As the President and CEO of a real estate website company and who has licensed our website technology to over 20,000 agents world-wide, this is a question that is near and dear to my heart. It’s near and dear to me for two reasons:
First, because there is so much wrong information out there from the so-called “experts” and second, because by doing it right, most agents could go from doing almost no business from the internet to nearly all their business from the net.
To answer the question, “What makes a good website?”, I first need to tell you what makes a bad website. In a word… CONTENT. I know we’ve been told again and again by all the experts that “Content is King.” The fact is, content is not king. How do I know? Because our company surveyed real customers to determine what they wanted in a website. Guess what real customers want? You’ll be amazed, and I’ll tell you in just a minute.
Here’s what they don’t want. They don’t want content. They don’t want free reports. They don’t want to know about how great you are. They don’t want to know how great your company is. Or how many gazillion dollars of production you have. Or what the weather report is. Or most of the things we agents always seem to put on our sites.
The typical real estate website is an I-Love-Me website stuffed full of all the things that the customers don’t want. It’s not the agent’s fault. Agents are just buying what the experts tell them. What do they know about websites?
No, it’s the so-called experts’ fault. The simple fact is that most of the people making real estate websites today, have never studied real estate (or marketing for that matter), they’ve never listed or sold a single home, nor have they surveyed a single homebuyer. It’s no wonder the average agent did very little business from his website last year. Generating business with most of today’s websites would be like building a house with a pocket knife.
Now, here is what your customers actually do want: They want to search the entire available listing inventory. In other words, you need an IDX link on your website. Not your listings or your company’s listings, or featured homes. The entire inventory. The only other thing they want is simplicity.
When we learned that, it prompted our company to rethink our websites, and when we did, our new agent SimpleSite website was a huge hit. Not so much with agents, but with the ones that matter — the homebuyers and sellers. Think about it: if they like your site, they will bookmark it and return again and again. And that’s what you want them to do.
When a customer comes to one of our agent’s website, he or she is immediately on the home search page. No weather reports, school reports, I-Love-Me information from the agent — just the homes. The only other things on the entire site are a free CMA offer and a free Listings by email offer, and one customizable page where agents can put their own content, hopefully keeping simplicity and “what’s in it for them” in mind.
Now that we have discussed the important things for your website, in terms of content, the only thing that remains is your lead capture. Having a good website without good lead capture is like having a store without a cash register. Unlike most websites, we have separated the lead capture from the actual website. When a customer responds to one of our online ads, they are routed to our LCM Web Gateway first, and then after registering, they go on to the website.
It’s much like going to the movies. If you asked people to pay in the middle or after the movie, a lot less people would pay. So instead, we ask them to register before going to the site. And instead of less than 1% registering, like in the average real estate website, we get between 30-35% of them to register.
It really is possible to do a large part of your business from your website. Many of our agents are doing 90% of their business from the web, and having some of their best months in real estate ever. One of my agents was upset because he only closed 11 transactions last month and only earned a little over $63,000. I asked him why he was upset, and he said he had four more deals that should have closed and were pushed into the next month!
Somebody forgot to tell him that we are in a tough time! That’s because if you have the ability to capture today’s business from the web, you’ll be busier than ever before. Even with the recent market meltdown, home sales are only off by 10% and 30% of the agents have left the business. There is actually more business available per agent than ever in the history of real estate! It’s just all gone online.
So here’s the bottom line. Having a great website is really not that difficult. First, you need to make it easy to search for homes. Then you need very efficient lead capture. Those two components, together, make for the ultimate real estate website. Add to that your willingness to work hard, and you’ll be doing 10+ deals a month from your website. And that’s my quick answer.