Social media are generating strong interest among real estate agents as tools for advertising and delivering leads. And while property professionals are still buying print, the perceived value of that is falling off a cliff, according to our latest research. 

One-third of the real estate agents who participated in an online survey on advertising effectiveness said they’d spend more using social networks this year (while most real estate ad spending is down). But the same percentage said social-networking sites didn’t drive quality leads. And one-third said they have never tried using social networks at all.

With less ad and marketing money to spend, real estate pros are watching ROI much more closely. Their spending precedes the sale. If a listing sits on the market for a year or 18 months, in a depressed market, that’s a long time to wait to recoup their investment.

We find that social sites such as Facebook and services such as Twitter have a lot of appeal. They allow agents to build their personal brands and connect directly with potential buyers and sellers. For the most part, all it costs is time. Put that into the investment equation, and it’s a no-brainer.

The survey found that newspapers, as well as print competitors, face increasing challenges connecting with real estate advertisers. Less than one quarter of the respondents said they get an effective return on investment with print advertising – even though 80 percent said they were still buying in 2009. And nearly 80 percent who were buying print said they did so because that’s what sellers expected. 

The declining perception of the value of print advertising – and newspapers specifically – tracks with our previous reports over the past five years. What surprised us, though, was the perceived value of newspapers’ online efforts. In terms of effectiveness, online newspapers were rated lower than print counterparts. Almost 60 percent of the agents in the survey didn’t buy from newspaper Web sites. The challenge for newspapers specifically is finding better ways to engage and serve this customer base, if they hope to keep it.

Our 65-page report, “Real Estate Advertising 2009: Social media grow; print ROI vanishes,” includes specific prescriptions for ad publishers of all stripes, more than 20 graphics – and detailed analyses of real estate advertising landscapes in 20 countries, including Europe, Asia, India, Australia / New Zealand, North and South America. 

The report, at $495 with a money-back guarantee, is available for purchase. A free preview edition is also available.