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Facebook’s Special Ads Category for Real Estate: Definitive Guide

Facebook’s Special Ads Category for Real Estate: Definitive Guide

This guide explains how to take advantage of all the targeting options that Facebook provides without violating its advertising policies.
Facebook’s Special Ads Category for Real Estate: Definitive Guide

If you are a USA-based real estate agent, broker, or investor starting out with Facebook advertising, it’s important that you know about the Special Ads Category. Facebook’s Special Ads Category limits targeting options for brands and professionals who want to run ads related to housing opportunities and other related services in the U.S. Most real estate professionals believe that now all types of Facebook ads related to promoting real estate services fall in the Special Ads Category, but that’s not true.

In this guide, I will explain what types of ads fall in this category and how to take advantage of all the targeting options that Facebook provides without violating its advertising policies.

What is Special Ads Category

Facebook rolled out the Special Ads Category in March, 2019 after being criticized for allowing advertisers to run the so-called ‘discriminatory’ promotional campaigns. The changes limited the targeting options for advertisers while promoting offers related to housing, job, and credit opportunities.

Before these changes came into force, real estate professionals were able to target people based on their:

  • zip code,
  • age,
  • gender,
  • ethnicity, and
  • race.

housing ads policty targeting

These were very effective targeting options for realtors because they enabled them to run highly-targeted ads. For example, if you are selling homes in a retirement community, it makes sense to target people based on their age, right?

But now this option is not available for ads promoting real estate offers such as active listings or housing projects.

home listing

If you violate the policies related to the Special Ads Category, Facebook will suspend your ad or even account in extreme cases.

Things to consider when running housing ads

Now the question is: Is there any way to use all the targeting options when running real estate Facebook Ads?

Yes, there definitely is!

Facebook says that the restrictions don’t apply to ads “designed to educate consumers or housing providers about their rights and responsibilities under fair housing laws”.

So if you’ve created an excellent guide on ‘how to buy a retirement home’ or ‘how to downsize’, you can definitely promote it without any restrictions on the targeting options.

I would strongly recommend that you run these types of educational promotions on Facebook as much as possible because I have seen that they lower ad costs and also help you to win the trust of your prospective people.

Once these people click on your educational ad, you can retarget these people with Facebook Pixel to show them other types of ads that are restricted under the Special Ads Category such as active listings.

This means that you will need to show an ad twice to the same user, but in the long run, you will lower your ad cost and get a better conversion rate. I recently wrote an article on how to make real estate Facebook ads profitable in 2021 in which I have explained this in more detail.

When running under the Special Ads Category, you can’t use Facebook’s ‘Lookalike Audience’ feature. Instead, you can create ‘Special Ad Audiences’ which behave in the same way as Lookalikes, but gender, age, religious views, and zip codes, and similar interests are not taken into account.

According to Facebook, “A Special Ad Audience uses existing information you have about the people you want to reach to create a new audience with similar online behavior. It’s like Lookalike audiences, but adjusted to comply with the audience selection restrictions associated with your campaign’s chosen Special Ad Category and our ad policies.”

A caveat

I have seen that once you start running ads under the Special Ads Category, Facebook sometimes fails to differentiate between regular ads and housing opportunity ads.

So even if you are promoting a lead magnet that educates home buyers, sellers and investors, your ad might get suspended.

I know this is frustrating, but there is nothing you can do about it.

Be very careful about the choice of words and images in your Facebook ad to ensure that you are not violating the advertising policies.

So these were some of the things you need to know about the Special Ads Category. Let me know in the comments if you have any questions or comments:

Reader Interactions


  1. Don says

    I am advertising money for real estate property investing. Facebook is saying it falls under the special ad category.
    I have a stock photo of a house wrapped in Tyvek. My copy asks investors to click on links that will offer an avenue to a broker who delves into providing money for investment property buying.
    Since I’m not offering credit, housing, or employment how am I getting flagged for using the special ad category? My daily rate will be $20, currently. Will that figure go up if I have to use special ad category?

    • Ekta Sharma says

      Hello Don, running ads in Special Ads Category mostly affects targeting options. It doesn’t have any direct impact on CPC or CTR. You may have to cast a wider net in your targeting to reach your prospects. I have to take a look at your ad copy to see why it is being flagged.

      • Donald Kelsey says

        Thanks for your help, Etka. There was no way around the Special Ads category, for real estate investor ads. That being said, my pricing didn’t increase with the designation, and the area size of possible click customers stayed the same, too. No thanks to Facebook, for trying to find a straight answer to my question. Trial and error was the avenue I had to take to get an answer.
        Thanks for your offer of assistance and feedback on this matter. Have a good one!

  2. Stephanie Jacobs says

    Do vacation rental property management groups fall under this new rule? What if we gear the ad to “visit” our community and have the link go back to a blog post? Just curious. Thanks.

    • Ekta Sharma says

      Hello Stephanie, if the ad copy indicates that the ad is promoting housing opportunities, this will most likely fall under the special category for housing ads. I have seen these types of ‘tricks’ don’t work in most cases.

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