Maybe you are just starting out in real estate or you have been already for some time into the industry, but there might come a point where you would like to have your own real estate website.
And there are many benefits of owning and controlling your own site.
One of the major benefits is using it to generate real estate leads online. But how much should you spend on a real estate website?
Depending on your individual needs, the costs of a simple website that’s more or less just an online business card ranges between $0 and $297 per month.
For more functionality and customization using pre-made frameworks such as WordPress, costs range between $600 to $2,900.
And if you want a 100% custom made real estate website, the prices start at $6,000.
This article will go more in-depth with regards to the usual components of a real estate website, typical goals, and which type of website is most suitable for these goals with the corresponding costs.
Overview of the 4 Usual Elements of a Real Estate Website
Many websites discussing the costs of a real estate website base their calculation of a development from scratch, which only in very few cases is still a smart way to go.
To determine the different costs a real estate website can have, let’s first look into the 4 usual components of a real estate website.
1) Real Estate Content
There are usually three types or sections of content with which your website can be populated.
The first one is the fixed content, such as an about me page, a resource page, a contact page, etc.
This content is published once and usually not changed very much over time.
The second one is ‘inventory content’, which relates to the products you are offering.
If you are a real estate agent, these would be your listings. In the case of a real estate developer, it would be the different development projects and recently built properties.
The third type of content is what I call blogging content, such as videos and written articles.
For both the ‘inventory content’ and the ‘blogging content’, your real estate website is not populated once with it, but continuously.
These are the parts of the website where most updates and changes happen on an ongoing basis increasing the quantity of content over time.
All three types of content can have different formats including professional photographs, videos, 3D property tours, written copy, renderings, and further property information (site plans, floor plans, property descriptions, etc.).
The blogging content is where you apply your content marketing strategy (check my article about it here), and thus use rather an education-based approach without many hard sales or direct sales page copywriting.
To the other two content types (inventory content and fixed content) you can apply more direct sales copy principles.
The more of the initial and also ongoing content production you plan to outsource, the more it will increase the overall cost.
Here, you might decide if you do it yourself with a significant initial and ongoing time investment or outsource it.
Design is a wide field and many reduce it to just some buttons, colors and general aesthetics and thus just making things pretty.
But it’s much more than that since it has much more to do with the usability.
Therefore, users (in your case, your website visitors) are at the core of the design thinking process.
Latter is all about how to create a system (your real estate website) to address the need or the problem of your potential target customers.
Here, basically two elements overlap – esthetics and functionality.
The ideal combination of both helps your target audience to solve their problems or satisfy their needs in the most efficient way.
Some more concrete elements for the design of a real estate website are:
- A good visual experience across different devices (tablet, mobile, desktop)
- The overall visual design or layout
- The content layout for all pages
- The typography
- Color schemes (ideally based on neuromarketing research)
- Graphical elements, such as buttons and icons
Here, the cost significantly depends on the degree of customization you need.
Based on the underlying content management system you want to use, if you need a completely individual design from scratch it can increase your costs big time.
Because, for example, if you use WordPress as an underlying content management system and want a completely unique design from scratch, it’s not only the design process that will cost you, but also the creation (coding) of an individual theme that will be installed on top of WordPress to get you access to some backend functionality.
3) Development and/or Customization
The design of a (real estate website) is not some separated process of programming and customization, as I mentioned already towards the end of the last section.
The design process basically informs how much programming and/or customization work you will need later on.
This phase makes your website fully functional and creates the usability for your potential target customers or users you aim for.
There is a system that will largely decrease your ongoing development costs.
It’s a content management system (CMS), such as WordPress or Joomla that helps you to manage and edit the content of your website without you needing to know web (programming) languages such as PHP or (much) HTML.
By using a CMS, you will need a lot less help from a web developer on an ongoing basis, unless there are some bugs to fix from time to time.
So, in this phase, the CMS of your choice is implemented, installed and customized depending on your needs.
Other common functionalities that are often implemented in a real estate website are:
- Property details pages
- Property search filters
- Interactive site plans
- Interactive maps
Integration of 3rd party functionality or tools (e.g. MLS IDX integration, CRMs, Email Marketing Providers, etc.)
- Membership login
You might have guessed already that the costs of this phase also depend strongly on the degree of customization you need and whether you want to use a content management system in the first place.
4) Hosting and Maintenance
Unfortunately, the story is not over once your real estate website it launched. It’s not a set and forget thing.
A lot will depend on the performance, reliability and customer service of the hosting company you will choose.
So, ongoing costs in the context of hosting and maintenance can include:
- The hosting provider itself
- Security updates and patches
- CMS and plugin updates
- Bug fixing and technical support
I had many different websites in the past and I can say there are some very good hosting providers, but also some – let’s say – sub-optimal ones out there.
It’s not funny when your website is down and you have to decline several upsales from technical support before actually getting help.
For several years now, I had some very good experience with a hosting provider called Siteground.
They have a very helpful support and great additional service options for their customers. You can check them out here.
What Are Your Goals for Your Real Estate Website
I highly suspect that you are not in the business of creating a complete and new real estate web application such as Zillow or Trulia in a tech startup manner.
I rather assume you are asking from the perspective of a real estate professional, such as a realtor, an investor, a developer, real estate attorney, and similar.
After the above presented components of a real estate website, hopefully it is clear the type of work that can be involved.
But it’s still not complete enough to answer the question about costs in a more concrete way.
So, how do we get to some more concrete numbers then?
You will need to come up with more tangible goals.
To know your goals, you could ask yourself these questions first:
- Do you plan to actively use your real estate website to generate leads or will it be just a sort of presentation card, so if asked you can say that you have a website?
- Is SEO (Search Engine Optimization) important to you?
- Will you create the ‘inventory’ and ‘fixed content’ by yourself or will you outsource all of it?
- Are you planning to do content marketing?
- Do you need a completely unique design (e.g. your own typography, your own layout, etc.) or are you fine with a high degree of customization of an existing design template?
- Will you need a highly customized real estate website functionality developed from scratch (e.g. a content management system, a property search function, etc. developed by yourself or a programmer)?
- Are you planning to work with 3rd party platforms or tools?
Since I don’t know your individual goals, I will come up with 3 different scenarios in the next section, where you might find yourself represented in.
Then, based on the scenarios I will present you different types of real estate websites and associated costs.
Different Real Estate Websites for Different Goals
So, what are your goals and your requirements for your real estate website?
Here come the 3 different scenarios.
Scenario 1 – An Online Real Estate Business Card
In this scenario, your goal is just to have a basic website that serves as your online business card.
It would contain just some basic information about your real estate business such as who you are, the areas you serve, and some contact information.
Designing and developing it from scratch would be overkill and you would be just fine with ready-made website tools or website builders, such as:
- WordPress.com (not to confuse with wordpress.org): Costs between $4 and $45 per month, billed annually
- Zyro: Costs between $0 and $21.99 per month
- WebFlow: Costs between $15 and $45 per month
- Godaddy Website Builder: Costs between $10 and $25 per month, billed annually
- Weebly: Costs between $5 and $25, billed annually
- SITE123: Costs between $0 and $7.80 per month
- PageCloud: Costs between $24 and $65 per month
- Simvoly: Costs between $12 and $149 per month, billed annually
Scenario 2 – A Semi Unique Real Estate Website to Generate Leads
In this scenario, you can take advantage of already existing frameworks and adapt their functionality and design solutions to your needs.
While some of the above website builders have the limited capacity of customization and also lead generation functionality, in this scenario you may rather want to go for a framework that has more upside and scalability potential.
Such a framework is without a doubt wordpress.org.
It is the most popular open-source website and blogging platform and free for anyone to use.
Since it’s free to use, the only thing you actually would need is a hosting provider, a domain name, and the knowledge to put it all together, and you are good to go.
In contrast to the solution for the above scenario, you will have full control of your website and no one can suddenly turn it off because you didn’t follow some fine print in the terms of services.
This platform is highly customizable and a lot of additional functionality can be added on by different plugins you can install.
Particularly relevant for real estate professionals, such as realtors, several different IDX integration options exist.
By the way, I discussed how to integrate your MLS into WordPress in this article.
Additionally, there are many different also highly customizable design templates available (some paid, some free), so you can adapt the look and feel of your real estate website to your needs.
There are different templates for all kinds of different industries, and the real estate one is no exception.
Some templates or so called themes have a special focus on real estate.
For website visitor tracking, Google Analytics can be integrated, but that’s just one tracking solution that can be connected with the WordPress platform.
With this platform, almost the sky’s the limit when it comes to adapting the functionality and design to your needs.
Therefore, it comes closest to building a website from scratch, but using already existing frameworks.
So, what is the cost?
Since it’s such a versatile framework that can be adapted to your real estate needs, the cost depends very much on your requirements.
For WordPress, it is no problem at all to handle your traffic, opt-ins, conversions, leads and customers provided you use the right theme and plugins.
I will give you some ballpark below:
- Registering a Domain Name: $12/year
- Using a Hosting Provider: from $3.95/month (depends on the level of web server capacity you need, check out my favorite hosting company, Siteground)
- Pre-made themes for the website layout, design and some basic functionality: $0-$200 (usually one-time payment)
Plugins for added functionality: $0-$1000 (one-time or ongoing monthly or annual payments)
- Optional Security: from $50 (one-time or ongoing payments). Unless you use ‘Password’ as your password and don’t overdo it with plugins, WordPress itself is pretty safe and many good hosting providers such as Siteground include good security features in their plans
- Fees for Customization and Developing: $0 to $1000 (one-time fee)
So, all in all, the total costs to start range between $600 to $2,900.
Unfortunately, with something that is so well customizable a fixed number is hard to come up with.
Scenario 3 – A Highly Unique and Secure Custom Real Estate Website to Generate Leads
Unless you are a developer and web designer yourself, this scenario will cause the highest costs.
However, you might prefer it because you do not want to rely on an already existing framework such as WordPress and all the additional modules you can add-on.
Another reason why you might want to do this is that you want such a unique design that it doesn’t already exist as a WordPress theme or the existing WordPress themes can’t be customized to what you have in mind when it comes to the design (due to the large number of themes in existence already, almost certainly unlikely for the real estate industry).
I also doubt that most real estate professionals will fall into this scenario, since you usually don’t want to make a design or art statement and just need a decent professionally looking website that generated leads in a reliable way and is easy to use.
To achieve this, you need a design and layout that is expected by potential customers.
Here, you can take a look at an example of a highly unique website design, so you know what I mean.
When it comes to very unique designs, you want to keep in mind that a high degree of creativity often comes at the cost of ease of use and overall conversion rates.
Because it’s usually not what the average user is expecting.
This might not entirely be the case if you are in the design industry and, for example, a product designer.
Here, of course, your potential customers expect to see already your design skills presented on your business website.
In this article, I already mentioned that a website doesn’t need to look beautiful or unique to have good conversion rates.
A (web) design company would beg to differ, but you can’t be sure that this will be an unbiased objective opinion based on facts.
Another reason you might prefer scenario 3 is that you need a degree of functionality and security that can’t be achieved with the WordPress framework.
Additionally, you might want to own the code, exclusively control it yourself, want to avoid unnecessary code in development files and experiment with new technologies.
Again, I think being in the real estate industry you will find yourself in scenario 3 only in rare cases, at most if you plan a real estate tech startup that wants to try something new and implement some new technology to disrupt the industry.
Now, in terms of cost, what would be the damage in scenario 3?
The same as in creativity and functionality, in terms of costs the sky’s the limit.
Agencies and developers charge around $6,000 upfront and upwards, and an annual cost of $1,000.
This is just a ballpark and since this is the most creative scenario, the costs depend more than in both the above scenarios on individual requirements.
In conclusion, the basic rule is, the more custom coding and design from scratch is involved, the higher the cost.
And the more you can use different premade modules, frameworks and templates and the less customization you need, the lower the price, but also the less degree of freedom you will have.
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