Website Design & Development
When planning to build a Real Estate Website there are some quick questions you can ask yourself about your business and expectations. This information will help you build the right website for your needs.
Some Basic Questions
What property types do you need to support?
One of the first questions you'll need to answer is what property types do i need. If you are selling properties in the city then you probably only need residential and rentals (if you do property management).
This question become more important if you handle certain property types. Commercial & Industrial springs to mind, many of the portals treat industrial and commercial the same (perhaps they haven't been inside a warehouse!). However, if you're an Industrial Specialist you'll need to be careful regarding website features as most website companies follow the precidence (even when its wrong) of the National Websites.
Caution should also to shown if you work with Rural properties that are also Residential Homes. This may seem odd, but large scale rural properties can easily have a number of homes on them and are sold more as businesses than places to live. Whereas, hobby style rural, often referred to as acreage (albiet small acreage) or lifestyle is where the house is still the most valuable part of the property and the primary purpose is a place to live.
How many listing do we usually have?
If you have less than 20 listings, perhaps you only deal in high end exclusive properties. If this is the case then its best to just show your customers a list of those 20 properties rather than make them use a search screen. Two reason for this, one, it adds another largely unnessasary step and, two, due to having only 20 or so properties the chances of the customer doing a search and then finding that no properties match their criteria, is a bad thing, they may not be bothered to try again.
How important is SEO to you?
Your only answer should be very important. SEO standards for Search Engine Optimisation and its a technique that is used to make it easier for customers to find your website. The best thing about SEO is you don't have to keep paying for it every month. Good SEO does need to be updated from time to time but certainly not every month.
Do I want Buyers to be able to edit their own buying criteria on the website?
You may like your potental buyers to be able to record the type of properties they are looking for and then send them as email when you list a property that matches. Like our first question regarding the number of listings, it is an important factor when considering allow customers to record their preferences. If you don't carry lot of listings then rather than allowing your buyers lots of criteria you'll be better off, simply collecting their email address and notifying them of all your listings.
Are there a lot of suburbs in your local area?
If there are a lot of suburbs or perhaps some less know suburbs, you may need to offer a suburb search and also a surrounding suburb search. If you think some of your customers may not know all your suburbs, then you should give them some help. If you are in an area where you get new families moving into the area, especially from interstate, then giving them so help with the geography is important. Fortunately, its common place now to show your properties on a map which is an excellent solution.
Would I like Sellers to be able to review the progress of their sale on our website?
This is an advanced feature where your sellers can be allocated a login (usually their email address) and a password. This provides them access to a private part of your website. This is where you can allow them to track the progress of their sale. It has a number of important pre-requistes. 1. You must be using a real estate program (like AgencyMax) that can collect the necessary information and make it available on your website. 2. You must actually perform this work and update your computer system. If you do this the end result in both feedback to your sellers and professionalism is fantastic.
Do you wish to write articles (BLOG)?
One of the goals of having a website is to get your customers to visit it. Now keeping it updating with your current properties for sale and rent is one way of doing it. Another is to write genuinely interesting and informative information about Real Estate and perhaps your local community. This is much like a BLOG (weB LOG). In the context of a Real Estate website we often show extracts of your last few articles (called posts in blog speak) on your homepage. If your customers are interested they can read the full article or browse your other past articles. One nice advantage of a blog built into your website is it assists with your SEO, helping to make your website rank better.
Does your office have a Twitter or Facebook account?
If your office has a Twitter or Facebook account you can have your recent posts placed on your website, so visitors can see you are active on those services. This may encourgae them to follow (like subscribe) your posts.
Even if you don't have an account your customers probably will, in which case its polite to give them a "Share" button to some of those services. The "Share" makes it easy for them to tell their friends about a page on your site. This will commonly be a property for rent or sale, or could be a article you've written.
Do you need your email accounts managed for you?
If you are getting a new domain name (eg. YourtownRealestate.com.au) and you want to have email addresses like firstname.lastname@example.org you'll need someone to host (look after) it for you. It if possible to do this yourself and if you already knew that, then you probably know how and I don't need to explain it. Otherwise depending on who you select to build your website you could check with them. Some may do it for free or others will charge a fee (we do it for free - shameless plug, i know).
Don't forget about testimonials, there should be a place on your website where you can place testimonials from happy clients. You don't have to go over the top but its important to reassure potentional customers (sellers in particular) that you are experienced and leave your customers with kind thoughts as to your service.