18 Outrageous Real Estate Marketing Ideas That Actually Worked

Cody Cromwell
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‘Moving to Canada?’

Olson, an American expatriate living near London, England and who asked us to change his name for a business magazine article, offers a slew of ideas he’s had great success with while marketing his home for sale in England. He’s selling a place in southern England and was at a loss until he read an article about how Britons listed properties abroad. He thought, ‘Why not? The Brits do it, so we can do it!’

‘Moving to Canada?’ List a House in Bermuda … for Free

U.S. house prices rose, on average, 26% in 2013, according to just-released figures from the National Association of Realtors in Washington, DC.

But you can save money and maintain property values a lot longer by staying put and selling your house in Brentwood, California instead of moving to Vancouver, Kingston, Surrey or any of those U.S. cities where residents can’t afford their houses, while their houses suck the life out of the areas.

‘Adele Hello Realtor Parody’

Adele’s “Hello” is a Hit!

The week-long online battle over the first-week sales results and rankings for Canadian pop superstar Adele’s hit album 21 has been an online success. An online Adele Hello Realtor parody has been pulled together, and it has gone viral.

The parody Adele Hello Realtor song is a hit on YouTube and, but it also has landed Adele 3 million new fans worldwide and scores of new Show Realtor fans, especially on the U.S. East and West Coasts. Even if you do not have an Adele fan, your real estate website should be near the top in searches on Google for Adele. Are you getting noticed?

The ‘Open Concept’ Home

”An open concept floor plan is a popular design choice among real estate agents, and it’s not hard to see why. It makes people think about buying and selling a home in a different way. All eyes are on the potential buyer and that is exactly what you want. With the open concept concept, buyers can walk throughout a home, get a feel for the area and the neighborhood, and see how a potential purchase could work for them.

The ‘Open Concept’ Home Sale

The open concept design was not always so popular. The idea was attempted by realtors in the 1980s, but the idea was just too outlandish. ”Back then, very few people wanted to be open to their neighbors.” explains New Home Company president Tom Anderson.

In 1989, Anderson was remodeling a home when the owner wanted to open the living room to the kitchen. Anderson thought that the concept was interesting, but the potential buyer didn’t. The house was sold, but with a 25% price difference. ”It was a statistical anomaly, but that didn’t stop us from trying again a few years later,” Anderson said.

‘The X-Ray Realtor’

‘The X-Ray Realtor’s’ marketing strategy is guaranteed to get you noticed, regardless of what state you’re in. The real estate agent buys out a giant display at a local mall that says “Everyone for sale.” As people walk by, he asks if they are looking to buy or sell. If they say they are looking to sell, he tells them that the X-Ray Realtor is buying and that the sign says “Everything for sale.” If they say they are looking to buy, he tells them that the X-Ray Realtor is selling and that the sign says “Everything to buy.” Soon, he says, you will be X-Ray Realtors.

This 3-in-1 marketing strategy is pretty creative. It’s a simple three-part cost and it also has a no-fail system where everything is guaranteed to work:

A. Cost

‘Every Day I’m Hustlin’ ’

As a real estate agent, it’s important to put yourself out there and to position yourself as a knowledgeable expert who really knows their profession. I often hear agents say that they’re not good at publicity and that they’re afraid of public speaking. I’m here to tell you that none of us are natural born public speakers. But the best way to learn these skills is from experience. And what better way to get there than by creating campaigns or “scary” campaigns to scare potential buyers and sellers?

I know it sounds a little Frankenstein, but it is possible to create a fabulous advertising campaign without anyone really being aware they are receiving sales-y messages.

Below are the top 6 bumpling real estate marketing techniques I’ve used to successfully scare the “inner primate of the brain” in my target audiences.


‘Call Me Maybe?’

This advertisement video for San Francisco real estate (above) has gotten quite a few Internet clicks for its "Call Me Maybe" (sung to the tune of “I’m Too Sexy”) chorus.

The song was a huge hit in early 2012 and when Elizabeth Ryan, the realtor who sings the song, bought billboards in San Francisco to promote her real estate company, she wasn’t expecting it to become a huge hit on the Internet.

The video attracted the attention of the show “Jimmy Kimmel Live!” and the song has already racked up nearly 18 million views on YouTube. According to Ryan, the song’s popularity has generated a few follow-up offers from real estate companies who want her to perform their commercials.

The Ghost Realtor

It is October, 1989 and Barack Obama has just been elected a Senator, running against Chicago's long time Democratic incumbent, Paul Simon.

Holed up in Washington D.C., away from his family, newly elected Senator Obama of Chicago is feeling very lonely. Barack calls his old friend, Joe Wieder, an attorney in the Chicago area and asks him to come to D.C. on October 13th. He tells Joe that he is in serious trouble and needs his help.

Joe arrives at the appointed time. The Senator has been drinking. He starts out by telling Joe about some terrible things that had happened to him in Chicago. He then starts on about his life and family, how he had to come to Washington because he is from Chicago, where he's got friends and where he feels he must be because of what the Republicans did to him. Joe is beginning to wonder what in the world his friend is talking about.

Finally, he gets to the point. He explains he's been having intimate relations with a ghost. He tells Joe that this is Peggy Kennedy, RFK's daughter and she is haunting him because he was in a relationship with her and didn't tell her he was married.

Joe has to agree that this does sound a lot like something out of a comedy outtake from the Three Stooges. He says: "Can this be real?"

‘Free Pizza with Purchase of House’

Real Estate professionals know 2 things.

{1}. Listings sell for more money.
{2}. People need to eat.

By combining those 2 facts, you can come up with some really good marketing ideas.

Here’s a perfect example.

A sales agent puts an ad up that says "Free Pizza with the Purchase of a Home". Makes sense, right?

You think, "How cool!" and give him a call, right?

So you jump in your car, drive over to the listing, and check it out.

After an hour of walking back and forth, you ask the realtor, –So when does the pizza arrive?”

And the realtor smiles with a smug grin and says, –We use a local pizzeria.”

You’re already a little on edge because of the whole –pizza with purchase” thing, so you get more irritated with the delay and ask the realtor, –And when are they coming?”

The realtor replies, –It’s supposed to be here in 20 minutes.”

‘The R.A.P. Real Estate Agent’

When I was in commercial real estate, I sold hundreds of properties. About a quarter of the sellers were motivated by the need to sell quicker. In today’s market, everybody’s looking for a way to sell quickly. One of the most outrageous and effective methods we adopted was called the RAP (Rapid Acquisition Period).

During the RAP, sellers paid a substantial fee of 5-8% on the selling price to get their house under contract in 30 days or less. The contract price was guaranteed by the broker throughout the RAP period. In 90 days, the sellers paid to get the house back, typically at a loss.

The RAP completely eliminates haggling, and works particularly well for sellers who realize they overpaid for the property in the first place. It is an effective way to space buy ups. For these sellers, the perceived downside of not owning their property is worth the gain in equity provided by quickly selling their property.

All the parties to the RAP get exactly what they want, but it doesn’t seem fair to the other parties. The broker gets a large commission and a quick sale. The buyer typically wants to get in quickly before they have a chance to find a home that appeals to them the way that the house they are buying does not. The seller is motivated to sell quickly.

11. ‘Game of Homes’

; a real estate agent®s firsthand account of the wild and wacky® Real Estate Game from the perspective of a game player.

‘The Fortune Cookie’

Technique works…

I discovered this strategy early in my career. I was learning all the details I could about the luxury home market in Napa. I called a broker friend and asked him who his top clients were for new listings. I’ll never forget his reply. ‘The Fortune Cookie’ technique works…

‘We Buy Crack Houses … And Nice Homes Too’

The housing market continues to be a lightning rod for controversy due to unhappiness with the high-priced, low-yield market. Despite this, real estate agents continue to fight to sell properties, and sometimes the only way to sell is to get creative. ‘We buy crack houses,’ one agent told CBS News. ‘We buy nice homes too.’ In this MarketWatch article looking at some of the extreme marketing tactics agents use, real estate agents admit it’s ‘sometimes an ugly business’ – but it’s often what it takes to get a deal done.

The Lamb in Space

Supervising an outlandishly-expensive marketing campaign can be a bit of a challenge. Because what if your office is in space and your marketing guy is on Mars? How would you reach him?

Well if you’re Frontier Developments, the team behind the popular space simulator game Elite: Dangerous, you would just cover him in lamb.

That’s right, at Frontier, they threaten their employee’s job if they don’t post up in a virtual –sheep pen” located at the company’s Nottingham office for 48 hours. It’s all in the spirit of the game, which has a fairly large following among animal rights activists.

But don’t worry, other than a little bit of bizarre media attention, this marketing stunt doesn’t seem to have hurt the game’s popularity.

Frontier Developments has also employed similar marketing stunts in the past, including flying their game manager David Braben in a hot air balloon for a week.

‘Good to Meet You, Here’s a Can Opener …’

Real estate agents are specialists in their field, but their marketing efforts can still be improved upon. Therefore, in order to boost their business, we can resort to any type of marketing techniques such as door hangers, business cards and of course, Craigslist ads and flyers.

Although these strategies may seem effective to boosting the real estate agents` business, they are not proven effective. Therefore, more unconventional methods may actually bring about noticeable success.

The can opener is one such marketing technique. It consists of a simple manual opener and a can. When you offer the can opener to an interested party, they will most likely reject you. But don’t worry, you will succeed. Instead of giving up after being rejected, a simple hand gesture with the hand holding the can opener will encourage the person to take it. After they take it, they find a way to open the can. And they will need to do just that …․ open the can. This is because the person will not be able to resist the urge to open the can he or she just took. Now you have their attention, what will you do next?

‘Licensed to Sell’

A Long-Running & Effective Real Estate Marketing Strategy

LicensedtoSell.ca is a great name for a website, and it’s even better for a real estate agent. The site was started by Beverly Hofmeister in 2001, and ever since, it has continued to garner significant traffic for Hofmeister’s real estate brokerage. The website has even appeared in the top 10 sites for real estate agents in Ontario.

The real estate marketing strategy isn’t completely unique. In fact, many real estate agents have come up with a similar concept. But what sets Lakeview Realty apart from other agents is their commitment to the site and the ongoing strategy.

The site is filled with useful marketing tips for real estate agents. It also includes a blog written by Beverly Hofmeister, the owner. Today, though, we’re looking at the 18 most outrageous marketing ideas that have actually worked.

Doritos Anyone?

‘Don’t Get a Divorce … Just Get a Bigger House’

This is one of the most outrageous real estate marketing ideas I’ve seen in a while.

Salesperson Bob Reid of Dallas, Texas, decided to use a real estate marketing strategy that’s pretty controversial.

You see, he got divorced. And his wife’s lawyer recommended that he do one of the most unusual things as part of his divorce:

Instead of getting a divorce, he walked away and moved right across the street from her. It was as simple as that,” Reid told Van Trading Post.

Despite the unconventional nature of how he achieved his goal, it actually worked out great for Bob because –the house was significantly larger than the one she received, and he got most of the money,” he said.

The wife kept the furnishings and split the assets 50-50, so his net worth is more than doubled,” which made it easy for Bob to afford the mortgage on a much bigger house.

The Bottom Line

Before you start your marketing campaign, you need to have a clear understanding of your target market. You need to know who they are, where they live, and what they want. Marketing is no different from any other business. You need to know your target market and the best way to get their attention. Your marketing campaigns should always reflect your target market, and if you know them well enough, you should be able to predict their responses.

You can’t rely solely on the communication you have with your target market, but you also have to be aware of other outside factors that can impact your campaign. If you don’t have all the facts, you may be doing everything right, but it won’t matter. Your marketing campaign can still fail if you don’t consider the various others factors that can impact it.

The next step is to begin your campaign. Although this is the usual step, you should think of this as the second phase of your marketing campaign. You will need to know how you will capture your target market’s attention, and you will need to know your target market well enough to understand how they will respond to your campaign.