Real estate is big business, and corporations are cashing in. Large real estate conglomerates like Zillow, Realtor.com, and Redfin have drastically changed the real estate landscape over the past decade. With so much money in their corner, does the “little guy” still stand a chance? Should individual agents and small brokerages spend money on websites? Is this the end of real estate websites as we know them?
Do Real Estate Websites Matter?
In a 2021 study on technology in real estate, the National Association of Realtors (NAR) reported that 97% of homebuyers begin their search online. Many of those searches start on one of the real estate superpowers: Zillow, Realtor.com, and Redfin. But those websites aren’t always reliable, and some real estate pros even accuse the property giants of monopolizing the home sale market.
The same NAR study found that only about 70% of individual agents have their own real estate websites. That’s quite the disparity, considering that nearly every buyer will begin their home search online. While your website may not have the star power of a commercial real estate website, it still has plenty to offer your potential clients.
Creating and maintaining your own website allows you to tailor information directly to your clients, in your geographic area, including properties that might not otherwise feature on the larger sites. What’s more, creating your own real estate website gives your clients a chance to interact with you on a more personal level. You can include niche-specific content for clients, tell visitors about you and your brokerage, and give the site a unique flair.
Individual real estate websites have the same tools as the larger commercial sites – MLS listings, customizable search options, and general real estate information. But the personalized touches give your clients a more individualized experience.
The Transformation of Real Estate Websites Post-Pandemic
Even now, as life begins to feel more “normal” after the pandemic, the habits we formed over the past year and a half remain. We’ve become accustomed to doing everything online – and that includes buying and selling real estate.
The COVID pandemic caused a curious trend: searching real estate properties as a hobby. Perhaps it was a way for us to escape our own four walls that often felt too close after weeks stuck at home. Or maybe it was a way to dream about a better future. No matter the reason, real estate websites saw a spike in views during the pandemic.
That “online dreaming” soon combined with low interest rates and a desire for more space. The real estate market boomed, with buyer demand far outpacing available inventory. As of this writing, the real estate market remains strong, with prices surging in a seller’s market.
Pandemic home buying was unlike anything we’ve seen before. Not just in numbers but in how people bought and sold homes. With a deadly disease running rampant, open houses and showings went virtual. Some buyers never stepped foot in their new place until closing day.
Online business became so commonplace during the pandemic that we carried it over into our post-pandemic society. As such, real estate websites are more important now than ever before, offering clients the opportunity to shop for their dream homes from the safety of their living rooms.
What Makes Real Estate Websites Great?
Is this the end of real estate websites? Absolutely not. In fact, we think it’s just the beginning.
However, not all real estate websites are created equal. For your site to be effective, it needs to both capture the visitor’s attention and provide valuable information that keeps visitors on your site.
While many components make a real estate website great, here are four you should consider a top priority:
Think about the websites you visit. If you come across a website with a cumbersome layout, where nothing is in order, and relevant information is hard to find, you’re probably not staying long. The layout makes all the difference between keeping a website visitor (which is good for your SEO, more about that below) and losing a visitor in just a few seconds (which is bad for SEO).
As a real estate agent, though, you likely don’t have days of free time to dedicate to creating the perfect real estate website. That’s where products like a pre-formatted website theme come in handy. Simply add the theme to your site, load in your information, and voila! The perfect layout!
We recommend the real estate themes over on the Winning Agent storefront, which you can find here.
Humans are visual creatures. If your website is 90% text with no eye-catching images, visitors aren’t likely to stay on your page very long. You can have the best, most informative content in the real estate market, but without the right images, it’s all a waste.
Great photos don’t have to cost an arm a leg, either. There are plenty of free photo websites with high-quality images that you can use without paying a fee. Try Pexels or Unsplash to get started. You might also consider using your own professional photos, giving your website a personalized touch.
User-Friendly Search Tools and IDX Integration
Let’s circle back to the “big kahunas” of real estate websites. Zillow, Realtor.com, and Redfin are popular because they offer users an easy way to search for properties nationwide. If you want to compete with the big dogs, you’re going to have to give your clients a comparable search tool on your site.
While that prospect might sound intimidating, it’s actually quite easy. Even the most popular real estate websites use the same essential search tool: the MLS. This database is the gold standard for real estate agents. However, the trick is to set up a search function that allows users to search through the MLS on your site. That’s where IDX Integration comes in.
IDX integration programs allow your site to become its own MLS search engine, giving users access to the same properties they would find via Zillow, Realtor.com, or any other large commercial site. You can learn more about IDX integration, including our recommended products, here.
Your website should be both a place to find properties and a place to find information. Keep your site up to date with relevant information regarding the home buying and selling process, current real estate news, and other topics. Not only will this increase your credibility as a real estate expert, but it will also help you rank well on search engine results.
A Note About Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
We can’t end a post about real estate websites without mentioning search engine optimization, or SEO. If you’ve read anything about creating or maintaining a website, you’ve probably heard of SEO. At its core, SEO helps Google and other search engines “read” your site and determine where it belongs, whether or not it’s relevant, and where it ranks among other competitive sites.
When you perform a Google search, Google takes your search term, runs it through an algorithm, and then provides you with what it thinks are the best results for your query. Most likely, you never look past the first or second page of results.
That said, you want your real estate website to rank on the first or second page. For that to happen, you’ll need to provide updated, relevant, and reliable information on your site. You’ll also need to do some basic keyword research to determine what terms you want to rank for specifically. Factors like visitors’ time spent on your site, use of headlines, and correct grammar all play a part, too.
If you aren’t sure where to start, consider consulting an SEO expert who can point you in the right direction.
Real Estate Websites: It’s Only the Beginning!
It’s not the end of real estate websites. We believe they’re just getting started. With a little time and effort, you can create a website that you’ll be proud to share with clients. Need help getting started? Check out our all-in website design package!