A Guide to Building an Effective Real Estate Website From Scratch
Jacqueline Kyo Thomas
Do you need a website because you want to:
A) Get found on search engines like Google and Bing B) Generate inbound leads C) Increase exposure for your properties D) Claim a corner of Internet for your real estate business E) All of the above
The correct answer is E) All of the above. It's the year 2021, and every serious real estate agent needs a website.
Fortunately, building a real estate website on your own has never been easier. There are hundreds of tools, both free and premium, to help you build a professional-grade website in the span of an afternoon.
You don't even need to know much about web design or coding. All you need is this beginner-friendly guide.
Let's get started with building a real estate website from scratch.
The very first thing you need to do is decide between creating a free site and a premium one. I highly recommend avoiding free site builders like Wix or Weebly when creating a website for your real estate business. They can be useful, but if you want to create a professional brand online, you should invest in a premium website.
Some good news: Premium websites are actually affordable. Here’s a basic plan of what you need to do to set up a premium website and a rough estimate of how much it will cost you:
Step 1: Choose a domain. Your domain is your website’s address in the browser (i.e. www.YourRealEstateBusiness.com). A premium dot com name will run you around $10 to $50 per year, depending on the host and the specific domain you choose. You can buy a domain name from popular vendors like NameCheap, GoDaddy, Google Domains, and more.
Step 2: Choose a hosting service. There are two main ways to go about this. You can go with an all-in-one website builder and hosting service, like Squarespace, or you can separate these two. I recommend the second option because it offers more flexibility and it’s usually more affordable. Secure a hosting service like Bluehost, HostGator, or NameCheap. Depending on your package, you’ll send less than $5 per month to host your website.
Step 3: Start building your website. One of the most popular ways to build websites is through WordPress. WordPress is a content management system, and it’s completely free. Once you have a web host and a domain name, you can install WordPress in under five minutes. Then, you can begin designing your website.
Step 4: Design your website. If you choose WordPress, you can either build your site from scratch or purchase a premade template (known as a theme). Premium themes will typically cost between $20 and $50, but many themes are completely free. The themes that I recommend are AgentPress Pro Theme by StudioPress, Divi by Elegant Themes, or Kadence Theme (which is completely free).
Now that we’ve got the basics out of the way, let’s take a look at what every real estate agent website needs to attract leads and convert them into clients.
These four pages will help you convert more real estate leads.
Your home page is the front page of your real estate website. It's where your visitors will land when entering in your domain address (i.e. www.YourWebsite.com).
(By the way, your home page is not necessarily the first page that your site visitor will see when visiting your website. If arriving from a Google search, they may first land on a property listing or a blog post.)
Your home page is important because it serves as your introduction. It tells people who you are, what you specialize in, and why they should choose you over your competition.
When writing content for your home page, focus on your client. Answer their questions and reduce their hesitations.
Your “About” page isn't a Wikipedia entry about your life. Instead, your “About” page focuses on one thing: Why.
Think of your “About” page as an extension of your home page. It should include:
On your “Contact” page, give your visitor a list of ways to reach you, including:
It’s also a good idea to include the following:
Why an FAQ section? FAQ stands for frequently asked questions. You’ll find out quickly (if you haven’t already) that people tend to ask the same questions over and over again. Unless you want to spend every day answering those same questions, add an FAQ section to your “Contact” page to reduce redundancy.
What are the 10 questions you get asked all of the time? Add those questions and their answers to your “Contact” page.
Listings belong on every real estate website because they attract visitors. There are two types of listings to include on your site. You can add an IDX listings feed or you can showcase your own featured listings.
An IDX Listings Feed IDX stands for Internet Data Exchange. It pulls listings from the MLS (Multiple Listing Service) and then shows them on your website. Instead of manually adding listings to your website, you can just embed the IDX with a bit of code. Then, your website will automatically show the most up-to-date listings to your website visitors.
There are several ways to show IDX listings on your website. If you use WordPress to build your website, the easiest way is to first install an IDX plugin on your site.
Your Featured Properties Page But there's one little problem with IDX. If you use the popular iFrame option, it will show everyone's listing, not just your own. That's why, in addition to the IDX listings, you may wish to present your own featured properties on your site.
If you do feature your own listings, be sure to include the following:
It’s also a good idea to include your top listings on your “Home” page to immediately lure your visitor.
Now, let’s discuss what every page on your website needs to do to convert website visitors successfully.
All pages of your website should be quick-loading. If your website takes longer than 10 seconds to load, your new visitor will likely leave your site. (People are very impatient.)
To ensure that your website loads quickly, make sure to choose a quality WordPress theme. This is one reason why you may wish to buy a theme instead of using a free one.
Also, optimize your website’s images. Because you’re selling real estate, you’ll likely have a ton of high quality photos of your properties. The problem is that high quality often equals large image size. Use a plugin to minimize the size of your images and speed up your website loading time.
Most people won’t make the leap to purchase immediately after seeing a property on your website. Instead of hoping that they come back, ask them to sign up for your email list. This way, you can start building a relationship of trust with them so that when it’s time for them to list or buy, they’ll go to you because they know you.
But don’t just ask them to sign up for your email list. People are skittish about handing over their email for fear of spam. Instead, offer a valuable exchange. For example, give them a handy resource (a seller’s handyman checklist or advice on how to qualify for the best mortgage rates). This way, you create a win-win scenario.
Responsive means that your website looks good on different devices, from smartphones to tablets to desktops. This is a priority because most internet traffic now comes from smartphones and not desktops. Your website should look good when viewed from the smaller screen of a smartphone. If it doesn't, your potential leads will get frustrated and leave your site.
Always verify that a WordPress theme is responsive before buying it. You can also use your smartphone to view the WordPress theme’s demo.
Every page on your website should ask your visitor to do something. This is known as a call to action. Your preferred call to action may be to contact you, sign up for your newsletter, follow you on social, etc.
A search box should be visible on every page of your website. This will enable your site visitor to find what they’re looking for as quickly as possible.
When choosing a WordPress theme, look for one that includes a search function.
As a real estate agent, you’re obligated to abide by the Fair Housing Act and state fair housing laws, which prohibit discriminatory practices.
Be sure that your website doesn't discriminate against any protected class. When it comes to your website, choose your images carefully. Never exclude protected classes from your images or use them to imply who you think would be the perfect buyer or renter. Use inclusive imagery in your marketing. Also add a fair housing logo in your property listings. Here's more information on responsible advertising that's in line with the Fair Housing Act.
Also, include a fair housing statement on your website.
If you’re a REALTOR®, you can use this fair housing statement in your office and on your website. Create a page on your website and then copy and paste this statement onto the page. Link to that page in your footer.
Your website will work for you 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. To ensure that your website attracts and converts leads, include the above elements in your design.
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