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How to Build Real Estate Website: 5 Steps to Success

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Yuri Musienko
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Featured image for How to Build Real Estate Website: 5 Steps to Success

Of the six million homes sold last year in the United States, every second was found using the Internet. Not through friends, acquaintances, print ads or agents, but through an online search. This suggests two things: first, the role of the Internet is growing, and second, if you want to make money, then one of the best ways to do this is to create your own real estate website.

How to Build Real Estate Website popularity

The dynamics of the popularity of the query "homes for sale" in the US. Source of the image
And, of course, this should not be just another site with an attractive design, thoughtful brand and some form of IDX search, since this is not enough to compete with Zillow, Trulia and Realtor. This should be a project that will absorb the advantages of competitors and create real value for users. Our article will tell you how to do it.

Step 1: Real Estate Database

Listing is the main reason for users to visit your site. And if the site’s database is too small, users will be disappointed and will no longer use it to search for real estate. That is why it is so important how you create a database:
  • through its own customer base;
  • using a site aggregator (Zillow, Realtor, Trulia and others);
  • connecting to MLS.

Own customer base

If the site is created on the basis of the agency, you can use your own property listings for sale. About these objects you will have the most relevant information, and such transactions will bring the maximum profit. However, listing only your own lists will not be enough for the site’s audience, which expects to see not 40–100 positions, but several hundred.

Integrating MLS and aggregator listings will solve this problem, but this will reduce the likelihood that users will choose the objects that benefit you. Fortunately, this problem can be solved: when a user searches for real estate on your site, he first sees your lists, and only after viewing them the system loads data from other sources.

Real Estate Website Aggregators

Sites such as Zillow, Realtor, Rightmove and others offer API interfaces with which you can collect data on real estate properties for sale and integrate them into your site database. This can be a good solution if your own lists are not enough and you do not have access to any MLS database.

Implementing such an aggregator is easy, but you need to understand that the information collected with it will arrive in your database with a delay and some of the information will be irrelevant. This problem can be solved with the help of powerful expensive equipment, but this may be unnecessary, since the costs are likely to be greater than the potential benefits.

Connect to MLS databases

MLS - real estate databases collected by local associations. The list is presented in a typical form, so that multi-listing can be used using different interfaces. If you are a realtor or agency, you have probably already connected to such a service, looking for offers for your buyers or by making the seller’s object in one of the MLS.

To display data from the MLS databases, real estate sites use one of the IDX (Internet Data Exchange). There are several ways to implement IDX on your site:

  1. iFrame. A link to another MLS site is used by copying a fragment of HTML code that opens the MLS search window on your site. Many MLS services provide their code for free.
  2. FTP (File Transfer Protocol). A standard for exchanging data between MLS and other systems, which allows you to synchronize with the MLS database and receive regular updates, for example, once or twice a day. The problem with this method is the lack of a uniform format - each MLS used a unique method of integration. It managed to be solved by going to a new method - RETS.
  3. RETS. A data exchange standard between MLS and other systems, introduced in 1999 in the USA and Canada. It is simpler, safer, safer than FTP and allows you to update data once per hour. At one time, it was the transition to RETS that allowed Zillow to abandon the third-party ListHub provider in favor of a direct channel for receiving data.
  4. RESO (Dictionary data RESO and web API RESO). The newest standard of data exchange with MLS and an attempt to standardize this process completely.
When creating a real estate website with an MLS connection, it is recommended to choose between iFrame and RESO, since the first method is simple and free (mostly), and the second is the newest standard, which allows to get actual data in the simplest way. The remaining two methods are simply outdated.

The best way to collect data

Best of all, if you use multiple data sources to create a database of real estate for sale. So your users will have enough options to find what they need, or to quickly sell their property.

This means that your job (or the job of your web developer) is to learn what methods government agencies, realtors and agencies in the region of interest to you use and integrate them into the website you create. For example, in the USA and Canada, it is probably better to use the RESO and its own lists. Whereas in countries of Africa or Eastern Europe, iFrame or FTP will have to be used, since there are unlikely to be MLS bases with RESO support.

How to Build Real Estate Website

Step 2: Search results

You may have the largest, most accurate and up-to-date real estate base, but it will not make any sense if your site has problems with internal or external search. Where an external property search is a search for individual listing pages through Internet search engines, and an internal property search is a listing search using filters built into your website.

External search

How to Build Real Estate Website Example

Example of search results for external property search

Most shoppers start searching for a dream home with Google. And it would be just great if the first positions in the search results were the pages of your site. To do this, your website must be SEO-optimized. This is a set of methods and techniques that increase the priority of the search results of your site in Google and other search engines.

In particular, SEO optimizations contribute to:

  1. Unique relevant content that will be interesting and useful to visitors of your site (realtors, buyers and sellers).
  2. Visual content marketing contributing to viral content.
  3. Powerful search engine optimization from SEO gurus and optimization of MLS listings.
  4. Presence on social networks and fast loading pages.

Internal search

How to Build Real Estate Website Remax
An example of a domestic property search on the site Remax.com
After users get to your real estate website, they will begin to search for specific objects with the help of built-in tools, filters, criteria. And if users do not like the way these functions are implemented, they will leave and forget about your site forever.

To avoid this, you need to do the following:

  1. Implement geospatial search (by address, region, proximity).
  2. Implement a search by attributes (price, house characteristics, proximity of important objects: transportation hubs, schools, hospitals, etc.).
  3. Make it easy to search using autocorrect and auto-filling of generic words, as well as ignoring spelling errors and typos.
At the same time, the internal search of your site should work very quickly and have the function of a saved search. Slow sites do not like neither users nor search engines. And the function of the saved search will save users time when re-accessing.

How to Build Real Estate Website Compass

Compass.com has several ways to save search results

In addition, when implementing an internal search it is important to understand the specifics of the region and the target audience. For example, if your site sells real estate in Manhattan, New York, it is likely that buyers will be interested to know if cats and / or dogs are allowed, if there is a doorman and an open space inside the house or on the roof.

Step 3: Implementing Listings

Property buyers have rather specific expectations of what they should see when they open the listing page. They want to understand what the house looks like, what is its layout, what is inside the premises, etc. You can transfer this information using visualization and description of details.

At the same time, the farther people live from a possible purchase object, the more attention they pay to visualization, since they do not have the opportunity to personally inspect the house or for that they need to spend a lot of time and money.

Property Visualization

HD photos. The easiest and at the same time mandatory element of visualization of real estate. Photos should be in HD-resolution (1920 × 1080 pixels), clear, show the main elements of the exterior and interior. Airbnb attracts professional photographers for this, you can use their experience or enter user photo requirements.

How to Build Real Estate Website Zillow

Photos of the house on the site Zillow

Video tour and live broadcast. Previously, this method was used only for the sale of luxury real estate, as high-quality video shooting cost a lot of money. But now a smartphone with a high-quality camera and high-speed Internet is available to everyone and this should be used. It is necessary to introduce the ability to use such a function at the request of the buyer (for a fee), even if the seller is unable to do so.

How to Build Real Estate Website video

An example of successful video tour is available at Bespoke Real Estate

Virtual Tours. They have become popular in the past five years due to the increase in the power of computers and the proliferation of virtual and additional reality technologies. Implement such a function can be using 3D-graphics and / or virtual reality. Creating virtual reality is not cheap, so this visualization is used to sell luxury real estate.

How to Build Real Estate Website Oculus Rift

Thanks to special glasses, such as the Oculus Rift, you can see the house of interest without leaving your sofa. Source of the image

Property Information

What does the buyer need to know about real estate? Basic details, address, amenities, features and price. The buyer may also be interested in information about the seller (especially if it is a realtor), area, infrastructure and city. All this should be presented in a simple and typical form for all pages of listing. And in such a way that the user understands where to look for this information and that it is convenient for him to read it.

How to Build Real Estate Website Compass

On Compass.com, along with standard information, you can find information about the proximity of schools and a map of the surrounding area

Step 4: Help in buying a property

Buying a property is a long and tedious procedure that can take months or even years. It includes a search, selection of preliminary options, discussion with family members (stakeholders), personal inspection, bidding and much more. All these users can be helped.

Here are some ideas on how to do this:

Buying Guide. A simple but effective way to increase user loyalty. Implementing is quite simple, but you should not forget about the nuances associated with local peculiarities and laws.

How to Build Real Estate Website guides

An example of good guides can be found on the Zillow website

Short listing and monitoring. The ability to create lists of objects of interest and monitoring will save time for customers and allow you to track the state of the market and specific positions. To do this, you must implement the functions "Create a list" (or save), "Description of the list", "Notes" and "Alert".

How to Build Real Estate Website monitoring

The ability to save shortlists and monitoring is implemented on the site Remax.com

Collaboration with other members. It is likely that users will want to involve their wives, husbands, partners, relatives or professional assistants in the process of buying and selling real estate. Your website should contribute to this, and not hinder it, so add the opportunity for several people from each side to participate in the transaction and tools for communication between individual groups and parties.

How to Build Real Estate Website Collaboration

Collaboration function is implemented on Compass.com website

Help with calculations. Here you can help users in two ways. The first is to become an intermediary in settlements, for example, by implementing the possibility of escrow of funds. The second - by implementing the function of determining the estimated value of real estate, mortgage, refinancing and rental.

How to Build Real Estate Website Zestimate

The error of the Zestimate calculator is about 5%

Scheduling inspection. Assistance in comparing the charts of the parties for the inspection of real estate is another opportunity to help users. This function is implemented on Redfin: on each page of the listing of real estate, buyers can agree on the date of inspection with the seller.

How to Build Real Estate Website survey

The function of planning a property survey on Redfin.com

Step 5: Mobile Application

How to Build Real Estate Website mobile app
Zillow mobile app interface. Source of the image
The role of mobile devices in real estate search:
  • 48% of all network searches were performed on mobile devices;
  • 36% of these people will search for property while sitting at home and watching TV;
  • 45% of these people use a smartphone to search for additional information about the property they are interested in;
  • 16% of these people use a smartphone to watch a video about their property.

At the same time, 87% of the time spent online through mobile devices is the use of mobile applications. From these data we can conclude that the development of a mobile application is a prerequisite for the success of a real estate site. And you need to make such an application based on popular solutions.

How to Build Real Estate Website

The most popular applications in terms of finding a property for sale. Source of the image

Real estate website price

The cost of developing a real estate site depends on the approach to development, a set of functions and the cost of labor. The simplest options can be implemented for $ 100 using WordPress themes. But these will be sample solutions that can have serious security and uniqueness problems, so it’s better to use other options.

How to Build Real Estate Website
To these figures you also need to add the cost of developing a mobile application, which varies from 2,000 to 5,000 dollars. Because without a mobile application, you will lose a significant market share and will lose to competitors who have it.

Merehead does professional development of Real Estate Website. If you have questions, contact us for a free consultation.

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