How to Launch Your Real Estate Newsletter

June 28, 2022

News alert! Email marketing is not dead. Email predates text messaging and social media, but it still is cost-effective part of a successful marketing strategy.

In my own marketing experience, email is at least twice as effective at converting leads to customers as the next closest digital marketing channel. It’s more effective than Facebook, Twitter, and Google search marketing.

Why? Not everyone is on Facebook or conducting searches on Google daily, but virtually everyone has email and checks it several times a day. It’s still the number one channel for business communication. And people see it. Roughly 80% of emails overall get delivered to inboxes, whereas only 2% of Facebook fans see your posts in their news feed.

Types of email marketing

There are multiple email marketing categories, including:

  • Newsletters - a communication that goes out at a regular frequency of items that interest your readers, sent to a list all at once
  • Drip campaigns - a series of evergreen email message that go out to contacts individually based on when they sign up
  • Transactional - automated messages triggered by a database event, like a new listing in an MLS database. This is an increasingly common technique in real estate. If you’ve ever requested property information on Zillow or Trulia, you’ll get spammed with new listing emails until you’re weary. That said, other alerts are still fresh enough to work.

All of these email techniques are worth exploring. This piece, which is part 1 in a series on email marketing, will look at how to launch your real estate newsletter, because newsletters are relatively easy to set up and very useful when done correctly.

What are newsletters used for?

An email newsletter is best for maintaining relationships with your existing contacts when they aren’t in transaction mode. When used correctly, it can be a powerful way to nurture contacts and stay in touch so that when they are ready to buy or sell, they think of you as a resource. (By contrast, search and social media ads are better for reaching new contacts.)

The wrong way to use email marketing is to purchase a cold list and blast it with a generic message. It doesn’t work, most recipients consider it a nuisance, most email services don’t allow it, and it’s a good way to get yourself kicked off your email platform or get your domain blocked when people report the message as spam.

Start with your content strategy

The most important first step is developing your content strategy. To work will, the content plan should pass three tests.

  1. Is it interesting to your audience?
  2. Is it useful to your audience?
  3. Is it unique or hard to find?

Local news and events are interesting and useful, but most neighborhoods now have robust neighborhood sites - the West Side Rag is popular on the Upper West Side Manhattan where I live -- plus active Nextdoor and Yelp communities that cover local happenings and have real estate sections.

So what can you offer that is uniquely valuable? Here are some approaches that work:

Curate: select articles from existing sources like your neighborhood news sites, local real estate blogs, art & design blogs. At Real, we use the Digg Reader to aggregate feeds dozens of sites and pick a handful of the most interesting for sharing in a weekly newsletter. It’s good to include commentary on why you think the piece will interest your readers and be sure to link to and credit the original source.

Here’s an example from Real’s newsletter:

Aggregate: create lists that are useful and timely. One example is a lists of open houses in your neighborhood in the upcoming week pulled from your MLS. People can find this info on Zillow, but how much better is it to have a hand-selected list delivered to their inbox? Other list ideas include best lists, such as 10 best articles on saving a down payment.

Original content: do you write a blog? Did you make a video? If so, definitely include them in the newsletter. One caveat is that most people start blogs, write a handful of pieces then get too busy to keep it up. Original content production takes time, which is why curating content is a sensible way to start.

Your listings: include our listings when you have them, but don’t make them the only source of content.

Offers: if you’re a Real agent, you can also include the popular “What is my home worth” CMA offer, which links to your website CMA landing page.

Call to action: It’s good to have a final call to action at the bottom. It could simple be a polite request for referrals, an offer to share the newsletter with anyone who’d be interested, or an invitation to your own local gathering, such as an invitation to a coffee-chat about a topic of interest.

Remember to Include a personal greeting. Say who the newsletter for, include a personal anecdote and explain why you picked the stories you’re sharing. Short and personal is best.

Develop your list

You probably already have a list of contacts. If they aren’t in one place, start by compiling the list in a spreadsheet that you can save as a CSV file and import into your productivity software. This is also a great way to keep a backup of your contacts in case one of your devices melts down and/or your cloud storage solution is giving you a hard time.

How to export your iPhone contacts to a CSV or Excel file

How to export Samsung Contacts to CSV

Once you have your CSV file, you can upload it into a email newsletter tool. We use MailChimp, and it’s easy and free for under 2,000 subscribers. It also let’s you share any newsletter as a link in Facebook and other social media, and it has an easy form for letting people subscribe to your newsletter. MailChimp takes care of formatting your newsletter properly for mobile and it includes the unsubscribe options required by law.

Constant Contact and Campaign Monitor also are popular in real estate, although neither currently have an ongoing free option.

One note about building your list, as you meet people, ask if they would like you to add them to your newsletter. Most will say yes, and asking in person is a more proactive way to build the list than waiting for them to sign up themselves.

Build your template

The next step is building your email template. I have found that a clean, modern format with room images on every piece works best on all screen sizes, which is key given that 60% or more of our readers read on their mobile phones.

If you don’t want to start from scratch, Real has a MailChimp email newsletter template that you can use. Find it here. (Note that you’ll be asked to create a MailChimp account if you don’t have one.)

If you’re a Real agent, our marketing department also is happy to help you design a custom template.

Subject Lines

Your newsletter subject line is the most important piece of your content. 47% of email recipients open email based on the subject line alone. At the same time, most email recipients report email as spam based solely on the subject line.

We’ve found the top performing subject lines include a teaser for the content. Here’s an example: "Real Bulletin [7.26.2017] - Are Zillow Leads Worth the Money?"

Some strategies to improve open rates include:

  • Use the word “you” - people like it with you communicate from their perspective.
  • Focus on something timely
  • Use numbers
  • Appeal to finances
  • Mention well-known brands
  • Be straightforward

Avoid spam-trigger words like FREE, CLICK, OPEN, SALE, 100%. There’s a good list of spam trigger here.

Repeat consistently

Be realistic about how often you will end up sending this over time, and start with a rational goal. If you really can keep up a weekly newsletter, that’s great. Otherwise a monthly one may be more realistic. What’s more important than the frequency is the consistency. Send it out on the same day and time every month. Same thing with weekly newsletters.

In terms of timing, there’s a rule of thumb that the best days to send newsletters is Tuesday around 10am or Wednesdays around 11am. I’ve also found over the years that Saturdays can be great days to send newsletters because people have more time to read. If your email includes open house info or other actionable info, I’d try Fridays between 8pm and midnight, which can have some very high activity rates. Test a few times to see what works for you.

Personalize if you’d like

Most articles on email marketing recommend personalizing the email. If your list is small, say under 500 recipients, they are likely people who know you personally, so inserting their name in the subject line doesn’t add much value in my opinion, but it doesn't harm the newsletter either.

Copy edit before you send

It helps to give yourself a deadline of completing it the day before you send it so you can review it with fresh eyes and catch those deadly typos before you hit send. Better yet, have someone else read it over. It can be difficult to see your own mistakes, and once you press the send button, you can’t undo it.


The initial metrics you want to track include opens and clicks. For a small, personal list of under 500 contacts, I’ve seen open rates of 40 - 50%. For large lists, around 15% - 20% is normal. MailChimp reports that the average open rate for real estate emails is 15%. For clicks, around 2% is normal. If you're not seeing numbers like these, it's an indication that your content isn't as engaging as it could be, so experiment a bit.

You also want to track your bounced emails so you can update your contact lists and your unsubscribes For unsubscribes, more than a handful is a red flag that could get your account suspended.


What can you expect from this work? In my experience, email marketing consistently outperforms all other channels over time. It takes longer to build scale, but the value accrues as the list grows. It's a cost-effective way to stay in touch.