Real Estate Marketing and Software: The Price is Right 2012

Real Estate Technology with ActiveRain

Real Estate Marketing and Software: The Price is Right 2012


There are SO many real estate products and services that every day a real estate agent is confronted with numerous choices about where to spend money in their business.

Given the challenging real estate market of the past five years, the team here at ActiveRain wanted to understand where real estate agents should be spending their money AND how much per month.

In January 2012, ActiveRain & Market Leader surveyed more than 2,000 real estate agents and brokers to understand what software and marketing support real estate agents are using in their business and how much they are spending on these necessary tools of the trade.  We have combined our survey data with the National Association of REALTOR's® 2012 Member survey to get a rich view on real estate agent income and expenses.



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Tweetable Highlights

#ActiveRain survey says REALTORS spend more on their cars than on their marketing!  More at [Tweet this]

ActiveRain reports that most REALTORS® Only generated 4 leads from their website in 2011. More at [Tweet this]

#ActiveRain: REALTORS® earning over $100K/year spend 5-10x more on marketing than their peers. More at [Tweet this]

Only 21% of REALTORS® use paperless transactions or e-signature software per #ActiveRain. #Green More at [Tweet this]

#ActiveRain says direct mail is the largest offline real estate marketing expense. Go @USPS! More at
[Tweet this]

"Averages" in Real Estate:

We highly encourage every real estate agent, broker or company to get your hands on the NAR 2012 Member Profile and look closely at page 51. The average REALTOR® earns $35k per year and works 40 hours per week.  BUT 57% of REALTORS® generate some income from outside real estate and a large percentage of REALTORS® are part-time or hobbyists.  REALTORS® working more than 40 hours per week earn more than $55k per year and REALTORS® working less than 40 hours a week earn less than $20k per year!

The “average” REALTOR® spends $4,520 in expenses per year or 13% of personal income on expenses. Of those expenses, the average REALTOR® spends $1,770 on their vehicle, $1,070 on marketing/promotion, and $630 on technology.  REALTORS® earning more than $100k per year work more than 50 hours per week and spend more than $15k per year on expenses (roughly 12-15% of income).

Takeaway: Treat real estate like a business, not a job or a hobby and you will be successful.

Vehicle Expenses:

Shockingly, vehicle expenses continue to be the largest single expense for REALTORS®.  Gas prices are up 286% over the last 12 years, according to  REALTORS® do spend an inordinate amount of time in their cars and have often been criticized for driving vehicles "above their pay grade."   It does surprise me that vehicle expenses account for 39% of the average agent's TOTAL expense budget and is 65% more than they spend on marketing each year.

Real Estate Software & Technology Expenses:

Similar to our previous survey Rich Real Estate Agent, Poor Real Estate Agent, agents were very consistent in real estate software use.  Agent use five primary kinds of software for their business: IDX websites with home listings, CMA (comparative market analysis) tools, contact or lead management, email marketing and listing syndication software.

IDX web sites, CRM or contact management, virtual tours, and team management software are categories where agents feel there is significant additional value to paying a premium for the best software. This is consistent with the Rich Real Estate Agent, Poor Real Estate Agent study where successful agents invest in systems – lead generation web sites and strong prospect management.  The most successful agents who earn more than $100k per year want the best, highly customizable web sites, contact management, and virtual tours to highlight their listings.

Alternatively, some categories of real estate agent spend do not increase with greater income. The pricing of paperless transaction / esignature software, CMA tools, and email marketing software is consistent, independent of agent income. CraigsList and listing syndication tools are widely used, but largely bundled into other software services now. Postlets was acquired by Zillow, ListHub was acquired by®, and Market Leader also has a CraigsList Listing Sydication tool built into their software platform.

 Software    Average Usage   Average Price   Agents Earning under $35k  Agents Earning >$100k 
IDX Website with home listings from MLS 63% $75 $54 $97
Contact management / CRM 51% $73 $64 $78
Virtual Tour software 37% $49 $42 $59
Single Property Website software 29% $41 $38 $40
Marketing design software 31% $53 $50 $59
Email marketing software 47% $40 $38 $38
CMA (comparative market analysis) tools 62% $46 $50 $41
Listing Syndication tool 41% $48 $45 $57
Team Management tool 11% $60 $36 $69
Paperless transaction software / esignatures 21% $37 $32 $38

Monthly Real Estate Marketing & Advertising Expenses

Real estate agents spend time and money on many different real estate marketing strategies. SEO / Social Media / Blogging took the top prize as the most used advertising or marketing source. SEO, social media and blogging are relatively low cost advertising outlets and social media is becoming pervasive with the growth of FaceBook, Google Plus, LinkedIn and Twitter. The consistent surprise with every survey of marketing tactics continues to be direct mail with 40% of real estate agents using direct mail to support their business. After social media and direct mail are paid advertising and marketing on the Internet. Home buyer and seller lead generation ranked as the third most popular form of advertising with 35% of respondents using Internet lead generation.

This is higher than previous surveys we have conducted which could be a positive sign for the real estate market. Advertising on national real estate web sites like Zillow, Trulia and and using Pay per Click marketing on search engines were fourth and fifth most used forms of advertising.  This is not suprisingl since agents buy advertising on national real estate web sites like Zillow, Trulia and to drive home buyer and seller leads. 

Top producing real estate agents earning more than $100k per year have the ability to spend more and do spend more on marketing across the board. Top producing, rich real estate agents are spending in areas both online and offline.   Top agents spend more on online lead generation, search engine marketing, national real estate web sites, and direct mail.  20% of agents earning more than $100k actually support the community through local sponsorships like Little League, high school sports, and their local church.

 Real Estate Marketing   Average Usage   Average Price   Agents Earning under $35k  Agents Earning >$100k 
Pay-per-Click (PPC), search engine marketing 16% $140 $88 $197
Home buyer or seller lead generation 32% $155 $113 $191
Paid advertising on national real estate web sites 26% $128 $91 $161
Sponsorship / ads on local website 10% $77 $56 $107
Sponsorship / ads on newspaper website 9% $86 $61 $122
Direct mail 40% $108 $68 $158
Rack Publications 11% $145 $79 $206
City newspaper 10% $98 $48 $149
Local newspaper 14% $99 $57 $145
Town bulletin, church, etc. 8% $56 $46 $73
Local sponsorships (little league, plays, high school, etc.) 13% $78 $66 $102
Marketing personnel costs 17% $183 $107 $222
Television 3% $139 $93 $173
Radio 5% $191 $123 $216
SEO, blogging and social media 45% $78 $47 $106
Paid training or coaching 16% $175 $97 $228

Real Estate Marketing Personnel & Real Estate Training

Though not software or advertising, it is worth noting that 17% of real estate professionals continue to use a marketing assistant to support their advertising and marketing efforts AND 16% of agents are using some sort of premium training or coaching to supplement their education and skills.  These are relatively expensive services for the average agent with an average price per month of $183 and $175 per month for real estate marketing support and real estate coaching & training respectively.


As is often the case, averages hide the truth. But in real estate, real estate agents and brokers that treat real estate as a business tend to be successful. This requires working more hours than a "job", investing in systems like strong web sites and contact management, spending money on marketing, outsourcing less mission critical aspects of the job like marketing support, and investing in yourself through continuous coaching & training.

More Tweetable Highlights

IDX websites, CMA software, CRM & email are the top real estate tools in this #ActiveRain survey [Tweet this]

#ActiveRain says social media, blogs, and SEO are most used for online real estate marketing.  More at [Tweet this]

REALTORS® earning over $100K work more than 50 hours/week. See #ActiveRain #Infographic  at [Tweet this]

#ActiveRain #Infographic at shows real estate agents are willing to spend top $ on lead generation. [Tweet this]

#ActiveRain: Top real estate agents spend top $ on offline marketing despite the high prices.  More at [Tweet this]


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Comments (94)

Joy Daniels
Joy Daniels Real Estate Group, Ltd. - Harrisburg, PA

What a great study - thank you for putting it together.  It is interesting to see where I "stand" in the mix.  :)  I find the information more "interesting/fun" than helpful/useful, but did enjoy reading over it. 

Jul 02, 2012 12:25 PM
Laura Murray
Weichert - Silver Spring, MD
Search Montgomery Co., MD for homes

Interesting research.  One of the things that really stood out to me in reading some of the comments is how much the cost of a website varies.

Jul 02, 2012 02:22 PM
Gary L. Waters Broker Associate, Bucci Realty
Bucci Realty, Inc. - Melbourne, FL
Eighteen Years Experience in Brevard County

I read this before and even commented. A lot more information garnered on the second read. Thanks.

Jul 02, 2012 09:50 PM
Jerry Barker
M.L. Ruberton Agency - Hammonton, NJ

Did anyone else notice that the sources of business only added up to 42%, where is rest of the business coming from, did I miss somehing?

Jul 02, 2012 11:42 PM
Rich Gaasenbeek
IXACT Contact Real Estate CRM - Toronto, ON
Real Estate CRM & Marketing Made Easy!

"REALTORS® earning over $100K/year spend 5-10x more on marketing than their peers" WOW! This unscores the importance of using a CRM and email marketing system like IXACT Contact! It pays off big time! 

Jul 03, 2012 04:36 AM
Joy Jones
Bluecoast Realty, Real Estate, your Regional Broker - Jacksonville, NC
find joy in home ownership

Great info!

Jul 04, 2012 01:25 AM
Cheryl Dukes . . . . . Intown Atlanta
Solid Source Realty, Inc. - Atlanta, GA

One thing we know for sure - we have to spend money to make money. It's interesting to see that most of the money is spent on IDX websites and contact management systems.

Jul 04, 2012 09:12 AM
Larry Davis

Great survey but missing are the percentages of agents who are spending for mobile solutions - how many have apps. If you need an app let me know and I can help get you started!

Jul 05, 2012 07:13 AM
Ralph Gorgoglione
Maui Life Homes / Metro Life Homes - Kihei, HI
Hawaii and California Real Estate (310) 497-9407

These stats seem pretty realistic.

I actually find it very interesting also.

But it does vary from one Realtor to the next, as each one has an emphasis on the type of business they prefer.

For example, we choose not to spend any money on internet leads.  Not only because it is so saturated, but because for us we've found that there is absolutely no loyalty from an internet lead and it was proven to us a few years ago that it was an very dangerous endeavor from a time managment viewpoint to pursue internet leads.

Our listings end up on just about every website anyway, and buyer/sellers are extremely saavy.  The will find the property AND you!

We choose to invest in social networking and social farming.  Those have historically proven to be the best and highest quality of prospects.

Jul 07, 2012 12:07 AM
Brady Pevehouse
RE/MAX Downtown - Orlando, FL
Your Orlando Real Estate Professional

1. Where can I find a "good" CRM program for around $73 per month?

How is that they split up the Email & Print ($53) and CRM / Contact Management ($73). Don't these come together with just about every program out there?

You know what I would like to see is an apples to apples unbiased comparison of 5 to 6 software & technology companies out there with current pricing. 

I have no idea how the average agent, (supposedly making $35k) spends $89 a month on marketing and thinks that is enough..... but then I guess I can't rationalize and assume making $35k is enough either?

Jul 17, 2012 07:13 AM
Larry Lawfer
YourStories Realty Group powered by Castles UnlimitedĀ® - Newton, MA
"I listen for a living." It's all about you.

Took me a while to get to this, but it was worth the read.  So many sales messages these days.  Wading through one more to find out which ones might fit with my existing efforts and where all that stands inside the industry is interesting and informative. Thanks for the details.

Aug 05, 2012 06:31 AM
Susan Neal
RE/MAX Gold, Fair Oaks - Fair Oaks, CA
Fair Oaks CA & Sacramento Area Real Estate Broker

Wonderful, informative read.  The only thing that could make it better is is infographics were clearer.  I love the narrative content but can't read the graphics.  What a shame because it looks like it would quickly tell a great story.  Thanks for all the info!

Aug 11, 2012 03:42 PM
Kim Carlson 480-993-9384 - Mesa, AZ
Valley of the Sun Realtor, Seller Specialist

Great blog with lots of good tools and information to help everyone succeed in real estate.

Aug 17, 2012 05:07 AM
Eric Cosway

Direct mail is still alive.  Still the only channel that actually touches a home owner.....

Great info!

Oct 25, 2012 12:30 AM
Johnny LeRose
Exit Silan Real Estate - Edgewater, NJ
I Can Help!

Great Stuff. Thank you. Helps me to not feel so, all alone...It's a balancing act, & a constant pull back from having to be, do & have everything, though I still want to, & I do have a lot of it, just became overwhelmed. Mostly, it's because I truly want to contribute and do my best for my clients & community...Not to mention, all this new tech stuff & Localism, Social & Mobile...are awesome!!!

Mar 03, 2013 09:37 AM
Evelyn Johnston
Friends & Neighbors Real Estate - Elkhart, IN
The People You Know, Like and Trust!

I missed this whole blog, I can't wait to go back and read it again.  I think I will be spending some time right here today! THANKS ActiveRain!

Sep 27, 2013 01:48 AM
N. Xavier Arnold
Great infographic and very useful information. This is good especially for new agents.
Dec 07, 2013 10:36 PM
Can anyone explain to me the Agents Earning column? For example, what does $107 tell me in the following example? Marketing personnel costs 17% $183 $107 $222
Jan 02, 2014 12:09 PM
Kathleen Allardyce
Getting It Write, Inc. - Atlanta, GA

Jack - I hadn't noticed that omission before. I believe that the heading should be "Agents Earning $XX" like the next column "Agents Earning >$100K".

Hopefully, the developers of the infographic will clarify, but I bet it's something like "Agents Earning <$100K" or "Agents Earning <$35K" since the "average agent"was defined as earning $35K/year.

Jan 02, 2014 11:29 PM
Bob Stewart
ActiveRain - Seattle, WA
ActiveRain Ambassador

Kathleen is right on the money.

That column header should say 'Agents Earning <$35K'.

I will go in and make that update now. I believe before the redesign it did say that and something in the redesign messed with that column. Thanks for asking the question Jack!

Jan 03, 2014 07:06 AM

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