Most real estate websites suck.

Worse, most advice on how real estate websites should look like, sucks.

“Show your contact information” — yeah, duh.

“Have nice photos of your listings” — thanks, really couldn’t figure that one out on my own.

If there’s one thing I hate, it’s general advice that tries to be useful to as many people as possible, but ends up being completely useless to everyone.

This blog post is different. Trust me. I won’t list off a bunch of obvious features that you should have on your site “just because”. Instead, I’ll tell you how to think about your website like a web design professional.

What you don’t need

First of all, let me tell you what you don’t need:

  • Costly IDX technology
  • 20 different pages of boring content
  • Generic pre-made websites that someone charges you hundreds of dollars every month to keep online

So what do you need?

To answer this, we have to go back to basics. Ask yourself these two questions:

  1. Who’s your website for?
  2. What do you want to accomplish with it?

Once this is clear to you, your website strategy will start to fall into place.

Who your website is for

If you’ve ever taken a business course, you’re probably familiar with the stakeholder concept. Well, we have that in web design as well.

As a real estate agent, the most important stakeholders in your website are going to be:

  • People looking to sell a home
  • People looking to buy a home

These two groups generally want different things from your website (though there’s some overlap, of course). Web design is about balancing and prioritising stakeholder needs. Luckily, in this case there aren’t too many stakeholders, so the trade-offs are relatively few.

What you want to accomplish with your website

Let’s get one thing clear: a website is a tool. You could have the best-looking hammer, forged by a master of the hammer-making craft out of the best materials possible. Maybe it’s even been equipped with state-of-the-art technology that ensures it will hit the nail on the head every single time. But if you’re trying to saw something in half, it’ll be completely useless to you.

Before even thinking about what technology to use, which service to pay for or who to hire, you need to figure out what you want your website to do.

And don’t settle for “generating leads” or, worse, “making you money”. That’s the goal of literally every website out there.

How will it fit into your broader marketing strategy, online and offline? Are you prepared to allocate a couple hours every week to produce content for your site? There’s nothing sadder than a blog feed that hasn’t been updated in a year. Besides, people will think you’re out of business.

Your website needs to:

  1. Meet your stakeholders’ expectations
  2. Bring them additional value
  3. Be designed with your own goals and marketing strategy in mind

The nitty gritty

Let’s say your main focus is selling condos in Toronto to first-time homebuyers. Your website strategy is going to be drastically different from an agent who sells vacation homes in Southeast Florida to well-off retirees.

Most of the people looking to buy are going to arrive at your site from listings in places like Condos.ca and Kijiji.ca, so make sure your individual listing pages contain rich and useful information.

Keep people on your page by displaying a list of similar listings on the same page as the property they’re looking at.

Write blog posts geared towards first-time homebuyers; “what to think about when buying your first condo”, “top 5 mistakes first-time homebuyers make”, “best home insurance plans for twenty-five-year-olds”, etc.

Millennials are generally less likely to pick up the phone and call someone than baby boomers, so let them know it’s alright to text you instead (texting feels less formal than email, and chances are they’re looking at your site on their iPhone, anyway).

If most of the clients you sell for are real estate developers, the parts of your website that is dedicated to prospective sellers should focus on your partnerships with other institutional sellers and what value you’ve added for them, rather than trying to convince private sellers.

In conclusion…

Every real estate website, in order to successfully do what it’s supposed to do (generate leads!), needs to bring value to its most important stakeholders: people looking to buy a home, and people looking to sell their home.

At a bare minimum, this means you should make it easy to find information about your current listings and properties you’ve sold, as well as contact you via phone and email.

If, in addition to this minimum requirement, your website strategy also involves making content that’s useful to your stakeholders – market reports, checklists on what to do before moving, guides on how to find the perfect home or neighbourhood, and other information that’s going to be relevant to prospective clients – then you’re well-positioned to blow the competition out of the water.

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