Facebook has changed the way real estate agents (and mortgage brokers) run ads on both Facebook and Instagram.

This is all as a result of the data and data scraping issues Facebook has been accused of over the past few years. These tighter restrictions are in part due to a settlement Facebook has reached with the ALCU, NFHA, and CWA who have accused Facebook of intentionally allowing discriminatory practices within their ad delivery options.

Why this matters is because anyone running advertising campaigns on either Facebook or Instagram for credit, housing, or employment “products” and services are now, or will be soon, required to begin using the Special Ad Category option in Ads Manager or run the risk of their ads being stopped (we’ve already experienced this first-hand).

The Special Ad Category requires the advertiser to indicate their business involves credit, housing, or employment and will prohibit ads that target certain demographics including age, gender, location, and zip code. It also prohibits ads that target what is called “look-alike-audiences” created from using Pixels on your website that collects visitor information.

What about brokerages looking to recruit new agents? We all know real estate agents are independent business owners and are not employees of any particular broker. Looking for new agents to join a brokerage has nothing to do with housing, so what’s the big deal?

The big deal is that their algorithmic ad approval process can’t catch everything, so they’ve erred on the side of caution and focus on all ads running on Facebook pages that are specific to real estate. By the time this is all rolled out and in place (we’ll talk about the timeline later in this post), any Facebook or Instagram account that has anything to do with real estate, credit, or employment will be required to specify a Special Ad Category in order for their ads to run.

If your brokerage is looking for new agents who are millennials that live and work within a 10-mile radius of your office, for example, you’re out of luck. If your real estate agents are looking to target individuals who may be interested in a home that is coming soon to the market, one that you’ve listed, or an upcoming open house but only want individuals of a specific age range or individual who lives within the same zip code, you’re out of luck.

So, what do we do?

If you are a brokerage looking to recruit,

You can select a specific city and by default, ads will run within a 15-mile radius of any city or address. Ages are always going to be 18 and up. No language select, can’t specify gender. You can, however, make sure your brokerage website has both Google Analytics installed and a page on the website specific to recruiting, and run what is called a traffic ad on Facebook and Instagram. The ad should include a compelling headline and a related image of course designed to inspire the individual seeing the ad to click and learn more. Facebook Ads Manager will give you all sorts of usable information about the ad performance; including, but not limited to, how many “clicks” your ad produced, the cost per click, along with other usable data. Google Analytics will give you insights on the actual traffic that has come to your website (from and not from Facebook or Instagram).

Not recruiting and want to run advertising for a specific property (coming soon, newly listed, open house, etc.)? First, create the post on your page (compelling text, a link to the listing online, and an image for the post). Once the post has been placed on the page, go into your Facebook Ads Manager account, indicate the ad falls into the “Housing” under the Special Ad Category section, create a “Reach” ad (show your ad to a maximum number of people).  You will notice the changes under the Audience section of Ads Manager. The first section is the location. If you enter the address or city the property is in, you will notice the location selection defaults to a 15-mile radius (non-changeable). If you want to broaden the range, you could always add a second address or city to “expand” the 15-mile radius to include other areas, but you cannot reduce the 15-mile radius.

Age and gender are not changeable.

You could leave the ad select criteria there but to get slightly better at targeting interested people, you can play with the Detailed Targeting Section by focusing on people who have visited or expressed interest in the online property sites (Zillow, Realtor.com, Realtor.com.pro, Trulia) for example. Then use the “also match” section to match those with other interests such as “single-family detached home”, “house hunting”, “first-time buyer”, “luxury real estate”, “property finder”, etc.

By doing this, you will crossmatch individuals who have used, liked, or expressed interest in the online real estate sites with the other interests listed.

This allows you to dial it in just a little bit more than just targeting everybody.

This, of course, isn’t foolproof and Facebook’s data isn’t perfect. People may have been house hunting several months ago and may have already purchased but at least you can obtain better odds of targeting interested people instead of simply running ads to everyone with a pulse in the targeted area.