What are the ten most important things to remember about a Real Estate Agent website?
1. Own your own website.
Having a domain name like www.myrealestatesite.com.au is not enough. So many agents still allow their website to be re-directed to realetsate.com.au or another portal as soon as someone tries to search on their website. An example of this is Peterswald Partners . The site has a nice layout, good navigation, but as soon as you start searching you leave the site. It makes it extremely hard to understand your visitor behaviour on top of this the site re-directs to a company you pay for the privilege of advertising on!
Agents spend 10’s of thousands of dollars per year promoting their vendors properties and their business only to have visitors to be re-directed to another companies website. The Internet is the last bastion of advertising an Agent can control, newspapers, TV, radio are all controlled pretty much by one or two companies in each zone and therefore you are at the whim of their pricing. This is the reason they can increase their fees by double digits each and every year.
2. Provide as much important information as possible.
In the past it was all about getting them in the front door, that is no longer the case. If you provide very little information (or too much useless information) on your website then your staff will be inundated with phone calls and emails asking “how many bedrooms does this house have?”, “how many bathrooms does the house have”? What is the address?
By providing the potential buyer with as much quality information as the vendor will allow you will get inquiries like, “I am very interested in this property, is there any chance I can make an appointment with the salesperson to have an inspection?”
3. Splash Screens, Introductions, Animations & Music.
Your boss might like it, you may even like it, but the Internet is controlled by your visitors and they hate it. Do you put on a song and dance anytime anyone enters your office? If you must have an introduction screen then at least give the user the option to skip it. You will then notice in your web logs (stats page) that 99.9% of people will click on the skip button.
Set your Cameras to take the images at 800 x 600 resolution as all major portals support this as their maximum image size, so use it! Anything smaller really is not good enough.
Get a program like Adobe Photoshop Elements ($170.00) to optimise your images. Adobe Photoshop Elements allows you to compress images without any real notable loss in quality.
Make sure you compress images before uploading to one of the major portals because you do not want their software (Portals web based software) compressing your images because the quality will drop significantly.
5. Virtual Tours
Just about all of the latest cameras support the ability to make Virtual Tours of properties. However so many Real Estate Agents do not take advantage of this. You will need.
1. A Camera that can stitch photography together and output the file as a QuickTime Movie
2. A Tripod (for stability)
3 The software to create VR Tours in (should come with Camera)
Just about all the latest Cameras come with this software otherwise all you will need is QuickTime Pro ($60.00). To make a movie you simply set up the tripod up with the camera, put the camera settings in panoramic mode and click once to start shooting. After each photo the camera will place half of the original image in the screen and allow you to size up the next image against it. You can keep going with this until you have 360 degrees of photographs. You can then take the camera and tripod around the house you are shooting in and do this over and over again. Take the Camera back to the office and download the images into the stitching software and put them all together. It really is that simple.
6. Lobby your Real Estate Institute to set fee structures for Internet advertising.
Lets face it your Institute probably know a great deal about many issues and support for Agents, but I can tell you from experience they know little about the Internet.
It amazes me that all the real estate Institutes have not got together and set up a standard fee structure for advertising on the Internet. After all,…. Agents are a services company!
The fee structure should be as simple as this.
1. Advertise on your website only $110.00 (Inc GST)
2. Advertise on one top level real estate portal (Domain, Realestate) $175.00 (Inc GST)
3. Advertise on two top level real estate portals (Domain, Realestate) $220.00 (Inc GST)
3. Additional Features – Virtual Tours $220.00 (Inc GST)
This would mean that if you advertise properties on the two main target sites in Australia you will also get paid for the services you provide to vendors.
The upshot is that Agents will not be so hesitant to invest time and money into their real estate sites, especially if they are making money from them.
7. Understanding the Internet
“All this technology stuff is just too hard to understand”. For any Real Estate Agents salespeople this is no longer an excuse, the Internet is such a massive part of your business and buyers and vendors expect you to understand everything about where you market their properties.
Each year it will become even more important to your business, so invest in your future and make sure your sales team understand the basics. You do not have to be as savvy as Tim Berners Lee (the Inventor of the Internet) but you do need to know your business.
8. Understand your target audience
Understand this……the Internet is a revolution and it is controlled by people you may never get to meet. This means that what might be important for you to put on your website – things like how many awards you have won, how many million dollars worth of property you have sold or just simply how fantastic you are, has little relevance to the over 95% of visitors to your site. They want to see properties you have to offer, so make this the easiest thing to see and use on your site. The best way to do this is to work out a sitemap (sections of your website) and what each section contains. List the things that you require in one column (About Us, Our People, Sell with Us etc) and one that the majority of users of your site will want to see (Properties For Sale, For Lease, Automated Subscriptions). The ones your site user will want will have to be given prominence on your site.
Keep it simple stupid. How many websites have a search function that is totally unnecessary? Unless you have more than one office or more than 100 properties having a search function is useless. You are better to list all and give the ability for the site user to refine these lists by suburb, price, bedrooms and bathrooms. When a user clicks on a property you should keep a nice clean layout. (Go to Sarah Lorden Real Estate to see an example of this)
10. Market your website online
If you think marketing your website is best served offline then think again. Yes you should provide links back to your website from all printed materials but if you want visitors then the best way to get them is to market where your potential buyers are each and every day, online! Advertising Campaigns are a great way to do this. Your ads can appear on Google, Yahoo, MSN in fact all major portals support this, even Sensis is getting into it!