Are Real Estate Commercials Skirting Realities of Homebuying?

You've probably seen those real estate commercials. You know, that one where where the guy's brushing his teeth, the woman's blow-drying her hair and singing in operatic tone, and the overweight man's coming in to take a bath. All in the same bathroom:

Or that one with that sweet song and the woman clicking on a house and envisioning her little boy jumping in the pool:'s hysterical "Find It First" and Zillow's touching "Find Your Way Home" ad campaigns are just a couple of pushes hitting the airwaves and the Internet to grab homebuyers' attention at a critical time in real estate: the ever-important spring homebuying season. The ads by Realtor and Zillow (both of which are AOL Real Estate partners) are clever, that's for sure. But are they sending the right message to buyers who are nervously re-entering the market after years of housing tumult?

While it's a smart time to put ad dollars to use, some critics say that these real estate commercials are skirting a larger responsibility to actually educate people about what's happening in the housing market. Now's the time, they say, because people could be jumping back into homebuying based on the louder and louder message that housing is back -- without knowing what they're doing any better than they did years ago. (But of course it is advertising -- which by its nature is meant to make us want stuff we don't necessarily need or can afford.)

Alexis Moore, a financial risk management consultant and consumer advocate who has been a Realtor in California, said that the commercials don't go deep enough into the factor at play in the housing market today. "The advertisements are missing the boat in a big way and frankly are insulting in a lot of ways to the industry," she said, "because they are not in tune with the real issue: rebuilding public confidence in the entire industry."

Here's a fact not mentioned in the Realtor or Zillow commercials: While home values have roared back in many parts of the country, for-sale inventory is at a startling low (much lower than typical levels during the busy spring homebuying season). That suggests that a whole lot of sellers aren't confident enough in the housing market to put their homes up for sale. And though home prices in February reached a seven-year high, that was driven largely by fat-pocketed investors, not everyday homebuyers. That could be because many still can't qualify for a mortgage under stricter regulations.

"Instead of using the same marketing tactics and campaigns of years past during the real estate boom years, they are missing a chance to build public confidence and restore the industry as a whole as being 'renewed' with real information about what has changed in the industry," Moore said.

Barbara O'Connor, executive vice president of marketing at Move Inc., which powers, argues that Realtor's "Find It First" campaign does what any ad should do: grab people's attention. But once viewers are hooked and persuaded to visit, that's where they'll get real information on housing statistics in individual cities and neighborhoods. Both Realtor and Zillow (like AOL Real Estate) have home-value tools, mortgage calculators and other housing information broken down by area.

"These ads use humor to grab people's attention, pointing a lens at the current historic competitiveness of the marketplace," O'Connor said. "Once consumers click through to, we have comprehensive information available to educate potential homebuyers on the current state of the housing market."

"People will shop for a new home when they're ready to shop for homes," said Amy Bohutinsky, Zillow's chief marketing officer. "The objective of our ads is not to convince people it's time for them to buy. Rather, our objective is to help people understand what Zillow has to offer -- that it's a great resource for shopping for homes -- so that when they're ready, they'll try us out." She added that Zillow's ads do show features such as its home value calculator to show what tools the company offers to aid homebuyers' decisions.

Jason Sherman, a real estate investor and founder of Sherman Communications & Marketing, said real estate companies are wise to be advertising now while the market is hot. "But, to be more credible, they should also speak to why now's the time -- address the fundamentals that are in place [in the housing market] -- in their PR and advertising," he said.

Before ads seduce you with the promise to convert the dream of homeownership into reality, prospective homebuyers should take the time to see if buying a home is affordable for them to begin with. Find out what current mortgage rates are, and use mortgage calculators to estimate what your monthly payment would be, for starters.

What do you think? Do today's real estate commercials have a responsibility to present deeper information about the factors at play in the housing market? Tell us in the comments below.

See more about real estate ads:
Realtor Raps on Tight Inventory: 'All the Houses Gettin' Sold'
The World's Most Deceptive Listing?
Give These Realtors a Reality Check!

These Aren't Listing Role 'Models'
See Gallery
Are Real Estate Commercials Skirting Realities of Homebuying?

We like "The Wizard of Oz" as much as the next person. But we wouldn't hide the Wicked Witch of the West at the top of the stairs, where she can scare the wits out of potential buyers. "My interest in this house is melting! Melting!" (Thanks to Hooked on Houses.)

Well at least visitors don't have to worry about Lord Voldemort and other dark wizards: This house has a life-size cutout of the Boy Who Lived to protect it.

We mean that literally. If you're interested in this home, you'd better be prepared to drink a lot of coffee, or else be haunted by a Freddy Krueger nightmare. (Thanks to Hooked on Houses.)

The seller would probably like you to notice this home's ample deck space and stone facade -- but we can't take our eyes off the dead critter this guy is holding. (Thanks to Hooked on Houses.)

If it were a 5-year-old buying this house, then perhaps it would be appropriate to use a stuffed bear in every single photo of the listing. But since we're all adults, it just gives us something to make fun of in this gallery. (Thanks to Hooked on Houses.)

If you're as soft as a teddy bear, maybe the wood floor is actually a comfortable place to sleep. 

Not this one! 

Not this one, either! 

Dolls can be creepy (if you don't believe us, check out this collection). So -- remember the bears? -- don't think that using one in all of your listing photos is a good idea.

OK, it's a tossup as to which is scarier: the doll or the Pepto-Bismol pink bathtub. (Thanks to Hooked on Houses.)

Wait -- maybe it's the armless mannequin? That doll is actually starting to look pretty cute by comparison.

Didn't we discuss the doll thing?

Some things just aren't meant to be featured in listing photos. And if you do, it's just good manners to close the lid.

Nothing complements your nice patio, trees, outdoor eating area and gorgeous, big pool than a giant inflatable Shamu.

We told you to stop jumping on the bed! 

They'd say, "Buy This House!"

Realtor Joe Goldin of Rodeo Realty used models in listing photos to market this over-the-top "Palace" in Woodland Hills, Calif. But we think they look a little low-rent.

Donald Trump comes to mind when viewing this "classy" billiards room -- not to mention the awkwardly posed models.

Who takes a shower with their coat on?


More on AOL Real Estate:
Find out how to calculate mortgage payments.
homes for sale in your area.
foreclosures in your area.

See celebrity homes.

Follow us on Twitter at @AOLRealEstate or connect with AOL Real Estate on Facebook.
Read Full Story

Find a home

Powered by Zillow