Smart real estate professionals know their clients are doing the majority of their home buying and selling research online, so having an easy-to-use, dynamic Website is key to boosting your online presence. With so many realty options open to potential buyers and sellers, if your real estate website isn’t up to snuff, it’s all too easy for them to click off your site and find what they’re looking for somewhere else.
Here are 10 ideas from the best real estate websites that you can use to improve your own site.
Powerful Design, Optimum Function
Before anything else, a website should have a fully functioning design that is aesthetically pleasing, fast loading and easy to navigate.
Beautiful design elements for real estate websites can be easily created with WordPress themes. WordPress is a free, open source blogging and Website creation platform. There are plenty of free themes you can use, but one of my favorite sources is Studiopress. Their themes are not only clean and beautiful, they are also great for search engine optimization. Studiopress also has a real estate Website template that integrates with IDX home search apps.
The best real estate website for design in 2015, according to Website Ranking, RealTrends, was William Pitt/Julia B Fee, Sotheby’s International Realty. The site has a beautiful home page, with a video style slideshow at top, a clean design featuring a quadrant of listings, and a tiled layout of information. What I really like is its market snapshot near the bottom.
Optimized for Mobile Use
These days, most people use smart devices for just about anything—including searching for information about homes. Some websites work great on a smartphone or pad, others do not. Don’t let your website be the one that gets passed over because it loads too slow on a mobile phone or the print is tiny and hard to read.
Make sure your real estate website is optimized for mobile phone use and you’ll see your traffic, and page visitor time increase. Use Google’s Page Speed tool to see how your site ranks on mobile devices.
The design that won for Best Mobile site, Michael Saunders & Company, is clean, beautiful, and has a host of features.
Include Localized Blog Articles
Many real estate professionals think they don’t have time to blog or write articles about the communities they work in—they have so much more to do. This is true. But it’s critically important to have fresh, original content posted on your Website to continually rank in search engines. It also establishes you as an authority in your field, and gives people more of a reason to visit your site.
Devote at least one hour a week to gathering the latest real estate market statistics, community real estate news, a summary, and voila! You have a blog post.
Easy Search Features
There’s nothing more frustrating than trying to search for homes on a site and getting an error each time. It’s crucial that the search features on your site are pristine and easy to use. The longer it takes for someone to get acquainted with the way your site works, the less likely they are to stay on, and find the house of their dreams.
Some great IDX app services that offer MLS search integration into your WordPress site include IDXBroker and iHomefinder.
Video is Key
Experts predict that by next year video will take up consumer Internet traffic by 69%, and 79% by 2018 . It’s clear, video must be part of your real estate marketing plan, and incorporated into your real estate website.
The National Association of Realtors agrees:
As video continues to rise in popularity, adding an embedded video or playlist is a great way to increase both traffic and the time visitors spend on a page as well as to build rapport with visitors.”
You can easily create a showcase of homes by using the video templates from iMovie on a Mac or Windows Movie Maker. You can even make quick home showcase videos with a phone app like Picflow.
This site, Liv Sotheby’s International Realty, neatly incorporates video on its home page with an embedded video, as well as market update videos.
Big Beautiful Photos
It’s been proven, according to a Wall Street Journal article, that people spend the first 20 seconds online looking at the largest photo of a listing. In fact, most of their time is looking at photos.
Overall, when viewing an online real-estate listing, home buyers spend about 60% of their time on photos, 20% on the property description and 20% on the real-estate agents’ remarks section” — Wall Street Journal
And they don’t want to see a photo of a bed instead of a bedroom, or a photo of a ceiling fan—they want to see how this home fits together, and beautiful photo and video elements can do that for you.
Without an eye-catching photo, the battle is lost before it begins,” Michael Seiler, founder and director of the Institute for Behavioral and Experimental Real Estate at Old Dominion University at Norfolk, Va. told the WSJ. “You have to grab people’s attention within two seconds. Do it the way a billboard does.”
That means don’t skimp out when it comes to photos—and don’t you dare take real estate photos on your smartphone! You can do better than that. Get yourself a real camera (not a point and shoot) and take some classes or hire a photographer to get really great results.
Be a Source of Useful Information
Specialized pages on real estate Websites appeal to potential home buyers or sellers. A market statistics page helps buyers and sellers see comps and comparisons of listing prices, as well as average mortgage rates for the current market.
A resources and tools page, with mortgage calculators, and neighborhood walking scores will score kudos from site visitors. If you use WordPress, there are a variety of real estate plugins you can use on your site to provide some of these resources.
Incorporate Informational Neighborhood Pages
Don’t just include information about the home itself—detail the neighborhood for your visitors. Provide information about schools in the area, community centers nearby, or crime and safety ratings for the neighborhood.
Climb Real Estate perfectly exemplifies the neighborhood strategy with a page of image blocks that describe different types of communities such as “Hipster,” “Tranquil,” or “Prestigious.”
Clever Conversion Strategies
A great way to get email addresses, phone numbers and names of potential leads is to require visitors to create an account to access more information.
You can set some IDX services to let visitors search for a limited number of listings, before requiring them to sign up for an account to search unlimited listings. There are also email drip systems, in which a subscriber will get an alert whenever a new home specified to their interests is listed.
Also, make sure you have blog or email subscriptions forms installed on your sidebars, at the end of blog posts, or use popup apps like WordPress Popup.
Map search capabilities
Finally, a great real estate website should have the ability to use map searches.
Map search capability helps potential home buyers visually see an area where the home they’re interested in is located. It also gives them important information: nearby neighborhoods, schools, and shopping centers, how long of commute they might have, etc.
Potential buyers appreciate this perk on a site and will be more likely to use your site to search for homes in the future.
A good example of exemplary map search functions is demonstrated in Smith & Associates Real Estate Website’s map search. It has a drag and drop function where you click on the marker on the map, and drag it to whatever area you’re interested in. The sidebar on the left shows you what homes are available in that area. Detailed information is given when you click on the listings, as well as the ability to click through each listing, like a slideshow.
By integrating the 10 items listed above into your real estate website, you’ll be sure to see an uptick in traffic, visitor duration and leads, and maybe get listed as one of the best real estate websites.