8 subject line techniques for increasing open rates

Larissa Gardner
5 min read

As an agent, we’re sure you’re no stranger to having to wade through a flurry of emails clogging your inbox daily. You know better than anyone if a subject line isn’t relevant or doesn’t grab your interest within seconds the unread email will end up in the trash box quick smart.

That’s why it’s so important to spend time crafting the perfect subject line for each and every campaign you put together. A good subject line offers readers a quick and easy solution, a benefit and/or good news, and most importantly sparks their curiosity enough that they click through to read the full email.

To ensure you’re not wasting your time sending out emails that won’t get read and forfeiting an opportunity to engage and nurture leads, here are eight of the best techniques for writing winning subject lines.

Reason why subject lines

The ‘reason why’ subject line aims to convince the reader exactly ‘why’ they should do something (i.e. read your email) based on a number of ‘reasons’ (i.e. your content is relevant and helpful specifically to them).

Using not only ‘why’ but an exact number of reasons in this type of subject line is great for engaging readers and piquing their interest. It primes the reader to know exactly how many items they should prepare to be reading, and also presents your content in a simple and clean list format. Readers will be more likely to click through because they want to find out more about the topic and discover all the different reasons why a particular house or apartment is suited to them.


‘5 reasons why this house is perfect for your family’

‘4 reasons why you should downsize’

‘7 reasons why you should sell this spring’

Benefit subject lines

To write alluring subject lines it’s important to highlight the substantial value and benefits to be gained from viewing the email, rather than just the general features within the email. The subject line needs to imply a promise to drum up interest and entice someone to take the time to click through and have a read.


‘Earn X amount annually from this investment property’

‘7 Melbourne hotspots set for growth in 2017′

‘Where to buy to get a great deal’

Also worth noting here that you want to avoid promotional terminology, using all caps and exclamation marks in subject lines. Phrases using ‘help’, ‘reminder’, ‘FREE’ and ‘per cent off!!!’ can come across as spammy, too promotional and turn off readers.

Question subject lines

Posing a question in the subject line is a powerful way to draw readers in. The question forces the reader to take a second to subconsciously pause and respond. Questions entice the reader to instinctively want to find out the answer and click through. In a lot of cases the reader feels like they already know the answer to the hypothetical question, but they’ll want to click through any way for confirmation.


‘Is this Sydney’s best oceanfront property?’

‘Could now be the perfect time to sell?’

‘Need a bigger place?’

‘Is this Melbourne’s richest neighbourhood?’

Testimonial subject lines

Testimonials help intrigue readers to click through because a) they’re interested in what industry experts, celebrities or public figures believe and b) they provide validation, social proof and credibility to the story. Approach industry experts and celebrities to lend their name or contribute quotes to an article. Testimonials are a great device as people trust reputable well-known figures and value their opinions.

 Image: Show and Tell
Image: Show and Tell


‘Megan Gale believes this is Melbourne’s most luxurious apartment’

‘Darren Palmer’s top 5 bathroom styling tips’

‘Michael Yardney’s advice to first home buyers’

How-to subject lines

The how-to subject line works well because it specifically promises readers how to achieve the particular benefit you’re spruiking. For instance, in winter, you could send out an email about ‘how to keep your home warm this winter’. Just make sure any how-to emails are relevant and actually achievable for your intended audience. There’s nothing more frustrating to readers than taking the time to read a guide that simply isn’t realistic or attainable.


‘How to avoid buying a property lemon’

‘How to bid successfully at auction’

‘How to make your new house a home’

Captivating subject lines

This simple style of subject line offers a succinct benefit that rouses a reader’s curiosity using emotive and captivating language that makes them want to uncover the ‘must-see’ aspirational content promised by clicking through.


‘Discover the way Sydney’s wealthy live’

‘Unbelievable celebrity vacation homes’

‘Must-see beach side mansions’

‘Essential tips for spring cleaning’

Targeted and personalised subject lines

A ‘one size fits all approach’ doesn’t suit your clients when searching for a new home, and the same goes for your subject lines and email marketing. Targeted subject lines are the ones you use when you’ve segmented your database and you have produced content with a specific audience in mind.

Take it a step further and personalise your subject line with the individual’s name, locations or characteristics (i.e. budget, pet friendly or school catchments) specific to your different client segments to increase open rates significantly.

 For sale:  103 Clontarf Street, Seaforth, NSW
For sale: 103 Clontarf Street, Seaforth, NSW


‘Incredible North Shore real estate for sale’

’10 pet-friendly apartments for rent in Frankston under $350 pw’

‘Melissa Davies, this home is perfect for your family and it’s under budget’

Command subject lines

Before hitting the send button, stop and think, what action do I ideally want my email recipients to take? Do I want them to just view my rental listings, sign up to attend my first home buyer seminar, to consider listing their home with me or call me with a property enquiry? Whatever you want your email call-to-action (CTA) to be, use a command subject line to explicitly direct the reader to take action in some way, shape or form.

Add a sense of urgency to your CTAs using subject lines such as ‘Your last chance to enrol in our free investor seminar’ and ‘Don’t miss out on this charming family home’. These types of CTAs make the reader call into question whether they’re happy to let this opportunity slip by and if they’re not they’ll click through for more info.


‘Subscribe to receive weekly rental updates in Balmain’

‘Make an offer on this beautiful family home: only days left’

‘Invest in St Kilda off the plan apartments’

‘Stop paying too much for rent’

We hope these eight techniques for putting together stellar subject lines have inspired you to try something different in your next email marketing campaign. Are there any subject line techniques you swear by? Please feel free to share them below. 

Larissa Gardner
Larissa Gardner is the Marketing Manager at arguably Australia’s best looking real estate website homely.com.au. With a superb devotion to product innovation, user-centred design and innovative marketing platforms for real estate agents, homely.com.au helps millions of Australians find their next home.

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