listing data must be clearly organized to automatically communicate with Facebook.)

This solution is meant for large brokerages – you need at least 100 active listings, but it lacks the customizability that a large brokerage requires. It does not allow you to highlight key properties, allocate budget to offices, or highlight agents. And they do not tell you the basis for what properties will be promoted to what users.

Essentially, give Facebook your money, the keys to your website and listings, and hope for good results. Here are a few specific reasons you should be hesitant before diving into this new product:

  • Billing attribution – Facebook will combine multiple listings into a single ad, making it practically infeasible to allocate the media spend to the appropriate listings agent or office.
  • Targeting –  Ads are displayed to people who viewed properties on your site, so it does not help introduce your company or its listings to new clients.  
  • Property types – No matter what the property type, the creative template is the same. There is no easy way to customize language for different types of properties.

Despite the stated drawbacks, we are pleased that Facebook has started to build specific solutions for real estate.  If they continue to improve this product and develop others, it will be good for the industry.

In addition, we suspect the performance of ads run by this product will be strong, so companies should consider using this new Facebook capability with a partner who can add your required elements of control.

Companies like Lumentus Social, Zillow, and others may be able to leverage these new APIs to enhance their platform, but without the ability to control your listings and ad creative, we recommend you wait for product upgrades before diving into this new product.