What I want in a real estate website

This discussion, and the comment by Mike in particular, got me thinking. Finding a real estate website developer that meets all of my specific needs has been a near-impossible task. So, I will ask everybody out there – do you know anybody/company that can help?

Starting with Mike’s criteria:

– Listing/IDX integration, mapping, RSS of listings, email notifications.
– High quality content and integration of this blog (I have sort of implemented this already)
– CRM tools that will integrate with MS Entourage.
– ROI tracking system for leads
– Good traffic analysis
– Pages/content/design specifically targeting buyers.
– Pages/content/design specifically targeting sellers.
– Take the best ideas here and integrate.
– Will work on Macs, PCs, Linux boxes and all (or most) browsers
– Will be easy to update with my Mac.

I cannot stress enough the need for comprehensive, sticky, intuitive mapping tools. My read is that that is what the consumer wants. I want a site that will accomplish several things:

– High traffic
– Will appeal to high- and low- tech consumers
– Will become the only site that consumers visit – they will want to come back every day.
– Target local, national and international buyers.
– Will be easy to use, add POP accounts, etc.
– 100% uptime, redundant backups, UPS, etc. Downtime (except in extraordinary circumstances) is unacceptable.
– Be fiscally reasonable
– I am sure that there are things that I am missing. I’ll add them as I think of them.

Many feel that using solely their blogs works for them. That is great, but I think that the separation of the two – the site and the blog – works for me and helps achieve my goals. Am I asking for too much?

This one from Uberator looks interesting.
John L. Scott has the mapping down (although they don’t support Safari)

What are the best real estate websites that you have seen?

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10 Comments

  1. insurance July 21, 2006 at 01:26

    As a professional web developer, I’ve experience a lot of real estate agents who want the world in their sites but offer to pay 10-20 dollars a hour with a budget of 500 bucks total.

    Now I’m not sure what financially reasonable is to you but to a lot of agents, it seems like under 1,000. Any decent developer/company can create all the things you are looking for in a website but it will cost more than that.

    Non-template web designs cost in excess of 1k by itself.

    “- Will become the only site that consumers visit – they will want to come back every day.”
    I think that is a great goal to strive for but that is just dreaming. No one only visits one site. A daily updated blog would get someone to come back daily.

  2. Jim Duncan July 21, 2006 at 07:38

    Thanks for the comment. My fiscal goals are reasonable – I am willing pay a fair value for quality, proven work. The frustrating part is that vetting those website developers and determining their track records.

    I’ve paid quite a bit for my existing site and while it’s good, it doesn’t offer much of what I have listed above.

    As far as being the one and only that people visit – hey, it I don’t set high goals, what do I have to aim for? 🙂

  3. jim Duncan July 21, 2006 at 12:08

    And …

    uploading to Google Base and Craigslist.

  4. Robbie July 22, 2006 at 12:48

    As a professional software engineer, I second #2’s frustration. I think it’s mostly due to a misunderstanding of thinking that many real estate agents think they are a mass market, when in fact they are a large but highly fragmented market (maybe when every MLS in the USA/Canada has the same rules and data access methods, and every agent wants an identically looking web site, they might be one, but we aren’t there yet). Many also don’t seem to get that software engineers are well paid professionals. Still, I share the professional real estate agent’s frustration that the market appears to be filled with mediocre solutions developed by companies that “don’t get it”.

    At Microsoft (to pick a well known example), a typical software engineer gets about $100K /year (w/ 8+ yrs experience). They also get comprehensive medical & dental benefits, air conditioned office space (it was nearly 100°F in Redmond, WA yesterday), fast computers, cheap software, free soft drinks, and many other benefits, so you figure the company is probably paying north of $125K / year per software engineer. Microsoft also has the benefit of buying benefits in bulk and knowing that whatever it develops, there’s a good chance it will sell millions of compies (Windows & Office sell in the hundreds of millions of copies) with in the first year of release. If you’re running a web development company (given the market rate for software engineering talent in Seattle), it’s impossible to develop what a realtor is asking for (a custom web site with advanced features that is inexpensive), unless you have already made signifigant inroads into that market space (say thousands of customers) and/or are willing to risk a considerable investment in R&D.

  5. Jim Bain July 24, 2006 at 11:47

    I recently came across Drake van de Castle’s website and was intrigue enough by the Google map feature to sign-up. (As a web designer the last think I want to do is sign-up on another website.) I’m not in the market to buy but I do like to keep an eye on the market and here are the reasons I find myself going to Drake’s site daily:
    – Google Map integration
    – Save listing to “My Favorites”
    – Listing easy to read (CAAR need help here)
    – searching based on areas within the county (ie., White Hall, Batesville)
    – “My site” feature stores my searches
    – any new listing meeting my search criteria, is email to me allowing me, not the agent, to stay on top of the market
    – vital stats on local schools

  6. Jim Duncan July 25, 2006 at 08:55

    It’s the maps. Graphical display of information in a simple, intuitive manner is a huge advantage. That is one feature in my next site that is a “must have.”

  7. Lonn Dugan August 6, 2006 at 09:53

    I hear the web designers lament. I was (still am) one. Now it is more of a hobby.

    I became a Realtor when I realized it used the same skills and payed better. Now people are willing to pay for what I can do 🙂

    IMHO – Canned sites by http://www.point2agent.com do all the things mentioned so far – for 0 down and $39 – $99 a month, except upload to craigs list.

    These sites are highly customizable. See my site at http://www.DuganSells.com for example.

    Before you rip on the design you see there, remember there are a lot of subliminal things going on there, and about 30% of my site visitors actually register and become “leads”. That is 3x national average. So I must be doing some things right! See if you can figure out what…

    One Caveat… Point2Agent does not do so well with search engines as I would like. So I create my own doorway sites – which rank nicely… see http://www.RealToledo.com and http://www.RealSylvania.com and etc…

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