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There are a number of things that clients would like to see on a realtor’s website, including pictures of properties, information about the area and a handy mortgage calculator. While most of these things are fairly easy to set up, some require a little help from a website design service. However, you can do some them yourself with the widgets and tools available on the Trulia Business Solutions website.

On top of being a place where you can add your listings to publicize them further and to help them sell, the Trulia site also offers free website add-ons. All that you need to do is customize their widgets, then copy and place the code onto your site. Here are a few of the widgets that they offer:

Mortgage Calculator: This is pretty straightforward, your client enters the cost of the home that they are looking at, along with other pertinent information, and the calculator tells them what their projected monthly mortgage will be.

Market Trends Chart: Wondering how much the average home listing price is in your area? This chart will tell you and your clients, after adding it your website.

Map: The map shows all of your listings in a particular area, not all of the ones listed on Trulia, so it narrows down the search quite a bit.

Search Box: The only potential downfall to the search box is that it searches all of the homes in a given area that are listed on the Trulia website, not just the ones that you’re representing for sale. However, the clients searching it are already on your website, so they will more than likely contact you once they find one that they like.

Carousel: The carousel is kind of like the search box, only the listings come with photos and other pertinent information attached, so it’s more visual than the standard “text only” search.

While you should go somewhat easy on the widgets and not place them all on the same page of your website, integrating a good number of them not only makes your website (and you) look more professional, but it gives your potential clients a chance to see what is for sale in the area.

Your company’s website needs to be both well-designed and eye-catching in order to draw in the attention of potential clients. However, you cannot overlook the fact that it also needs to contain the information that home buyers and sellers are looking for. All of the beautiful graphics and expensive (not to mention complicated) design in the world won’t help your business grow if clients find your site hard to navigate and lacking basic information.

Here are the things that clients want to see on the first page of your site:

- Your contact information. How can they reach you? Your office and cell phone numbers, fax number and email address should be clearly listed. Don’t forget to include your office address and hours.

- Links to the properties for sale that you’re representing, as well as links to those in area that you aren’t. All of these links should be well-organized and labeled in a straightforward manner so that they can be easily found. Once they’re clicked on, pictures and a video of the property should be available, as well as the home’s address, square footage, average property tax amount and all of the basics.

- Success stories. Go beyond the average “I sold this home for this person” or “I found this one for this family” stories and break them down into case studies. Include how long it took to sell or find this particular house and a little background information on the person or people selling/buying it. Not only does this show potential clients what they may have to go through, but it provides an example of the whole process.

- Mortgage rates. Include a small box on the main page with basic rates from some of the most popular local banks. A calculator to show what payments would be at “this amount,” with “that amount down,” and at “this rate” are also helpful. Once a buyer knows what is in his or her budget, they can begin looking at the houses listed for sale on your site.

- Links to your social media accounts and your blog. Keep these small, but visible, and in a part of the page that gets a lot of traffic – for example, right beside or underneath your contact info.

- A picture of yourself. This way potential clients know who they will be working with. Make sure that you look friendly and approachable in your photo.

All of this may seem common sense and really simple — and that’s exactly the point. People want to see a nice, simple site with the information clearly displayed, not a complicated one covered in blinking graphics that hide this basic information. Make your site as approachable as you are. It doesn’t get any easier than that.

 

Continuing with the theme of how to run a proper real estate or mortgage broker blog, here are some tips on how to make yours easy on the eyes…

Many blog hosting platforms (like WordPress and Blogger) offer a number of pre-designed layouts to choose from that can be further customized to suit your needs. But, just like you don’t want an under-designed blog, you also don’t want yours to be over-designed either. After all, the entire point is to have a quick-loading site that’s extremely readable. Here are five quick suggestions to move you in the right direction:

Change the background color from simple white or black. Most templates start out with one of these two. By going into the “design options” section of your blog hosting platform, you’ll be able to change this. You can either upload a repeating logo or pattern, or change the color to something that matches well with your overall color scheme. This gives your blog some personality and helps it stand out from the crowd.

Set a text block color that contrasts. Once you choose a color for the background, make sure that your text blocks, where the type will go, are white, and your type font is set as black. These will float over the background, and you want them to be as readable as possible. You could also go with a black text block and white type font, but these can sometimes be hard to read, especially on older computers. You have to remember that your blog will be read by people with all types of computers, not just newer ones with fancy graphics cards.

Decide on a two or three column layout. Some pre-designed layouts come with one or the other, but others allow you to choose. Before deciding, think of how much information that you want displayed at once. A three column layout allows you to have one column of sales listings, one column of important information (“contact me” buttons, a tag cloud, listing of categories,etc) and one wider column for the blog content itself. For a simpler look, choose a two-column design, but keep in mind that this limits the number of allowable widgets. Speaking of which…

Limit your widgets. These are the gizmos that go in the sidebar(s) of your blog. While you do need some important ones, keep in mind that too many will cause the page to load slowly, causing you to lose some readers before they even get to see your content.  Before deciding which ones to use, examine a few of the blogs that you read every day. Make note of which widgets they use, then come up with a list of the ones that you absolutely need.

Add a logo. Every good blog has a logo of some sort. Whether it’s simply your business logo or a complicated graphic-artist commissioned piece, you need to have something permanently at the top page of your blog announcing what your blog is about to your readers.

Setting up a blog in order to help promote your business (and connect with your clients) is important. However, deciding which blog platform to use can be crucial and is one of the biggest decisions that you’ll have to make, as far as blogging is concerned. Finding a user-friendly platform is just the first step. Here are some details on the top four blog platforms, plus some pros and cons on each:

WordPress.com – This is the beginner version of WordPress. It’s easy to set up a blog on this platform — all that you need to do is create an account and name your blog. You then pick out which template you want to use and then choose your widgets. The downfall to this site is that your choice of templates is limited, since the site won’t allow you to program your own or mess with the HTML. Your blog is also hosted by WordPress, so there are limitations as far as uploaded media space is concerned, although you can purchase upgrades.

 

WordPress.org – This version of WordPress requires you buy your own domain name and hosting service. There is no limit to the number of add-ons available (the all-in-one SEO pack is a great example of this) and you can customize just about every aspect. This version is a bit pricier, since you do have to pay for hosting and server storage space, but you can use any template that you want. The main set up can be a bit confusing if you don’t go with one of WordPress’ recommended blog hosts, but once your blog is set up, the sky’s the limit.

 

Typepad – This blog host is the proverbial black sheep of the blogging world. Although it’s easy to set up your blog using Typepad, for some reason it doesn’t get the accolades it deserves.  You can set up your own domain name and customize the template of your choice, but your blog will always be hosted on Typepad’s servers. There are two different options available: a free account, with your blog name as part of your your-blog-name.typepad.com address, or you can purchase a hosting account directly through them for so much per month. With the free version, you’re limited to their templates, but with the paid hosting you get your own domain name and mapping, and you can upload and use any template that you want.

Blogger – Blogger was one of the first web log (blog) platforms. It’s integrated with Google, making it easy to submit to search engines. Basic hosting of your blog is free, and your main templates are limited, but can be customized, and you can always upload one of your choice. Also, you can purchase a domain name through them or from a different provider and set up free mapping on your blog. It’s fairly easy to set up a blog through blogger, but it is difficult to wade through the many help desk options if you end up getting stuck.

All of the social media promotion and cross-linking in the world won’t help if you can’t draw in readers, fans and potential clients with your blog content. Sure, you do need to write about your real estate business or mortgage brokerage, but at the same time, you don’t want to fill your blog with the same kind of posts over and over. If you need some inspiration, here are five types of posts to include on your blog:

Photos. Picture posts are quick and painless. Find an interesting picture of something that relates to your business and design a post around it. It can be of a house that you were just contracted to sell, one that you’ve just arranged a mortgage on, or something completely different altogether. Think creatively!

News. Any breaking news or local feature that relates to your business makes for easy content. It doesn’t even have to be directly about something that you’ve posted in the past – as long as you can relate it to what you do; you’re good to go.

Lists. This one is easy. Make a list about anything that goes along with your other content. Whether you want to list the top ten local housing trends, five ways to make sure that a house sells quickly  or even your top three favorite HGTV shows, anything goes.

Surveys. Ask your readers for their opinion on something related to your business. This is not only a great way to see what your readers are interested in, but it’s also a sneaky way of seeing how many of those daily views are from people who like your blog enough to participate.

Humorous items. If you find it funny, write something about it. The humorous category can be expanded to include cartoons that relate to your company, or anything else that is guaranteed to get a laugh out of your target audience. You do want to be careful here, as some people are easily insulted, so be cautious when posting items that fall into this category.

Search Engine Optimization, otherwise known as SEO, is not impossible to do on your own. It may sound like it requires a team of experts and some Internet know-how, but it really doesn’t. Once you launch your website, and want it publicized for the world (and potential clients) to see, there are some tricks that you can do to help ensure that your site ends up in the top ten search engine results, all without having to pay for online advertising. Here are 5 to get you started.

1) Make your URL easy to remember. This may seem like common sense, but it needs to be emphasized here. It is much easier to tell people to “visit you on the web” if your URL is www.yournamehererealty.com, rather than a long string of odd numbers and letters. A simple web address is also easier for search engines to pick up on, and will lead to them sending more traffic your way.

 

 

2) Cross-link as much as possible. It cannot be repeated enough. You need to post links on your social media accounts that lead to your blog and, repeating the process, links on your website that point to your social media accounts. This will increase the traffic that comes into your website, making it look better from the point of view of the search engines.

 

 

3) Design a simple, easy to navigate site that includes a site map. Search engines use bots to crawl your site and pick up on the important stuff, like keywords, your web address, your name, what type of business you run, and so on. The easier your site is to navigate, the more these bots will come away with, which will add to your search engine ranking. This also helps out the people who come to your site, since they will be able to find out what your business is all about and how they can contact you.

 

 

4) Update your content regularly. Search engine bots pick up on how updated your content is. You don’t need to post a new blog article every day, but you should update it a few times a week. Updating the content on your other pages at least once a month is helpful as well. You don’t want your ranking to fall due to having stale content on your site.

 

 

5) Submit your site to search engines. This may seem like the simplest step of all, but it is also commonly overlooked by many people. The large search engines (Bing, Google and Yahoo) will not find your website unless you submit your site to them. Doing this is free, and, in the case of Google, takes mere seconds. There is a new set-up that Yahoo and Bing both use, but once you have mastered the 3 step process, your URL is submitted to both sites at the same time.

RealtyNinja website builder for Realtors

The selection for Realtor Websites just got bigger. Welcome RealtyNinja.

What is it?

RealtyNinja is a poweful pay-as-you-go Real Estate website service.

The good?

RealtyNinja is focused on building the best system possible, and it shows. Their website usability and design is very good. With a higher price point and level of quality, their sites cater to the higher end Real Estate market. They have a background in building custom Real Estate websites for the past 10 years, and the same level of detail to design in custom designs is found in RealtyNinja.

The bad?

There is no introductory pricing level, which may turn some Real Estate agents away.

Conclusion:

We think that RealtyNinja is a welcome introduction to solving a big need. “A website is not a luxury item for an agent, it is a primary selling tool”, says Casimir Loeber of RealtyNinja, and RealtyNinja aims to ensure that they provide  their users with the best selling tools possible.

Realtor website reviews part 2

Realtor website reviews  part 1

Ubertor

Ubertor

Ubertor is a Real Estate website provider based out of Vancouver, Canada.

What is it?

Video focused Real Estate agent websites. It integrates with Youtube, Facebook, and Viddler.

The good?

Ubertor offers some really nice templates for Real Estate websites. It’s a very professional company and that professionalism is reflected in their designs.

The bad?

The number of custom pages is limited on the entry level packages. Also, it appears to lack more advanced editing functions to move the website layout around.

Conclusion:

Overall it is a very good system. The starter price is very affordable and for most realtors with less than 5 active listings the cost of $37.00 per month is not unreasonable for a good website.

EstateVue

EstateVue

EstateVue describes itself as “the best Real Estate Marketing Platform on Earth”. That is a big statement, it better live up to the test.

What is it?

EstateVue is a Real Estate website solution. It provides Realtors with websites and advertises some great features such as drag-and-drop design components.

The good?

EstateVue has some nice templates and provides attractive websites for Realtors looking to stand-out. It also connects to some of the Real Estate boards providing syndication to your mls listings.

The Bad?

EstateVue had some support issues when it started. Hopefully those are mostly resolved. It relies heavily on flash for its design components. Flash is a great looking addition for websites, however it is not indexed by Search Engines, and it does not work on mobile browsers or the iPad. Which is really bad for Search Engine Optimization.

Conclusion:

If you want a sleek looking website and are willing to sacrifice some SEO advantages and usability, then this is a good site solution for you.