In today’s digital-first economy, it’s imperative that real estate agents treat their online presence with the same professionalism and vitality as their in-person appearance.
As the classic Madison Avenue advertising slogan goes, you never get a second chance to make a first impression—and chances are your next client will first meet you online. Strong graphics, powerful data, exclusive educational content, and a world-class user experience—combined with a personal touch—are the hallmarks of website design.
The good news is there’s a host of quality, low-cost website platforms and hosting solutions, including products designed specifically for real estate professionals. For a few hundred dollars, you can create a semi-custom website that, in many cases, is far superior to your competitors’ sites.
Here are five ways having a powerful website will help invigorate your real estate business:
Create a world-class property search experience. Homebuyers, especially the Millennials and Gen Xers, are obsessed with online property searches. It’s like catnip; they can’t get enough. A September 2015 survey of homebuyers by the National Association of Realtors found that 88% used online search during the home-buying process (94% for Millennials), and 43% of buyers first found the home they ended up purchasing on the Web. That number was just 8% in 2001.
Another intriguing finding of the NAR study: An overwhelming majority of buyers (87%) also used a real estate agent to find their home. Buyers across all generations are utilizing online search to explore the housing market, and then are turning to the local experts to help zero in on specific homes and neighborhoods.
Real estate agents that offer a superior online search experience have a leg up on the competition. WordPress themes like Agent Focused Pro and Winning Agent Pro offer the ability to build custom property search modules that make MLS listings sparkle and shine on any device—with large photos, enhanced property descriptions, scannable property stats, embedded maps, and one-click access to agent contact information.
Collect invaluable information about your clients and followers. Using free and premium Web form tools like Ninja Forms and Gravity Forms, you can start to build a database of clients and prospects. There are dozens of methods for enticing people to sign up or complete a form on your website: offer a free resource for download (e.g., white paper, buyers guide, deep market data), create a blog or e-newsletter email alert, hold a give-away (book, gift card, etc.), conduct a survey, host a webinar or seminar, to name a few. Once you assemble the database, use the list to build loyalty through content marketing.
Become the hyper-local real estate expert. Buyers tend to zero in on one or two specific neighborhoods within a community during online and in-person property searches. Yet very little information exists for most established neighborhoods.
That’s where you come in. Websites like Agent Focused Pro allow real estate agents to publish deep information about specific communities and neighborhoods. What’s the quality of the school district? What’s the vibe of the neighborhood? Does the community have special amenities and events (e.g., garage sales, pool, playgrounds, block parties)? What’s the property tax history? Who was the homebuilder? Any special home features or common maintenance issues?
Tell the story of each and every neighborhood in your market, and you’ll greatly increase the odds of home shoppers reaching out to you versus your competition.
Educate readers on the home buying/selling process. The most surprising fact from the NAR survey is that Millennials—not Baby Boomers or Silent Generation types—were most likely to use an agent to purchase their home (nine in 10 Millennials hired an agent). Why? Because they know the least about the complexities of the home buying process. They’re looking for insights, guidance, expertise, and, most of all, someone they can trust to hold their hand through the anxiety-filled journey.
There is a huge opportunity for real estate agents to win business by publishing thought leadership and educational content. A strong website can serve as your platform for educating clients through blogs, video, how-to articles, white papers, testimonials, webinars, podcasts, and seminars.
Be seen on real estate searches. Even with the rise of real estate sites like Zillow, Trulia, and Redfin, Google is still the king when it comes to starting online research on properties. Nearly seven of 10 home shoppers (69%) who take action on a real estate-specific website begin their research with a local term, such as “Chicago homes for sale,” on a search engine, according to Google data. Your best bet for landing on page one of a Google or Bing search is a solid, SEO-optimized website with strong content.
These are just a few of the advantages to having a strong online presence with a high-quality website. We’ll delve deeper into these and other benefits in future blog posts. In the meantime, check out the affordable website solutions for real estate professionals at WinningAgent.com.