Winning at Facebook Ads In the Aftermath of the HUD Controversy

Winning at Facebook Ads In the Aftermath of the HUD Controversy

Facebook knows a lot about you. That’s why marketers like me love the platform. All of that information helps us pair our messages with the people most likely to act on them. People see ads relevant to them, so we don’t waste money on people who don’t want to buy a home. Win-win, right?

Not so fast…recent changes have made Facebook ads a harder win for real estate agents. Under new guidelines, housing ads are considered a “Special Ad Category” and agents face new restrictions when choosing their audience. So how does a smart agent come out on top when advertising real estate on Facebook?

New Rules For Facebook Ads

As you’ve probably heard, Facebook has been besieged with privacy and discrimination complaints. As a result, they introduced new rules for ads related to housing, credit, or employment. Advertisers must now declare if their ads belong in what they call “Special Ad Categories.”

Ads in these categories have drastically different audience targeting options than other ads. For instance, we can no longer exclude certain ZIP codes from seeing our ads. In fact, we now have over 5,000 fewer options for targeting interests and demographics.

Traditionally, digital ads charge for each time someone clicks or sees our ad. So broader targeted ads run the risk of generating clicks or views (impressions) from people with no intention of buying or selling a home. This costs us money for nothing in return.

Choose the Right Ad Type

Since we have less control over who sees our ads, we have to adjust what we can control: the ads themselves. This starts with choosing the right ad type to meet our goals. For most agents, Facebook’s lead ads will be our go-to ad type. Facebook can control your ad spend for lead ads based on the desired cost per lead, so we get her contact information in return for our money.

Engagement ads can be useful, too. Facebook can control your costs for engagement ads based on users taking the desired action such as liking a page or responding to an event. These ads provide value because they open us to future engagement with potential leads. For example, if we have an open house we could use an engagement ad to encourage more people to attend.

Speak to Your Target Audience

Since it’s now harder to choose our audience, we have to make it easier for our audience to choose us. In other words, we can craft our ads to speak specifically to our core audience. This requires us to understand our audience so we can address their needs, but first, we have to capture their attention. Engaging images and text make a huge difference in the success of your campaigns. That’s why many agents flock to companies like mine to run campaigns.

Agents can also speak specifically to their audience by offering added value. For instance, we might offer home value estimates to speak to potential sellers. Even if a non-homeowner sees this offer, they are less likely to click since they don’t have a home to evaluate, so we save money by making a smart value proposition.


Like all technology, the rules for Facebook ads change fast, but with 69% of Americans using Facebook, no agent should sit on the sidelines. Even with these changes, I have seen ad managers generate new leads for as little as $4 per lead on Facebook. We may have to change our game plan, but the return is worth the effort.


Author Bio
Jonathan works as a Digital Marketing Coordinator for Home ASAP. The company provides Facebook marketing tools and services for real estate agents across the U.S. including the Real Estate Agent Directory on Facebook. He earned his Masters Degree in Mass Communications from the University of Florida. He specializes in online communications and web design. When he’s not developing marketing strategies, he enjoys hiking and playing the guitar.