Skip to main content
20 minute read

Email has been and continues to be an absolutely essential marketing channel for real estate agents, for everything from listing alerts to audience segmentation to newsletters and more.

In fact, email drives an ROI (return on investment) of $36 for every dollar spent, higher than any other channel. Furthermore, 75.4% of consumers chose the email inbox as a preferred channel for promotional messages—much higher than any other channel.

Despite its effectiveness and popularity, email marketing in the real estate sector faces a significant hurdle—emails ending up in spam.

This problem not only reduces the reach of your campaigns but also undermines your ability to engage effectively with clients. Many real estate professionals struggle with this issue, seeing valuable communications lost to spam filters.

Understanding why emails go to spam and how to prevent this is crucial. In the next few sections, we’ll examine the common reasons emails are marked as spam and offer actionable strategies to improve your email deliverability.

The 12 Most Common Reasons Why Emails Go To Spam (2024):

1. You Weren’t Given Permission

Sending emails without permission significantly increases the risk of your messages being marked as spam. Recipients can easily mark emails as spam with a single click in their inbox.

Gmail example

Outlook example

In fact, marking an email as spam is often easier than unsubscribing, making it a preferred option for many users to stop unwanted emails. What you might not realise is that every time someone marks your email as spam, it sends feedback to their email service provider about your domain name.

The more people who click this button, the higher the chances that all of your emails, and those from anyone using your domain name (i.e. your team), will end up in spam folders. Therefore, obtaining consent before sending emails is absolutely critical.

Securing explicit permission to send emails is not only ethical but also legally required under the Australian Spam Act.

There are two types of consent under the Spam Act: express and inferred.

Express Consent: This occurs when a person explicitly agrees to receive marketing emails or messages, and it is often considered best practice. Express consent can be given through various methods, such as filling in a form, ticking a box on a website, or verbally in person or over the phone.

Importantly, you cannot use an electronic message to ask for this type of consent as it qualifies as a marketing message itself. It’s crucial to keep records of when and how someone gives express consent, as the responsibility to prove consent lies with the sender.

Inferred Consent: Inferred consent can be applicable when there is a reasonable expectation from the recipient to receive marketing messages due to their relationship with your business. For instance, if a potential buyer provides their email address at an open home, it could be inferred that they consent to receive emails about future listings.

This assumption is based on the context in which the email was provided—with the understanding that the communication would be relevant to their interest in real estate. However, it is important to note that inferred consent does not extend to sending emails on unrelated topics, such as mortgage financing or home insurance products, unless explicitly agreed upon.

Avoid Purchased Lists and Scraping Third-Party Sources: Using email lists bought or obtained from third-party services violates legal standards and ethical norms. Recipients on these lists haven’t given their consent to receive communications from your business, increasing the likelihood of them marking your emails as spam. This can damage your sender’s reputation and significantly reduce the effectiveness of your email deliverability.

Legal and Reputational Risks: Sending unsolicited emails can lead to substantial fines under Australian law. More importantly, it can damage your agency’s reputation, turning potential clients away.

Engagement through Consent: Genuine consent leads to better engagement. People who have actively signed up to hear from you are more interested and responsive, making your email campaigns more effective.

By ensuring all your email communications are consent-based, you uphold both the law and the integrity of your real estate business, fostering trust and increasing the effectiveness of your interactions.

2. The Sender’s Information is Inaccurate

Maintaining transparency and trust through accurate sender identification in email marketing is not only a best practice but also a legal requirement as outlined by the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA).

Legal Requirements for Identifying the Sender:

  • Accurate Business Identification: Your emails must accurately identify the name of your business as registered, or your personal name along with your Australian Business Number (ABN).
  • Correct Contact Details: Include up-to-date contact details within the email. This could be your business address, email, or phone number.
  • Authorisation Information: If a third party is sending emails on your behalf, the messages must still clearly identify your business as the one that authorised the message.

Importance of Compliance: This information must be accurate and remain unchanged for at least 30 days after the message is sent. Ensuring that your emails correctly identify your real estate agency ensures compliance with ACMA regulations, minimises the risk of your emails being marked as spam, and fosters trust with your recipients.

4. You’re Using Spam Trigger Words

Email spam filters are sophisticated systems that scrutinise the content of your messages to determine if they should be classified as spam. These filters are particularly sensitive to certain phrases known as “trigger words,” which are often associated with deceptive or overly promotional content.

Understanding Trigger Words: Phrases like “Amazing investment opportunity!” or “Guaranteed returns!” can activate spam filters because they resemble language commonly used in spam emails. Using these types of expressions in your real estate emails can lead to them being automatically redirected to the spam folder, significantly reducing their visibility and effectiveness.

Identifying Problematic Phrases: It’s crucial to be aware of which specific words to avoid. Here’s 188 Spam Words to Avoid: How to Stay Out of Email Spam Folders.

Best Practices:

  • Choose Your Words Carefully: Craft your email content with straightforward language that communicates your message clearly without resorting to hyperbole or “salesy” language.
  • Test Your Emails: Before finalising your email campaign, test how different content variations perform in terms of deliverability. Some email marketing tools allow you to run tests to see if your content is likely to trigger spam filters.
  • Update Regularly: Spam filters evolve, as do the words they target. Keep yourself updated with the latest trends in email marketing to ensure your content stays fresh and avoids new trigger words.

5. Your Subject Line Is Weak

The subject line of your email plays a critical role in its success. It’s often the first impression recipients have of your email and, by extension, your real estate agency. A well-crafted subject line acts as a gateway, influencing whether an email is opened or dismissed as spam.

The Power of the Subject Line: According to Convince and Convert, 69% of email recipients decide whether to mark an email as spam based solely on the subject line. This statistic underscores the importance of getting it right.

Subject Line Best Practices:

  • Avoid Excessive Capitalisation: Using ALL CAPS can give the impression that you’re shouting at your recipients, which is likely to be off-putting and could increase the chances of your email being marked as spam.
  • Limit Exclamation Points: Similar to capitalisation, excessive use of exclamation points can make an email appear overly aggressive or spammy.
  • Keep Promises Realistic: Ensure that your subject lines accurately reflect the content of your email. Overpromising or making false claims can erode trust and lead to higher spam complaints.
  • Avoid Being Too Salesy: While it’s important to be persuasive, a subject line that sounds too pushy can deter recipients and trigger spam filters.

Crafting Effective Real Estate Subject Lines: When creating a subject line for a real estate email, consider what would matter most to your recipients. Are you announcing a new property listing? Providing market analysis? Offering exclusive real estate investment advice? The subject line should clearly convey the value of the email in a concise and straightforward manner. For example, “Explore Our Latest Stylish Properties in Brisbane” or “Monthly Market Insights for Sydney Homeowners.”

Testing and Refinement: Before finalising a subject line, it’s wise to test several variations to see which performs best in terms of open rates and deliverability. Use A/B testing on a segment of your mailing list to refine your approach based on real data.

6. You’ve Included Attachments

Attachments in emails can be problematic for several reasons, particularly in the context of real estate email marketing. They not only pose a risk for triggering spam filters but can also impact the user experience by slowing down email load times.

Why Avoid Attachments:

  • Spam Filter Alerts: Many spam filters are programmed to be wary of emails with attachments because they can be used to spread malware. Including an attachment might prevent your email from reaching the recipient’s inbox.
  • Impacts on Performance: Large attachments can significantly slow down the opening of an email, which can frustrate recipients and lead to lower engagement rates.

Alternatives to Attachments: Instead of attaching documents directly to your email, consider embedding links within the body of the email that direct recipients to online content. For instance, if you want to share a video tour of a property, rather than attaching a video file, you can upload the video to a platform like YouTube or your agency’s website and include a clickable thumbnail or link in the email. This approach not only ensures better deliverability but also provides a smoother user experience.

Best Practices:

  • Embed Links: Use hyperlinks to direct recipients to content hosted online, whether it’s property listings, brochures, or newsletters. This method keeps the email lightweight and avoids the pitfalls of attachments.
  • Optimise Content Presentation: When including a link, consider using an enticing call to action or an appealing visual that encourages recipients to click. For example, “Click here to view the virtual tour”
  • Inform Recipients: Clearly explain what recipients will find when they click the link. This transparency builds trust and increases the likelihood of engagement.

7. There’s a Large Image with Minimal Text

Visuals are powerful marketing tools, especially in real estate, where images of properties can significantly impact a potential buyer’s interest. However, when it comes to email marketing, relying too heavily on images with minimal text can be problematic.

The Challenge with Image-Heavy Emails: Emails dominated by images may look appealing, but they can raise red flags for spam filters. This is because spammers often use large images to bypass text-based spam filters, which cannot ‘read’ the content within images. Therefore, an email with a lot of imagery and little text might be mistakenly identified as spam.

Balancing Visuals and Text: To avoid triggering spam filters while still leveraging your properties’ visual appeal, it’s crucial to maintain a healthy text-to-image ratio. Aim for a balance where your email contains roughly 60% text and 40% images. This ratio ensures that spam filters can effectively analyze the content of your emails, reducing the risk of them being marked as spam.

Best Practices for Real Estate Email Marketing:

  • Descriptive Text: Accompany images with descriptive text that provides context and adds value. For example, instead of just showing a picture of a home, include details about the property, such as location, price, and unique features.
  • Alt Text for Images: Always use alt text for images. This not only helps with accessibility but also adds a layer of text for spam filters to analyze, improving your email’s deliverability.
  • Optimise Images: Ensure that images are optimally compressed to reduce email load times without compromising quality. High-quality, well-optimized images can enhance the aesthetic appeal of your emails without slowing down their performance.

8. There’s No Opt-Out/Unsubscribe Link (or it doesn’t work)

Providing a straightforward and accessible opt-out option in your email campaigns is not just a courtesy—it’s a legal requirement under Australian law. Ensuring that subscribers can easily unsubscribe from your communications prevents frustration and complies with spam regulations, thus protecting your real estate business from potential fines and maintaining the trust of your audience.

Legal Requirements for Unsubscribe Links: According to the Australian Spam Act, every commercial email must include an unsubscribe link that:

  • Is clearly presented within the email.
  • Allows users to unsubscribe within five working days.
  • Involves no fees and imposes no additional costs beyond standard rates (e.g., standard text charges for SMS).
  • Remains functional for at least 30 days after the message is sent.
  • Does not require the recipient to provide additional personal information or to log into or create an account to unsubscribe.

Enhancing the Unsubscribe Experience: To reduce the irritation that can be caused by unwanted emails and to adhere to legal standards, it’s beneficial to make the unsubscribe process as painless as possible:

  • Clear Instructions: Include clear, simple instructions or an easily identifiable unsubscribe button. For emails, phrases like “To stop receiving messages from us, click here” or “Unsubscribe” links at the bottom of the email help users quickly opt-out without confusion.
  • Immediate Acknowledgment: Once a user decides to unsubscribe, promptly process the request within the stipulated five-day period. Immediate acknowledgment of the request can prevent accidental sends of follow-up emails, which might irritate users further and could lead to complaints.
  • Feedback Option: Consider offering a way for users to provide feedback during the unsubscribe process. This can be invaluable for understanding why they chose to leave your list and can help you improve your email strategy.

SMS Unsubscribes: For SMS marketing, the process should be equally straightforward. Simple commands like “Reply STOP to unsubscribe” clearly communicated in the SMS will ensure compliance and user convenience.

Unsubscribe Examples:

  • Email Example: “If you no longer wish to receive updates about our listings, please click the ‘unsubscribe’ link below.”
  • SMS Example: “To unsubscribe from property alerts, reply STOP.”

9. You’re Sending Emails to Inactive Addresses

Sending emails to inactive addresses is a common issue that can significantly impair your email campaign’s effectiveness and harm your sender reputation. When messages are consistently sent to addresses that no longer exist or are no longer active, it signals to email providers that your mailing practices might be substandard, leading to a higher risk of your emails being marked as spam.

It’s important to note that some real estate CRM providers do not automatically remove ‘bounced’ email addresses. They will allow you to keep sending to bounced email addresses until you manually remove them.

The Impact of Inactive Addresses: If as little as 4% of your audience results in bounces, it can raise red flags with email service providers, suggesting that your list maintenance practices are lacking. This can lead to your domain being penalized and an increase in emails directed to spam folders.

Strategies for Managing Inactive Addresses:

  • Regular List Cleaning: Periodically remove inactive addresses from your mailing list. This helps maintain a healthy sender reputation and improves the overall engagement rates of your campaigns.
  • Pruning Subscribers: Implement a strategy to prune subscribers who have not engaged with your emails over a specific period. Use:
    • Count-Based Pruning: Remove subscribers who have not opened or clicked any of your last 15 emails.
    • Time-Based Pruning: Remove subscribers who haven’t engaged within the last 90 days.
  • Utilise List Cleaning Services: Services like NeverBounce can be invaluable for ‘washing’ your list of inactive or non-existent email addresses. They help verify your email list, ensuring that you only send emails to active contacts, which enhances deliverability and engagement.

Implementing Effective Pruning Practices: Integrate automated tools within your email marketing software to regularly check your subscribers’ activity status. These tools can segment your list based on engagement criteria you set, such as the number of emails unopened or the length of inactivity, and automatically remove or segment inactive users.

10. You Have Incorrect Spelling and Grammar

Correct spelling and proper grammar are essential not only for professionalism but also to ensure your emails avoid the spam folder. Spam filters often flag emails with poor grammar and spelling errors, associating them with phishing attempts or spam emails.

The Importance of Proper Language:

  • Spam Detection: Poor spelling and grammatical errors can significantly increase the likelihood of your emails being marked as spam.
  • Professional Image: Errors can detract from your message’s credibility, making your real estate agency appear less professional and potentially eroding trust with your clients.

Strategies for Ensuring Correct Spelling and Grammar:

  • Utilize Spell Check Tools: Most email platforms include spell-check features. Ensure these are active and configured to the appropriate version of English to catch common errors.
  • Grammarly: For a more thorough review, consider using tools like Grammarly. This advanced grammar-checking tool offers suggestions for grammar, punctuation, style, and even sentence structure, which can be instrumental in polishing your email content.
  • Human Proofreading: Automated tools are helpful, but they’re not infallible. Always have your emails reviewed by another person before sending them. A second pair of eyes can catch mistakes that automated checks might miss.
  • Test Emails: Send test emails to yourself or colleagues to see how your message appears to recipients. This can help identify any last-minute corrections needed.

Testing Email for Spamminess: In addition to ensuring correct language, it’s wise to test your email’s deliverability:

  • Use Mail Tester: This tool evaluates your email for factors that could flag it as spam. Send your email to Mail Tester, and it will provide a score and detailed feedback on how to reduce its “spamminess.”
  • Review and Adjust: Based on Mail Tester’s feedback, make any necessary adjustments to enhance your email’s readability and effectiveness.

11. Your Domain Name is Not Configured Properly

Proper configuration of your domain name is crucial for ensuring that your emails reach their intended recipients and not the spam folder. This involves setting up key email authentication methods such as SPF (Sender Policy Framework), DKIM (DomainKeys Identified Mail), and DMARC (Domain-based Message Authentication, Reporting, and Conformance). These technical settings are essential to authenticate your emails and prove to email service providers that they originate from a trusted source.

Understanding Email Authentication:

  • SPF (Sender Policy Framework): SPF helps to verify that the emails sent from your domain are authorized by listing the servers that are permitted to send emails on behalf of your domain.
  • DKIM (DomainKeys Identified Mail): DKIM provides a way to validate a domain name identity that is associated with a message through cryptographic authentication.
  • DMARC (Domain-based Message Authentication, Reporting, and Conformance): DMARC uses SPF and DKIM to determine the authenticity of an email message, providing instructions to ISPs on how to handle emails that don’t pass these checks.

The Importance of Proper Configuration: Google and other major email providers are tightening their policies to enhance email security and reduce spam. Incorrectly configured domains can lead to your emails being blocked or sent to spam, particularly with the upcoming stricter email policies by major providers like Google, affecting all senders including real estate businesses heavily reliant on email marketing.

Consult with Your IT Team: The technical nature of SPF, DKIM, and DMARC configurations means that setting them up correctly can be complex and typically requires specific technical expertise. Here’s why it’s essential to involve your IT team:

  • Technical Expertise: They have the necessary knowledge to understand and implement these configurations correctly.
  • Compliance Verification: Tools like the Valimail DMARC Checker can help verify if your domain is correctly set up to comply with new standards. It’s advisable to review your domain’s settings regularly to ensure compliance.
  • Ongoing Support and Troubleshooting: Post-implementation, your IT team can monitor the efficacy of the settings and make necessary adjustments to address any issues that arise.

Taking Action:

  • Immediate Review and Setup: Given the impending changes and the reliance on email communications in real estate, reviewing and setting up these authentication protocols should be a priority.
  • Regular Updates and Training: Keeping up with email authentication standards is not a one-time task. Regular updates and staff training on best email practices are crucial.

Consequences of Non-Compliance: Failure to comply with email authentication standards can significantly impact your business. Just a small percentage of your emails marked as spam can tarnish your domain’s reputation, potentially affecting even critical one-to-one client communications.

12. Your Domain Name or Sending IP is Not Reputable

The reputation of your domain name and sending IP address plays a crucial role in the success of your email marketing campaigns. In the real estate industry, where multiple agents may be sending emails from the same domain or IP address, it is vital that everyone adheres to best practices to maintain a strong sender reputation. A single agent not following proper protocol can jeopardize the email deliverability for the entire business.

Collective Responsibility in Email Practices:

  • Impact of Individual Actions: If one agent engages in practices that lead to high bounce rates or spam complaints (such as sending unsolicited emails or using deceptive subject lines), it can damage the overall domain reputation. This makes it more likely that emails from all agents at the domain will be marked as spam, reducing their effectiveness.
  • Consistent Adherence to Best Practices: It’s essential for all agents to understand and adhere to email marketing best practices. This includes obtaining proper consent, avoiding spam trigger words, regularly cleaning email lists, and using accurate sender information.

Monitoring and Managing IP Reputation:

  • Shared IP Addresses: Many real estate agencies use Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems that send emails from shared IP addresses. If another agency sharing the same IP does not adhere to best practices, it can negatively impact your email deliverability as well.
  • Engage with Your CRM Provider: It’s important to discuss with your CRM provider what measures they have in place to protect their sender reputation. Ask about their policies for dealing with clients who violate best practices and how they ensure that the actions of one client do not affect others.

Proactive Measures:

  • Regular Audits: Conduct regular audits of your email marketing practices and consult with your IT team or a digital marketing specialist to ensure your domain and IP reputation remain intact.
  • Feedback Loops and Monitoring Tools: Set up feedback loops with major email providers (like Gmail and Outlook) to get alerts if your emails are being marked as spam. Use monitoring tools to track the reputation of your domain and IP addresses.
  • Responsive Action: If you notice a decline in email performance or receive notifications of spam markings, investigate promptly to identify the source of the issue. Take corrective action immediately to prevent further damage to your reputation.

Importance of Collective Compliance: Maintaining a reputable domain and IP requires a collective effort from all agents and the management team. Regular training sessions on email marketing compliance and best practices can help ensure that everyone understands their role in protecting the agency’s email deliverability.


As a real estate professional, you’re not in the business of spamming; you’re dedicated to building relationships by connecting with leads and nurturing them so they can make informed property decisions. However, the intricacies of email filters mean they don’t always distinguish between a genuine marketer and a spammer.

People generally have little tolerance for emails that even slightly resemble spam. In reality, ensuring your emails are opened starts with them reaching the inbox and not getting sidetracked into the spam folder. Throughout this guide, we’ve explored some of the most common pitfalls that lead to emails being marked as spam and discussed how these can be effectively managed and prevented.

By adhering to regulations like the Australian Spam Act and gaining a deeper understanding of how spam filters work, you can significantly reduce the risk of your emails being perceived as spam. This understanding, combined with practical steps such as maintaining a clean mailing list, ensuring proper email authentication, and adhering to content best practices, will help ensure your emails are received by those who truly value them.

Ultimately, by taking proactive steps to address these common email issues, you ensure that your communications are both effective and welcomed. This allows more of your emails to land where they should—in the inboxes of prospective buyers and sellers. This not only boosts your marketing efforts but also reinforces your reputation as a trusted and respectful real estate professional in a competitive market.

Close Menu