Web, Graphic, and Marketing Related Information

Getting Started – Real Estate Guide

Posted May 18th, 2011 by mightyn0

Real estate website can be tremendous tools for Realtors, but they can also be very expensive.  But with proper planning and designing it can be done very afford-ably.  To make things more complicated, there are a number of tools real estate sites can utilize, some are 3rd party software that require monthly fees, others are completely free.

First things first is to sit down and decide what you want your website to do and how you currently manage your marketing.  Do you already have a contact management system in place such as Top Producer?  Do you blog? How do you want to utilize the MLS?

Decide if you want or need IDX/MLS service for your site and if so how much you can or want to spend.  From there, we can decide what other tools we need to work around your needs without a monthly service fee.  Then, you will want to get into the content side of your site such as what sort of information you want for buyers and sellers, etc.

There are basically two ways to go about creating your site:

Option 1 is to integrate your site with a monthly IDX/MLS service that is feature rich to take care of properties, lead capturing/management, featured listings, syndication, etc.  This still means we need to develop and create a website for you, IDX/MLS service is then coded into the site.

Option 2 Involves a bit more planning and there is no guarantee all systems can communicate with each other.  It involves integrating as much of the above features as well as current methods you are using to manage leads and incorporating a variety of tools for MLS available through resources from your broker, realtor association, franchise, Zillow/Trulia.

Option 1

  1. Will you be using IDX / MLS in your site? If so what type: a monthly service or a free tool from broker, realtor association, or franchise?
    1. For monthly service MLS:
      1. IDX stands for “Internet Data Exchange”.  IDX in very basic terms is the coding and feeding behind what It is commonly seen to end users as the MLS.  There are a number of services that provide MLS systems for your website and prices range from $25/mo to $150/mo depending on the level of additional features your looking to incorporate.  Lower priced services tend to only offer the search ability of properties on the MLS pertaining to the region you specify.  Higher priced services will offer a some valuable tools and maybe all the website/lead management tools you need:
        1. IDX search ability based on map, advanced search, MLS listing number, city, etc.
        2. Add neat components to your site such as a featured listing slideshow (you manage on the backend which properties are featured). Agent show case, client login section for saved home searches.
        3. Search engine friendly and mobile MLS for smartphones
        4. Capturing and retaining leads via contact page, property info request forms, scheduling showings, custom email updates, saved searches management for clients, Top Producer Integration, export leads, force/request registration to use MLS and services on your site.
      2. Top IDX/MLS services I’d recommend:
        1. IDX Broker starts at $99/mo – check out their list of services here:
          http://www.idxbroker.com/idx_broker.php
        2. iHomeFinder starts at  $39/mo – check out their list of services here:
          http://www.ihomefinder.com/featurelist.cfm?pg=ag
          They offer a degree few service levels, you can compare these levels at this link:
          http://www.ihomefinder.com/products.cfm

 

Option 2

  1. Free tools:
    1. Consider your realtor association, broker, or franchise’s tools before you get too involved.  Some brokers and franchise’s like KW offer MLS and basic lead management for their agents that can be incorporated into their sites because of the dues they pay each month.
    2. Look into Zillow and Trulia’s free tools.  Please note that these tools generally have a low amount of customization capability, meaning what you see is what you get.  Zillow and Trulia are great tools and they are free, but my clients have noted in the past that the data is often a few days behind.
      1. Zillow list of website widgets
        Contact form widget, real estate on the map widget, my listings widget, etc
      2. Trulia list of website widgets
        Contact form widget, real estate on the map widget, my listings widget, etc
  2. Special Property Listing Management
    1. Do you need to manage properties/listings that will not be listed on the MLS system?  You may need this if you have a small quantity of properties for lease.  If you decide to go with an IDX/MLS system you will be able to manage your non-listed properties.  If you decide not to, we will need to find another solution for property management.
  3. Leads
    1. A huge concern for real estate agents is lead management which goes hand in hand when developing a website because our job is to bridge the client to website to agent gap.  Everyone has their own level of contact management and degree of technology they want to use to get there.  Without using an IDX/MLS monthly service, we can get as complicated or uncomplicated as you want to be.
      1. Simple: New leads can contact you via a web form, there can be more than one form for specific needs and you manage that contact via your email environment.
      2. Simple can get a little more interesting with using a e-mail marketing service such as MailChimp, iContact, or Constant Contact.  The first two offer a free level for using under 500 emails/mo.  These are great services for getting clients to your contact list where you can segment them, develop email campaigns, auto responders, etc
      3. More complex lead management is using another third party software.  There are again unfortunately a lot of them available, the most popular being Top Producer. Generally, people who are not using Top Producer don’t because it can be pretty complex and costly, but offers a ton of features.  You don’t have to have a Top Producer website, with special coding either, we can make sure your leads are automatically inputted into Top Producer and a few other lead management software via a contact form.  Just ask, and we will verify if your contact management system/software can be integrated.
  4. Blogging
    1. Create your own blogging platform on your website
      1. Of course we can create a WordPress based site that enables all the benefits of blogging or we can create a website with a special blogging software installed.  Also there are a few other options if you currently use a professional blogging service.
    2. Blog feed into your website
      1. Most blogging services, like Active Rain, can be feed via RSS into your website.  For non-techy people, that means it feeds into your website automatically, there is not separate management to generating it from the blogging platform to your website.

 

General Information

I can help you decide what you’ll likely need based on what options you choose for your site

  1. Regular Site vs. WordPress (CMS site)
    1. The main difference between a regular site and WordPress site is that WordPress has the ability for the website owner to manage the content of their site.  You can manage as much or as little as you’d like, from photos, to adding/deleting pages, etc.  The biggest plus is changing text which can be done very easily.  Likely if you choose to use an IDX/MLS monthly service into your website, you will have a content management system you will use to create a featured listing, manage your leads, generate reports, etc.

 

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