Your Real Estate Website: Template vs. Custom Design

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Real estate classes prepare you to manage real estate contracts and transactions, but they don’t spend a lot of time on real estate marketing. Once you’ve passed the exam and activated your real estate license, numerous real estate companies will want you to sign on with them. Some will offer you marketing services and a website for free.

While it’s tempting to say yes to a free website, investing in a custom website might help you capture more leads and earn thousands of more dollars in real estate commissions in the long run.

What’s the Difference Between a Template Site and a Custom Design?

A template website is built on a common framework and is mass-produced. They can be set up in a matter of hours or days, and agents like the “plug and play” option.

While custom design sites may also utilize templates, they are often built on a framework that is search-engine friendly, encourages social media sharing, and offers hundreds more custom options and plug-ins for design and prospect opt-ins (e.g., WordPress, Drupal, and Squarespace).

Real estate website template designs rely on built-in scripts and code to deliver content. Some out-of-the-box solutions go so far as to populate every page with the same text and messaging. This limits agents to only customize their name and company. This type of design was popular in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s. Agents liked it because they could easily hook these template websites up to their local MLS. This gave buyers the option to search for homes on a site with the agent’s name, photo, and phone number.

Today, agents who wish to use WordPress as their CMS can use an IDX plug-in. This way, prospective home buyers have the ability to search for homes right on the agent’s custom website. While WordPress offers templates, these templates are built with search engine crawlers in mind that other template sites lack. Drupal and Squarespace sites may also utilize a theme or template. But they are fully customizable and can be built with a level of personalization that a regular template site cannot.

Why Is Custom Web Design Better for Realtors?

Custom web design on a WordPress, Drupal, or Squarespace platform belongs to the agent, not the brokerage. If you change companies in the future (which is very common in real estate), uploading a new company logo and changing the office address is all you need to do. No need to build a brand new website or change your domain name; it’s all yours.

Custom web design offers the best options for form and CRM integration. Keeping in touch with all of your buyers and sellers is an important part of building referral business for your future. If you use the template site from the brokerage, your leads may go into the brokerage database; causing you to lose them if you ever leave. A custom WordPress website gives you the ability to take advantage of sleek tools like Zapier, Yoast for SEO and click-to-call options.

Even if your real estate company offers a super cool website, take the time to look under the hood. Make sure that search engines can find it, and find out what happens if you need to cancel the service or change companies. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Do you own the domain?
  • Do the leads from the forms stay in the brokerage database, or do they belong to you, the agent?
  • Can you connect the website to your personal social media channels, or will it point to the company social media pages?
  • Can you customize listing information, or does the site pull the data from the MLS?
  • How does the template website look on mobile devices of all screen sizes?

In a world where mobile connectivity and Google means everything, don’t lose out on real estate leads by depending on a website that isn’t designed for today’s digital marketplace.

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