If you’re reading this, there’s a good chance you’re currently looking into some options for building your real estate website. Good job, you’re at the right place!
In this comprehensive article, we’ll walk you through how to build a real estate website, going over a list of options, associated costs, and related things you’ll want to consider in your decisions.
Don’t worry, this sounds like a lot of stuff. But creating a real estate website in 2020 can be as simple and quick as you want to make it. Alternatively…if you make some wrong initial decisions, it can become quite a lengthy and costly journey. Not to fear, this guide will shed light on all your options for building and maintaining a real estate website in 2020, and hopefully, help you avoid some major pitfalls.
Here’s a summary of what we’ll cover in this article. Feel free to click the links to skip to that specific section.
- Why you need your own real estate website
- Web hosts vs website builders
- Avoid general website builders
- Choose a website builder built for real estate
- How much will a real estate website really cost?
- How long will it take to launch my real estate website?
- How does a website fit in my marketing workflow?
- Other considerations
- Do you need an IDX website?
Why You Need Your Own Real Estate Website?
It’s almost needless to say, but in today’s consumer landscape, people research extensively online before making big decisions. Buying or selling a home is one of the biggest decisions in someone’s life. So, you can bet that people will research online when choosing their real estate agent.
When potential customers are researching you online, you have to ask yourself, “what impression am I making”. We see a lot of agents make the mistake of just using their generic agent profile page assigned to them by their broker. It’s usually something like https://janesmith.remax.com, where their profile looks just like any of the hundreds of other agents at that brokerage.
This is not ideal. It’s just poor branding and marketing hygiene. Even worse are agents who have no agent website at all, and are ok with sending people to view their profiles on Zillow and Google Business Profile. Either of these is unacceptable in 2020.
At the bare minimum, you should at least have your own unique website, with your own domain…even if it’s just an online “business card”. For a minimal agent website, all you’d need is a site where a prospective client can learn a bit more about you, link to your business profiles on Yelp/Google/Zillow to read your client reviews, and find your contact info all in one place. This would be vastly better than having no website at all.
Let’s say it costs $150/year for this type of website. If just 1 customer found your website helpful, and they chose you over another agent because of it, that 1 customer easily paid for years of owning that agent website…and then some.
Let’s say that same customer wanted to refer you to their friends. Is it more professional for them to tell their friends to look you up on Yelp, or share your custom website URL? The answer is obvious. Having your own domain name and website reflects a baseline standard of professionalism. In 2020, you’d be wary to hire ANY professional without a website.
If you’re a real estate agent serious about your profession, this is one of those baseline tasks you’ll want to do in 2020.
Web Hosts versus a Website Builders
If you’ve been looking to set up a website, chances are you’ve come across using a “web host”. In a nutshell, a web host is a service that houses your website on the internet. You’ll often see these web hosting services advertising low monthly fees, anywhere from $2.50 – $10+. These web hosts are so low cost because these services still require a ton of work to get your website designed, built, and ready for visitors.
Examples you might encounter as web hosts are HostGator, DreamHost, BlueHost, Cloudways, etc. You’ll read great reviews about these companies, but trust me, they are not the right tool for a real estate agent or brokerage. These platforms require a good degree of technical knowledge and a large amount of ongoing site maintenance. Don’t believe their claims of being a “turnkey” solution…it rarely ever is. There’s usually quite a bit of learning curve and hacking involved with getting a website up-and-running on these platforms. It’ll end up costing you much more time, hassle, and money than other options we’ll dive into below.
The other options you’ll run into are “website builders”. These are often the more practical choice. Basically, the core function of a website builder is to let non-technical people design, setup, and build their website in a more user-friendly way. To make building websites simple, you’ll hear them talk about offering features like templates, themes, click-and-drag, point-and-click, etc. The purpose of these features is to help non-technical, non-designers create appealing websites in a somewhat turn-key and DIY way.
It’s a little confusing, but these website builders are usually also web hosts, because along with giving you tools to create your site, they also house your website and make it available on the internet. Some of the most popular website builders you’ll see in the market are WordPress, Squarespace, and Wix, to name a few. We’ll dive into the pros and cons of these in the next section.
Avoid General Website Builders
Choosing a website builder platform is probably the biggest decision you’ll make in building your real estate agent website. We’re going to summarize our recommendations here a bit.
In a nutshell, we categorize website builders into 2 main categories: general website builders and real estate specific website builders.
First, we’ll give an overview of general website builders. In this category, the most popular platforms are WordPress, Squarespace, and Wix, which we mentioned earlier in this article. You might’ve also heard of landing page builders, like Leadpages, Instapage, and Webflow… which we’ll also include in this “general” page builder category.
These general website builders are designed for a multitude of industries and general use cases…not tuned at all for the specific needs of real estate agents. They’re perfect for things like portfolio websites, blogs, company websites, freelancers, agencies, restaurants, retailers, etc… and perhaps even e-commerce. The benefit of these site builders is they’re highly customizable, and they provide gorgeous, professionally designed pre-built templates. When you flip through their portfolio of examples shown on their marketing pages, it definitely appears to be a tempting option.
That said, these platforms are designed for general use, and they’re really not ideal for individual real estate agents and their specific business needs. We can almost guarantee you’ll run into many limitations and frustrations with these platforms.
Just to illustrate 1 example: as a real estate agent, you might want to showcase a portfolio of your listings (present and past) on your agent website. Seems like a pretty straightforward thing to do, right? But with these general website builders, creating that individual property detail page and making a link to it on the home page is no trivial task. There’s just no out-of-the-box module for something like that on any of these platforms. Usually, you’ll have to hire someone to create that property page manually, and then manually create a listing entry on the home page to link to that property page.
These seemingly trivial tasks are all pretty tedious if you go with a general website builder. These solutions are hacky at best. Also, in this scenario, it could cost you a couple of hundred dollars to hire someone to do this for every single property listing you have. These costs can add up…but we’ll dive into costs later in this article.
You might be led to believe that a “plugin” or an “extension” will help solve this kind of scenario, but trust us when we say that these workarounds would be hacky at best. This is just 1 example, which gets even more complicated once that listing has any changes, goes pending, is sold, etc. You can probably start imaging how these scenarios can further complicate the use case.
Choose a Website Builder Designed for Real Estate
Instead of going with a general website builder, we recommend going with a website builder designed specifically to meet the unique needs of real estate agents.
In this category of real estate specific website builders, some of the more popular options include Propopen, Placester, and kvCORE. All 3 of these platforms offer turnkey real estate websites, along with a suite of lead capture, CRM, and marketing automation tools designed to help real estate agents effectively market to their leads. For the purpose of this article, we’ll mainly refer to Propopen as our primary example of a real estate specific website hosting platform.
The three core benefits of choosing an industry-specific website builder are lower overall cost, time to launch, and ease of use. We’ll dive into each of these benefits here.
Total Cost of Real Estate Websites
To truly understand the all-in cost of building, owning, and maintaining a real estate website…you really need to consider the TOTAL associated costs.
For general website builders like WordPress, Squarespace, and Wix, the advertised monthly pricing can seem very reasonable and attractive. On average, the monthly cost of these platforms ranges from $15 to $25 per month. This is pretty affordable if that’s the only cost to consider. But as we alluded to earlier, most people generally need a developer to help initially design and set up their website. They also usually retain that developer for ongoing maintenance, changes, and updates to their site.
On average, designing and setting up a WordPress, Squarespace, or Wix website, for a real estate agent, usually ranges from $1000 to $3000 flat fee. It mostly depends on how much functionality you want your site to have, how picky you are with the designs, and how competent your developer is. In my opinion, it’s a pretty heavy investment, especially considering that even after it’s complete, it still won’t really function seamlessly for your specific needs as a real estate agent.
Also, you’ll want to take into account potential ongoing developer costs, which we’ve found on average to be around $300 – $800 per month, or $50 – $100 per hour. Some developers will tell you that you can do-it-yourself after the initial setup, that they’ll teach you how to tweak certain things on your site, but we typically don’t find this to be true. Often, there will invariably be site changes and updates that won’t feel comfortable doing, and you’ll want a specialist to assist. So, we mostly see agents retain their original developer for some set fee per month to help with miscellaneous site management tasks.
If you’re following the math, that’s an initial setup fee of $1,000 to $3,000…PLUS $3,600 to $9,600 per year to maintain a real estate website built on platforms like WordPress, Squarespace, and Wix. In our opinion, that’s just not a viable option for most individual real estate agents out there.
The good news is…alternatively, website builders designed specifically for real estate are much lower in total cost. Taking Propopen as an example, the monthly cost for their basic plan is $12/month and pro plan is $50/month. This might seem like a higher monthly cost than the general website builders, but the TOTAL costs are significantly lower going with an option like Propopen. The reason is these website builders are truly designed to be turnkey, requiring absolutely no need to hire any kind of designer, developer, or specialist. With these platforms, you’re basically guaranteed to not need that huge upfront setup investment, and absolutely no need to retain a developer for ongoing maintenance. With a platform like Propopen, you can most certainly do everything yourself to customize your website, since these platforms are targeted solely to real estate agents, and everything is set up to work seamlessly out-of-the-box.
Also, all the features included with these platforms are pretty much universally needed by all agents, so you won’t need any custom functionality built out like you would on those general platforms.
If you decide on one of these real estate specific website builders, and you sense the need to hire someone for initial setup and ongoing maintenance…run, don’t walk, away. Trust us, you don’t want to invest in any platform that is so complex, that you can’t do it yourself. With platforms like Propopen, the ONLY cost you’ll have to consider is the reasonable monthly subscription fees.
How Long Will It Take to Design, Build, and Launch Your Real Estate Website?
We get this question a lot, “how long will it take for me to get my agent website up and running?”. It’s a valid question. You’ve decided to create your own agent website, and now you’re eager to start marketing it and share your new URL to your personal network.
Well…if you go with a general website builder, and you hire a specialist to help you design, build, and launch your website…we’d say you should brace yourself for waiting anywhere from 4 to 6 weeks for your website to go live.
Here’s the breakdown. It’ll take you about a week to decide on a developer and collaborate on all the design ideas and website requirements with them. It’ll take you another 1 or 2 weeks for them to show you some initial designs, with some back-and-forth changes to agree on the final designs. Then it’ll take another 1 or 2 weeks for the developer to set up and build your website. Once that’s done, it’ll take another week or so for the developer to finalize everything with you, make any last-minute adjustments, until you’re ready to set your site live! If you’re doing the mental math, that’s about 4 – 6 weeks from beginning the launch. It’s a pretty long process…something most agents aren’t prepared for after signing up for a subscription to one of these general website builders.
Alternatively, when you go with an industry-specific web platform like Propopen, it should take just a couple hours, to maybe a day, to get your website setup, customized, and launched. No exaggeration, it really is usually that easy. Since these real estate specific websites are so tailored for the industry, they’ve already planned out everything you’ll need out-of-the-box. So without needing to hire a developer, you really do save a ton of time on extraneous decisions and communication.
How Do I Use My Website in My Marketing Workflow?
When we talk about “ease-of-use”, we’re not talking about the setup and maintenance of your website. Hopefully, we already established that real estate website builders require little to no setup and maintenance work.
With ease-of-use, we’re talking about how intuitive and simple it is to actually start leveraging your website as part of your daily marketing efforts. This is what TRULY separates general website builders like WordPress, Squarespace, and Wix…versus full-featured real estate marketing platforms like Propopen, Placester, and kvCORE.
Earlier in this article, we already illustrated an example of showcasing a new property listing on your site. With a platform like Propopen, creating a single property detail page can be accomplished in minutes. There’s a built-in feature to import your listing from MLS, letting you optionally fine-tune your property details…and magically, your single-listing property page is created. Also, that new listing gets automatically featured and linked on your main agent website. No calling a developer, no waiting for them do put it together…you just do it yourself in a couple minutes during your lunch break.
Let’s take this scenario further. Let’s say you want to announce your new listing to your database of contacts…no problem. Using the built-in email marketing tools, you just select the audience you want to email, queue up your “new listing” email template with the property details already loaded, and press send. Super easy. Since it’s a marketing platform and not just a website builder, all the marketing tools you need are usually built-in. No relying on “plugins” or “extensions”. No need to open up an external CRM or Mailchimp. A lot of your routine marketing tasks can be done all within that 1 tool, when you go with a full-featured marketing platform like Propopen.
One last example to drive home the point. Let’s say with your new single listing property page, you want to showcase your open-house calendar and accept RSVPs. Once again, with an all-inclusive marketing platform like Propopen, this is something you can do in minutes. You can post an open-house, collect RSVP’s on your online lead-capture form, view all your RSVP’s in the integrated Propopen CRM, and set up an automated email to send out to any RSVP’s before and after the open-house. This whole workflow can be set up in minutes. Try setting up this scenario with something like WordPress or Squarespace. We guarantee it will be a nightmare.
Can you see how this streamlines your important, but tedious, marketing tasks? With a real estate marketing platform like Propopen, not only does it provide a website builder, but it also provides an integrated suite of marketing tools that all work seamlessly together.
By now, we probably sound like a broken record. But, a marketing platform purposefully built to empower real estate agents with their online marketing should be the far better choice over the general options. Sure, the general website platforms are typically more customizable from a pure design standpoint, but you’re definitely paying for it in cost, time, and frustration of not having it streamlined with your marketing strategy.
The biggest other consideration you’ll want to account for is Integrations. With a general platform, they have no idea what other tools you might be using as a real estate agent, so they’ll have these options for “plugins” or “extensions” that you’ll have to hack together to get your website “talking” to other software you might be using, such as your CRM or your email newsletter tool.
With an industry-specific marketing platform like Propopen, it’ll already know the stack of other software and tools you might be using, like Follow Up Boss, LionDesk, Mailchimp, etc. It’ll also have these industry software integrations already built-in and ready to be connected seamlessly.
This is just another example of a consideration you’ll want to make. Do you want to spend your valuable time hacking software and systems together, or would you rather have them connect in a more simple and seamless way?
Do You Need an IDX Website
When you start looking at real estate industry website builders, you’ll for sure run across this concept of an “IDX Website”. In summary, IDX websites are these real estate agent websites that has MLS search functionality front and center as the main feature on your website. Basically, it allows your site visitors to search for properties and listings right on your website.
We don’t recommend IDX websites in 2020. In our opinion, they’re expensive, unnecessary, and has outlived their use case in 2020. A bit of history might give some context here.
Many years ago, when some innovative agents and brokerages first created their real estate websites, they all wanted to give their site visitors the ability to search the MLS through their own website. This made sense 10 – 15 years ago when sites like Zillow and Redfin were barely just starting. So IDX websites became popular, cause it enabled all these local real estate agents to offer their buyers real-time MLS search, empowering home shoppers to do their own shopping on their website.
Fast forward to today, no home shoppers are doing MLS searches on an agent or broker’s website. They’re all doing the bulk of their home searching, shopping, and browsing on Zillow or Redfin. That’s just a fact, whether agents like it or not. There’s pretty much no way an individual agent can beat Zillow or Redfin at creating a better MLS search on their personal websites. It reminds me of a time when people also embedded a Google search bar on their personal websites. It was fun for a time, but no one does that anymore.
Our advice, save money, stay away from these IDX website builders. Instead, just focus the bulk of your website showcasing yourself, your services, your team, and a portfolio of your own listings…instead of distracting site visitors with an MLS search. Going IDX-less is the recommended best practice in 2020.
For a more thorough article discussing IDX website, check out our article: Should You Have an IDX Website in 2020.
It’s pretty simple. In 2020, choose a website platform designed specifically for you, the real estate agent. Before now, we didn’t have much of a choice. Those 3 general market solutions were really the main options around, and a lot of real estate agents painfully went with those options. Today in 2020, we have a lot more options fine-tuned to our specific needs as real estate professionals. We’re partial to Propopen, but check out some of the other real estate specific options we mentioned early in the article as you look to launch your own agent website!