DIY vs. Custom Real Estate Websites

Written by Posted On Wednesday, 12 September 2018 20:27
DIY vs. Custom Real Estate Websites iMore

In a previous post, I discussed the merits of a high-performance real estate website. In the world of digital marketing, a website functions much like a business card, giving potential clients a vivid snapshot of who you are as an agent.

Many realtors turn to professional web design services to ensure their sites are operating at their best. But others craft sites in-house.

The decision to outsource web design or build a site yourself often hinges on budget considerations. Many realtors are also juggling a variety of clients; their schedules may dictate whether or not they go the DIY or professional route.

If neither budget nor schedule poses too much of an obstacle for your website considerations, there are other things to keep in mind when crafting a website. Read further for insight.

What is a DIY Real Estate Website?

A DIY real estate website entails crafting your online content yourself, whether you tackle this after hours or defer to an in-house marketer or web designer. Building a website yourself doesn’t have to involve coding, although it certainly can.

Many realtors will opt for a site building platform like Wix or Squarespace. Such platforms often enable you to purchase a domain (i.e., a web address), secure web hosting services, and build your content all in one location. They are often relatively user-friendly and can accommodate a variety of media, including MLS.

Others may take a more grassroots approach, using a platform like WordPress, purchasing a distinct domain elsewhere, and choosing an external web host. Such a method is certainly more time-intensive and involves putting a few more pieces together.

DIY real estate websites require content, and so realtors choosing this route will often have to source images, client bios, and media themselves. They are responsible for editing all of this content, testing page loading speeds, and beyond.

In general, DIY real estate websites are relatively cost-effective. A business plan through Squarespace, for example, begins at $144 / year, not including the price of a unique domain (usually $20 or free). Wordpress sites hosted externally can cost as little as $40 a year to maintain.

What Does Web Design Outsourcing Entail? 

Outsourcing web design services is fairly straightforward. Many realtors or agents will invest in services through a digital marketing company, for example, that caters to a variety of online needs. Others will stick with a web design company.

It’s possible also to hire a freelancer with demonstrated experience in web design and implementation. You can even hire a variety of individuals to take care of multiple aspects of the website building process: copywriters, photographers, videographers, and coders.

Whatever the case, outsourcing involves giving others the task of building a sleek real estate website, replete with everything you need and designed to impress clients at first glance.

Typically, outsourcing will involve an intensive short-term relationship with a freelancer or agency; it’s important to provide these individuals with the information they need to build the website you are envisioning, including staff bios, MLS registration details, image needs, and more.

In general, outsourcing web design is costlier than DIY websites. Agencies will vary in terms of price, but you can expect to pay hundreds if not thousands of dollars for a fully functioning, professional site.

DIY vs. Professional Real Estate Websites   

So, which should you choose? DIY or professional?

Budget may be the deciding factor here, as I’ve discussed before. Some realtors simply do not have thousands of dollars to dish out to a freelancer and may, therefore, favor DIY website crafting.

Yet outsourcing is not necessarily hands-free. Professional sites still require multiple consultations and coordination to ensure that you get the content that you need.

For that reason, DIY websites may actually be more simplistic from a task perspective, especially through a user-friendly platform like Squarespace. Realtors may thus prefer to build their own content using a very minimal design and turn to freelancers for image needs. Given the plethora of site-building platforms out there, few skills are needed to set up a site in-house.

Given the relatively low cost of DIY sites, realtors can use additional funds for other digital marketing purposes, such as email marketing campaigns and SEO.

That being said, a custom-built site can go a long way when it comes to staying ahead of competitors. Custom sites are more likely to look authentic, especially if you anticipate using a template from a site-building platform. Prospective clients will favor authentic real estate sites and linger on ones that don’t look like “just another real estate website.”

If you cater to a particular niche of the real estate market—such as independent living communities for seniors or ranch land—it may be wise (and easier) to emphasize this niche with a carefully tailored design.

Professional web design services may also make it easier to integrate high-level media you wish to use, such as 3D models, virtual reality, or property search tools. DIY sites may require coding knowledge or additional support for integration.

A completed website is also not entirely complete—sites require maintenance, particularly if you are implementing SEO and regularly uploading new content. Some web design companies will provide ongoing support in this regard, while others may not. DIY sites will require your own maintenance, on your own schedule.

Finally, DIY sites are often subscription based. Realtors may have to pay annual fees for web hosting, domain names, and platform services. These fees can add up! Professional sites will likely only cost a one-time fee, albeit a high one.

All in all, realtors should pursue DIY site construction if they have the basic savvy, limited budget, and time to do so. DIY sites require more attention at the beginning, but they can be vastly more cost-effective than professional ones.

Realtors should invest in professional web design services provided their budget permits and they are interested in a truly authentic, stand-out-from-the-crowd design. Professional sites are also better suited to complex media and visual displays.

Still on the fence? Start by identifying your needs for a website. What do you want it to look like and how much time are you willing to invest in it? This can nudge you in the direction that will best suit your needs. 

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Kate King

Kate King is a freelance writer, editor, and blogger. 

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