If you need further evidence that consumer confidence is shaky, pick up a copy of The Real Estate Book this December.
Next month, the glossy advertising guide will devote 20 percent of its print pages to promote homes that have already sold. The program, Just Sold 2008, is the company’s attempt to offset industry pessimism and to convince readers that, yes, homes are selling.
"There was so much negativity in the media," said Todd Walker, the company’s senior vice president of operations and sales. "How can we come up with a program that can help tell that story, that homes are still being sold?"
The Real Estate Book, available for free on street corners citywide, publishes 25 editions in the tri-state area and prints 8 million copies across the United States and Canada. As in other sectors of the housing industry, The Real Estate Book has seen a dip in business. But a bigger recent challenge has been to counter the impression that no one’s closing deals.
"Advertisers are feeling really stressed out and overwhelmed," said Tami McCarthy, a spokesperson for the Real Estate Book. "How can they maintain a presence in a really tight market?"
Last summer, the company devised the Just Sold program: when a realtor buys a one page spot, The Real Estate Book will donate a second page to showcase addresses that have sold this year. Advertising rates run between $500 and $600 per page per issue, which comes out every four weeks. (New York City rates are on the higher end.) The program will likely cost The Real Estate Book up to $1 million, "so it’s a significant investment on our part," Mr. Walker said.
"There’s more in it for the consumers and the advertisers than us," he said, "but we felt like this is a great way for us to give back. And we felt like if you give – what’s in it for us is hopefully other advertisers will tell other realtors that we care and that they should advertise with us."
A broker’s participation in Just Sold entails selling enough homes – up to 12 – to fill a page. Mr. Walker said the program is getting "full participation" in most of the Real Estate Book’s markets, although it was too early to give exact numbers. (Just Sold launched on Nov. 3.)
Overall, the company has seen a slight drop in ad sales, especially since brokers that worked part-time through the boom years are no longer "actively practicing real estate," Ms. McCarthy said. "Top agents are the ones that are conducting most of the business today." The program is, in part, designed to guide consumers to those top agents and to convey what properties they are selling, where, and for how much.
"They’ve advertised with us through good times and bad," Mr. Walker said, "and it’s a way for us to thank the advertisers for their business and help elevate the status in their community."
Just Sold 2008 will run through January.