"Market surveys have consistently shown that consumers are mainly
interested in one thing when they visit realty web sites: Property
"Real Estate and Mortgage Web Site Design" Websting (2006) http://www.websting.com/
As a prospective real estate purchaser, I could not agree more with
that statement. My girlfriend and I have been using numerous real
estate web sites to try to find a home. From that experience, I would
like to share with you my view of critical features a real estate web
site needs to have in order to be successful.
We have found ourselves using Realtor.com, the official site of the
National Association of Realtors, because it offers a wide range of
features that we find valuable. Although the home page is overly
cluttered for our taste, the site provides multiple tools for finding
homes meeting our criteria. The site uses MLS feeds to provide a
large number of listings. We appreciate the variety of search
criteria available, which you can view at "More Search Options"
One search criteria that we would like but have been unable to find is
searching by school district and particular schools that a home is
zoned for, even though this information is provided in most of the
listings. Fortunately, we have found a way around this using another
handy feature of Realtor.com, which is the interactive map. The tool
is hidden within the site, which is unfortunate because it is very
useful. I have provided an example here:
Using the interactive map, along with a map of the school district
boundaries we obtained from the school district's web site (which
would have been nice to have found on Realtor.com), my girlfriend and
I have been able to identify which listings are located within the
school district we prefer. One feature that some web sites have is
the ability to pull up an aerial photo of the property. An ability to
view the plats for the property and the surrounding area, such as is
available at www.zillow.com, is also helpful. These would be nice
features to incorporate into the interactive map.
Once we have located a property that meets our basic criteria, how the
individual listing is presented is important in determining how
interested we will be in viewing it. A surprising number of listings
contain only a single photograph of the exterior. It is hard for us
to get very excited about homes are presented in that fashion. All
the text in the world cannot make up for our inability to view the
interior and backyard. We prefer listings with multiple photographs
and really like the virtual tours. This listing has several photos
and a virtual tour attached to it, which allows us to better assess
whether or not the property is worth visiting:
http://www.realtor.com/Prop/1061400595?lnksrc=00045. A schematic
floor plan would also be nice, but we have only seen those on
builders' web sites.
Experts agree with our opinion that photography and virtual tours are
underutilized: "Most properties offered for sale in the country are
being marketed on Realtor.com. The first reason consumers go to real
estate Web sites like Realtor.com is to view photos of properties.
Realtor.com allows six pictures for each property, and yet, if you did
some random searches on that site, you would find that very few real
estate professionals take advantage of this opportunity.
Purchase a digital camera and take it to every listing appointment. If
you use Realtor.com, submit the maximum number of pictures allowed.
Virtual tours add an exciting new dimension to Web sites, as consumers
are able to seemingly step into the picture and look around, which is
the next best thing to being there. Also, as bandwidth expands, video
Web tours are gaining popularity."
"7 steps to successful real estate marketing on the Internet" By Saul
D. Klein, John W. Reilly, and Mike Barnett, InternetCrusade (2006)
Although it does not compensate for a lack of photos, textual
information about the home is also important. Lot size, year built,
the builder, room dimensions, total square footage, lot size, and home
features are important information. Considering that the Dallas
Central Appraisal District (DCAD) web site at http://www.dallascad.org
has a lot of additional information about homes online as part of its
property tax assessment program, we are surprised that sites do not
make it easy to access that information. Information about property
taxes, foundation type, plats, and aerial views exist there and would
be useful. Instead, we have to enter the address separately into the
DCAD web site to obtain that information. Sites also do not disclose
information about homeowners association fees, which is information we
would also appreciate.
Other information that is helpful is information for contacting the
listing agent, the asking price, and an estimate of what the mortgage
payment would be using various assumptions. Information about the
neighborhood, such as data about local schools, also makes a web site
attractive. The school districts in our area provide a lot of
information about demographics, size, location, and test scores
online, some of which is presented on real estate websites. We have
found a lot more information on the school district websites, though.
Finally, in order to be successful, prospective buyers must be able to
find the web site. Exchanging links with other real estate-related
web sites is one way to generate traffic. Another is to maximize
search engines, both by providing search engine friendly content and
by purchasing advertising.
"The real estate consumer of today is familiar with the internet and
as a result, is spoiled for choice. This means their patience is
decreased and they do not want to spend too much time searching site
They want a site that will comprehensively answer any questions they
have, and provide them with what they are looking for. They want a
good visual site that is both appealing and eye catching."
"Choosing a Real Estate Website" Web Tools (2006)
Although this is an older article, the basic premise still applies:
Unless you are simply going to put up a ?billboard? site, you need to
give serious thought to the questions of why the public should visit
(and revisit) your site. There are thousands and thousands of real
estate sites that don?t offer any answer to this question. While you
no doubt want to share information about your company, its agents and
your listings, this is not necessarily what the public wants.
What is your site going to offer that makes it unique and valuable for
the user? I suggest you do a lot of surfing yourself before you answer
these questions. You must be able to see web sites from the user?s
perspective before you can truly begin to address these concerns.
For example: our company?s site currently offers seven features to the
visitor that do not seem to benefit us directly. On our site you can
look up local mortgage rates; calculate mortgage payments; review
Census reports; research sales data by area and address; read school
data reports; post and review available rental properties and post and
review real estate related questions & answers.
None of these functions directly represents the services we provide.
The sole reason that we maintain these features is to create value for
the user and a reason to return to our site. By giving the user a
reason to revisit, to look up this week?s interest rates for example,
we get another opportunity to make an impression on them, and thus
increase the likelihood that they will initiate a sales contact with
"Weaving a Successful Web Site" by Stephen M. Canale
I hope my perspective and the expert opinions will be of use to you.
Search terms: successful "real estate" web sites; real estate web site features