As Advertised on eBay

Practitioners use auction site to gain visibility, drive Web traffic.

April 1, 2005

Depending on your perspective, eBay is either a glorified flea market or a revolution in resale. Some real estate practitioners are taking the latter view, using the auction site’s reach to supplement their presence at and their personal and company Web sites.

eBay says it reaches 56.1 million active users. The obvious drawback: A vast majority of those users aren’t in the real estate market. But to reach those who are, eBay is a tool—like direct mail or news-paper advertising—that some practitioners are using to market listings, drive traffic to their Web sites, and attract new prospects.

“As a result of our exposure on eBay, we can attribute two sales, one listing, approximately three good prospects per month, and about 700 visitors per day to our Web site,” says Christopher Walker, e-PRO®, vice president of Mission Grove Realty in Hemet, Calif. His company started advertising properties on eBay in 2003. He says that 80 percent of his business comes from various online efforts, but he also does traditional print advertising.

An electronic billboard

eBay ( is well-known as an auction spot for everything from teacups to hubcaps. Less known is the eBay Real Estate section (, where single-family homes, commercial buildings, land, and vacation rentals are advertised and auctioned.

The site targets FSBOs. But real estate practitioners who use eBay say they aren’t bothered by eBay’s appeal to those with a do-it-yourself mentality. For one thing, it’s not easy to actually sell real estate through the site. eBay explicitly states that its property auctions are nonbinding. There’s also still a perception by many that eBay is a less-than-secure place to conduct business.

Several practitioners interviewed say adding eBay to their online marketing mix is like buying a giant billboard on a high-traffic stretch of the information superhighway.

Those practitioners say they typically forgo the auction route and opt for eBay ads. eBay charges $150 for a 30-day real estate ad and $300 for a 90-day ad. Adding pictures and changing copy can increase the cost.

“An enormous amount of traffic goes through that site, and you just can’t overlook that,” Walker says.

Finding a needle in a haystack

Anjelina Belakovskaia, a new salesperson with Long Realty Co. in Tucson, Ariz., convinced a listing agent in her company to create an eBay ad for a 31,000-square-foot, $13.5 million estate.

The property includes state-of-the-art technology and is set on 10 acres in the Catalina Mountains. Belakovskaia felt it was so unusual that it needed broad exposure. “The eventual buyer will very likely be someone outside of Tucson,” she says. “I felt the listing needed to be seen by an international audience.”

In less than four weeks, the ad received 23,927 hits and has brought one showing. And because Belakovskaia is new in the business, the ad—which lists her as the contact person and includes a link to her Web site—is helping her establish a presence, she says.

Practitioners like Belakovskaia are attracted to eBay for its potential to find a “needle in a haystack”—that rare buyer who’ll jump at an unusual listing.

John Shikany, a salesperson with Murney Associates, REALTORS®, in Spring-field, Mo., is currently running an eBay ad for a property that includes a log home, barn, and commercial building on 20 acres. Shikany likens the marketing of such a listing to selling a collector car. “There may be 20 people in the St. Louis area interested in buying such a car,” he says, “but 20,000 actively searching for it on eBay.”

Few sales—but side benefits

Web experts point out that the huge number of hits to an eBay ad is a rather meaningless measure of effectiveness. And salespeople agree that hits don’t necessarily translate into sales. But there are other benefits to the volume of exposure that comes from eBay ads, practitioners say.

An eBay ad for a $3.3 million estate in Bucks County, Pa., generated more than 32,000 hits for Mercedes Hayes, a sales associate with Weidel, REALTORS®, in Flemington, N.J. A hefty share of those were simply online Lookie-Lous, admits Hayes. “But so what? From it, I attracted two out-of-town buyers and a listing without making one cold call.”

Some eBay regulars who saw Hayes’s ad asked her to list their $600,000-plus home. “They liked that I wasn’t afraid of trying new technology,” she says.

Although eBay is no substitute for more targeted marketing efforts, such as, Hayes and others are finding that—with few practitioners currently using eBay—it’s a way to set themselves apart and link up with more prospects, particularly those who are relocating or seeking vacation properties.

At listing appointments, when she mentions eBay is part of her marketing mix, Alison Seidenberg, a salesperson with Century 21 Advantage Gold in Las Vegas, says, “potential clients’ eyes light up.”

Says Walker: “People are finding us online through, eBay, and at our Web site. Seeing our name over and over helps build our brand. It’s especially important since we’re a smaller office and don’t have the national image of a big franchise.”

Tips for eBay success

  • Familiarize yourself with eBay’s site navigation, the difference between auctions and ads, and the way users provide feedback on sellers. For more about real estate marketing on eBay, see:, , and
  • Place your ad in the proper category (real estate) and subcategory (residential, commercial, land, etc.).
  • Aim for a brochure-like ad, rather than just text and photos. The professional look builds credibility for your listing.
  • Keep decorative backgrounds, borders, and shading to a minimum. They slow the loading time of the ad.
  • Include lots of interior and exterior photos in your ad to give users a strong sense of the property.
  • Include information or links in the ad about your local community.
  • Have a plan to handle what could be an onslaught of inquiries.

Elyse Umlauf-Garneau is a Chicago-based freelance writer and former senior editor with REALTOR® Magazine.

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