Brighter Selling

Why sellers should be wary of advertising upsells

by Justin Watt, CEO 8 May 2018

When you put your house on the market, did your agent recommend you opt for a premium listing?

Did it hurt to pay that extra couple of grand? Or did you opt for a regular listing and save yourself some cash?

I can tell you that not all properties will benefit from a premium listing on and more often than not the regular, cheaper listing will do.

Increasingly these days sellers are at risk of being pressured into taking out more expensive advertising than they really need, and it’s not just their agent’s fault. It seems to me that has not got the sellers’ best interest at heart.

The business model is based on agencies complementing their regular advertising subscriptions with optional premium packages, and agencies are incentivised for taking the upsell.

What does that mean?

Agencies buy a base subscription to advertise all their properties for sale on If I think a property needs help to stand out from the competition then I can buy an upgraded ad which will improve its ranking in the search results and make it visually a little more noticeable (but the difference is negligible on mobiles and tablets).

These upgrades to ‘highlight’ or ‘premier’ listings can be purchased for individual properties, or agencies can choose to upgrade all their listings. The per-listing cost is cheaper if you upgrade all your properties, rather than just one. Agencies also benefit from premium package deals because their branding is more visible on the upgraded ad listings.

So we find ourselves in a situation where numerous agencies have entered into agreements with to list all their properties as premium listings … and guess who pays? You, the seller.

Agents don’t want to pay for advertising out of their commission so they will do their level best to pass on the ad costs to you by recommending an upgrade even if a regular, cheaper listing will do.

They’ll almost sell the premier advertising pack harder than they’ll sell your house!

I almost feel sorry for them because it’s probably the boss who made the decision but it’s their agents who are pressured to pass it on to clients.

If a seller refuses the premium option and their agent has already paid for it then they start their partnership out of pocket a couple of grand. It’s a weird way to start a relationship.

So now you know about the industry’s biggest upsell scheme, what can you do about it?

Ask your agent outright if they’ve purchased a ‘highlight all’ or ‘premier all’ package on You can tell if they answer honestly by searching for the agency on and checking if all their listings appear as premium listings or not.

If they have bought a package I’d be very wary about taking a premium advertising option. Marketing is important. But wasting money on marketing is still wasting money.

There are some cases where upgrades are worthwhile. If there are a lot of listings for sale in your suburb then it can help you stand out on the page.

But if everyone has bought a premier listing you can still find yourself down the page anyway. Also, most people view property listings on their mobile or tablet these days. There’s very little difference in how the listings appear on mobile devices.

As well as talking with your agent, do you research. Search for properties like yours on If there’s limited stock a premium listing isn’t needed because you’ll be easy to find anyway.

We haven’t taken out a ‘premier all’ or ‘highlight all’ package because I care about my clients and I know they won’t all see that money back. There’s a downside there because where we do think premium advertising is warranted it will be more expensive to buy it as a one-off, and I’m upfront about why when I’m explaining that to a client.

There’s a downside for our agency too. Our Watt Realty branding doesn’t appear as visibly on our listings. Some years ago, agency branding appeared on regular subscription ads but now makes us pay extra for it.

They have the monopoly for now. Domain isn’t a strong enough competitor. But new advertising platforms like Google and Facebook I think will offer better advertising options in the future including the ability to suggest houses like ones you’ve searched for, and to make it easier to search in a way that isn’t suburb-bound.

If doesn’t keep up with other digital advertising platforms (and they are a little slow – they only just made their email alerts mobile friendly!) then I think they’ll get left behind. I for one won’t miss their upsell business model.

Confused about what marketing campaign is the best for you? Contact us for a chat.

'Premier' listing on

Agents almost sell the premier advertising pack harder than they'll sell your house!

'Highlight' listing on

Numerous agencies have agreements to list all properties as premium listings.

'Standard' listing on

If there's limited stock a premium listing isn't needed - you’ll be easy to find anyway.

Search habits

Serious shoppers search by 'newest first' which disregards premiums in positioning.