If you’re a real estate marketer or a real estate agent, you might find yourself overwhelmed at the thought of building a website. What to include? How to choose between real estate website builders?
The fact is, most real estate agent websites are terrible. They get little traffic and generate little or no business for the agent. The reason? Most agents who create a new website don’t have a clear sense of why they’re building the site, nor do they have a process to evaluate their websites once they go live.
Most real estate websites are just a monthly expense that will never generate a positive return on investment (ROI).
Fortunately, you can build an effective real estate website, one that generates business leads that convert into some of the highest ROI a real estate agent can enjoy. You just need to know a few things first.
Must-have features for an effective real estate website
In certain ways, the real estate industry has unique needs when it comes to websites. In others, the industry’s tech needs are similar to other businesses. Here are the most important things to look for in real estate website builders.
The website must generate new business for the agent.
This is the single most important factor when choosing among real estate website builders. You’ll want one with flexible and robust lead capture methods built right into the platform. Look for a builder that offers affordable strategies for lead generation (such as Adwords management, Facebook-focused lead capture tools, etc.) — this will allow you to begin earning revenue from the very beginning.
Leads management should be built in.
The provider needs to have a robust CRM (Customer Relationship Manager) or offer easy integration with the many excellent third-party CRMs that are available. Look for these capabilities:
- Accepts and manages leads from many sources.
- Categorizes leads by source and type.
- Reaches out to leads via dialer, email and text messaging.
- Provides valuable content via new listing alerts and market reports.
These hugely critical capabilities separate the “haves” from the “have-nots” among real estate website builders.
The technology should be mature and/or nimble.
Technologies evolve quickly. Make sure you select a provider who builds their websites on a shared programming framework, one that can push out new features and functionality to all clients as they become available.
My provider wanted to charge me a bundle to “upgrade” my site to this year’s version. I’m not with them anymore.
The last thing you want to face is a whole new budget expense to “start over” because your provider custom builds each site. (This is the very issue that drove me to choose a new provider this year, as my current provider wanted to charge me three times the cost of my current site to “upgrade” to this year’s version. I’ve done my homework so that won’t happen again).
It should be engineered with Google in mind.
Face it, Google dominates all search engines, and smart business people know that a site favored by Google will get more organic traffic than those websites that aren’t structured with Google in mind. This means your builder or provider should pay special attention to mobile-friendliness, site speed, and search engine optimization (SEO).
… and designed for consumers.
If you have the best real estate website but it displays poorly on mobile devices, more than half of your targeted real estate consumers will not use your site. The prospective buyers looking at homes on tablets and smartphones will leave your website and go to an inferior agency that has a better mobile interface. Before you sign off on your site design, make sure you look at it from multiple devices and all the different web browsers.
Your options in real estate website builders? Excellent.
The website builders listed below fall into two groups. For those of you who have a desire to be heavily involved with the creation and evolution of your website, I’ve included the first group of Do-It-Yourself builders below.
For those of you who are looking for a full-service provider, so you can focus on helping buyers and sellers in your local market area, I’ve included the second set.
DIY real estate website builders
With all the costs involved in running a real estate agency, you have to cut corners where you can — especially when you’re just starting out. If you know your way around an app, building your own website is one of these corners.
For the do-it-yourselfer, GoDaddy GoCentral offers most of the pieces that you’ll need — custom themes, mobile capability, an easy SEO wizard and integrated email marketing to keep you in front of leads. However, this tool doesn’t currently support integration with IDX or CRM tools. Keep reading if you require those features on your website.
WordPress powers one-quarter of all websites on the internet, including my online newsletter. If you plan on having a real estate blog to go with your website, WordPress is relatively easy to use. There’s a free version of WordPress available, with plenty of great WordPress real estate themes, but if you go this route you’ll need to set up a hosting account and handle security updates and other potentially tiresome and challenging backend duties. GoDaddy offers a managed version of WordPress that includes hosting, a Quick Start Wizard, daily backups and automatic security and software updates.
Top full-service real estate website providers
If you’d rather leave the website building to people who do it for a living, check out these options. (GoDaddy also has a hassle-free pro site-building service you should check out.)
Curaytor is a relatively new organization that creates websites for real estate agents and teams. Their sites are not very well optimized for SEO and organic traffic, but you’ll be hard-pressed to find better marketing guidance and lead-generation techniques. I don’t use Curaytor for my primary site, but I do have one of their sites and utilize their monthly marketing service (with great ROI).
As real estate website builders go, Real Geeks is a no-frills option that delivers great ROI for leads. With their simple site — engineered purely for PPC (Pay-per-click) and Facebook marketing (meaning you need to plan to spend money regularly to drive traffic to this site) — leads should come in on a steady basis. It also includes a simple CRM in case you’re not currently using a strong, stand-alone product.
Sierra Interactive offers products for single agents, teams and even real estate companies. This is the company I’ve chosen to rebuild and strengthen my primary website, and I can tell you — they’re the complete package. If you only have one real estate website, this is the one to choose (for reasons I explain here).
How to make sure you’ve made the right choice
There’s no reason to let the process of evaluating real estate website builders to stop you from moving forward. Simply follow the tips above and you’ll be well on your way to choosing the best real estate website platform for you.
Once you think you’ve found the perfect website provider, go out and find some of their clients and see what they have to say. If the company’s lacking good reviews, you should consider continuing your search. Great service providers, in all industries, generate glowing reviews.