Features Of The Best Real Estate Websites

For most people, their home is their biggest financial investment, but it really is much more than that. When we think of our homes we think about our safe places, where we go to relax, be ourselves, and be comfortable.   Besides the financials, homes are also a huge emotional investment, and as a previous home buyer I know there is a lot of anxiety revolving around the purchase process. A big part of resolving that anxiety is the real estate agent who makes a big difference when the client immediately feels that they are more interested in making them happy and ensuring that they pick the right property than just closing the deal and moving on.   As a real-estate agent, your website design and content goes a long way to ensure that you convey the right message to your clients and establish the needed trust to smoothly close the deal. To do that, your website can not just be about you or the properties that you list. It has to be designed for your client, not only to view your listings, but also as a great resource for them before, during and after the purchase process. This will generate a lot of direct and organic traffic to your site, and ensure that your website ranks well on search engines.

The best real estate websites consider the following 4 elements (in that order)

  1. The Customer
  2. The Real Estate Team
  3. The Properties
  4. The Website Design

The Customer

As a real estate agent, your customer needs to be the center of your attention, and that must be reflected in the design and content of your real estate website. The best real estate websites create a useful resource center for existing and potential clients before, during and after the purchase process.   The very best real estate websites that are high performing marketing tools have at least all of the following features:

  • They Integrate maps and navigation
    • Every listing needs to have a clear map of where the property is, and a navigation feature that can be enabled on the mobile view. Nothing is more frustrating than a tiny map that makes it hard for potential buyers to know where that specific property is. Navigation integration will help your customers make it on time for appointments at the property for showings.
  • They Have Mortgage calculator
    • Your menu must contain a “customer resources” heading under which you can put useful tools such as a mortgage calculator. An easy, but essential tool that your customers can use for their research and analysis without having to leave your website.  As an example, we have built a Small Business Owner Resources Page where put all the useful digital tools that small business owners need on daily basis.
  • They Link to mortgage brokers
    • Do you know great mortgage brokers with great customer service skills? Why not make it easy for your customers and link to them and put their information up on your website. Negotiate win-win deals for your clients with the broker such that your clients can get exclusive deals or special treatment or special discounts.
  • They Link to home service providers
    • As someone in the business of getting great people into great homes, you must know a lot of superior home renovation, and home service providers such as painters, plumbers, handy men, lawn care, home inspection, moving companies etc. Make sure these companies or individuals will provide superior customer service and product. Negotiate exclusive discounts for your customers in exchange for mentioning them on your website.

The Real Estate Team

The objective here is to show the human side of your team, and help establish the necessary level of trust in the agent/agency as a person(s) who are experts in their field and who are trust worthy to do business with.  The most effective and best real estate websites have the following features

  • They have a prominent team page
    • This goes back to the trust and emotional connection that is needed for a client to trust you with the biggest investment in their lives. Showcase your team, skills, activities, hobbies, professionally taken head shot / team image. Tell people who you are, what you care about, and why you are in this business, because it has to be more than just about the money.
  • They use video testimonials.
    • As reported by HubSpot at the Inbound Nov 2016 conference, the number one source of information that 58% of customers rely is word of mouth to make purchasing decision. As a business owner you cannot afford not to have a testimonial section. Wherever possible go for video testimonials, and from our research, the more natural the video clip seems the better as opposed to highly doctored professional videos. A short 30-45 second clip from a customer on their mobile phone will come across as far more genuine than something shot in a studio.
  • They make it easy to contact the real estate team.  
    • Integrate text message right to your mobile from your website. Line2 offers a great service where you can get a second phone number as an application on your mobile. They also have a widget that allows you to integrate a texting application right into your website such as users can send a text message right to your mobile from your website.  You can also consider having online chat.  Zendesk has a cost effective chat solution.
  • They have a video blog.
    • You have a wealth of knowledge. Keep it short (2-3 minutes max), and professional. Share it with potential clients.   Ideas:
      • What to look for in a new home.
      • City area reviews.
      • How to negotiate on prices.
      • How to know if a house is worth the money.
      • Old versus new homes.

The Properties

The best real estate websites showcase the homes, the product in this case, in a compelling, stunning and attractive manner.  It is not enough to just showcase a few pictures.  The Best real estate websites show case their properties in a way that makes clients want to live there.  Professional photography, videography and professional setup of the home is extremely important.  Consider the following: 

  • Video and Image Showcase
    • HD images are great, but video gives a different and real perspective on the potential properties.   The problem with still images is that they tend to make rooms look smaller. Video on the other hand, specially showing 360’ view of the different rooms gives a better perspective of what the property looks like, how it is interconnected, and is far more appealing.
    • Make good use of image sliders to showcase the best shots of the property on sale. Refrain from just dumping all the images into a grid gallery which takes up too much space on the page and doesn’t look as professional.
  • Map and navigation
    • Every listing should have a location map that clearly shows where the property is in the city. Integrate navigation to help your clients get to the property easily.
  • Property Categorization
    • Separate your listings into 3 categories based on price ranges since that is the most important factor for people.   Since this depends on the local market price benchmark it would have to be decided by you, but think about something like this:
      • Upto $400K
      • 400K– 999K
      • 1M+
    • Open House Section
      • Prominently showcase which open houses you have available and on which dates. Invite people to drop by for a chat, either about that property or other ones.
    • Property I love Section
      • Another great section for your home page. Did a great property just fall into your hands? This doesn’t need to be your most expensive or most recent. Sometimes, it’s a house that you just fall in love with. Feature it on your home page.   Talk about why this property is so appealing, and what got you, as a person, and not a real-estate agent, drawn to it.

The Website’s Layout

Last but not least, the best real estate websites have compelling, easy to navigate, and easy to use layouts.  These high performing real estate websites typically have the following features:

  • They are designed for mobile user experience
    • It is not enough for a business website to just be responsive anymore. Responsive just means that a page will look good on a small mobile screen.   With more and more people on mobile devices, it is important that the mobile version of your website is designed specifically for mobile users’ experience and navigation.   In addition to the small screen size, mobile data connections are not always fast or reliable. A mobile version needs to take all these aspects into account to create a superior customer experience.
  • They are fast loading
    • Nothing frustrates customers more than slow loading website which typically results in an immediate bounce and a mental note never to return. A slow website can be the result of many factors: A slow connection, a slow or busy web hosting server, poor website software programming, and/or un-optimized images. Your business website is a very powerful business tool. In order to use it to the maximum it needs to be hosted with a robust, superior hosting provider, and closely managed and monitored.
  • They enable social sharing and following
    • There are two types of web social buttons. Sharing buttons allow your users to share content right into their social media streams. At minimum you must allow users to share on Facebook and twitter. Also consider LinkedIn, Google+, Reddit, Pinterest, and email.
    • Social follow buttons allow users to follow your social media streams. We highly advise you to at least have a Facebook Page, LinkedIn profile with a LinkedIn Showcase page.   Use a YouTube channel to host showcase, and testimonial videos as well as Video content such as real-estate tips that you may want to create for your customers as part of your blog.
  • They have strategically placed Opt-in forms
    • Email marketing is still king, and it is important to do whatever is possible to have your website visitors volunteer their emails to you. This could be in the form of subscribing to news alerts about new listings, monthly newsletter or white papers. Build your following by engaging with your customers on regular basis with appropriate frequency. Share useful information before making attempts to make sales.
  • They are well maintained and managed
    • Like a home, a business website needs care and maintenance. Make sure your website is being backed up to a safe cloud location on regular basis (At least daily for a busy real-estate website). Your website must also have frequent software updates, and upgrades to ensure that you have all the necessary security and functionality patches as they get released.
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