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Real estate is undergoing a significant change right now, and technologies are the primary driver of this process. For the past several years, the US real estate market has been entirely in realtor's hands.
Today, 93% of home buyers use real estate websites when searching for a home in the United States. Only 7% said that they didn't use any online websites during their house hunt. So almost the entire industry moved online.
It's a great shift and the question "how to build a real estate website?" naturally arises. In this article, we'll explore the key to making a successful real estate platform and which features a successful app should include. There's a lot to cover, so let's start!
What Is a Real Estate Platform?
Real estate platform is a digital space where realtors, home sellers, and homebuyers can get in touch to make a purchase or rent contract for a real estate item.
Why to Build a Real Estate Website?
First and foremost, building a real estate website should serve a purpose. The purpose of all real estate platforms is to efficiently solve a user’s problem – search for a new home in a quick and troublesome way. To do that, an app should:
- Provide enough options of properties for potential buyers and renters;
- Enable users to find the best matching property;
- Provide the possibility to reach a real estate agent;
- Allow for effective research of a real estate item.
Among the most popular real estate platforms, one can name Compass, Zillow, Trulia, Zoopla. These are real estate websites that have revolutionized the real estate domain, opening up the market to real users.
Types of Real Estate Websites
No matter whether you're the one who sells, buys, or rents a house, you know how stressful it could be. Each case has its difficulties, and each role has its obstacles. So it brings us to a very logical decision – create real estate websites for different user roles with various functionality.
Here're 4 of the most popular types of real estate website you can choose from:
Real Estate Marketplaces
The real estate marketplace works as a mediator between homeowners and buyers/renters. Property owners can list their estate on the site, set the approximate price, and find the customers. Customers, on the other hand, can search for a place, check property photos, building plans, and overall descriptions.
Examples: Zillow, Redfin, Airbnb.
Property Listing Websites
A property listing site is a real estate platform where people can find houses for sale or rent. Unlike a real estate marketplace, homeowners usually can't list their property without an agent.
Examples: Zoopla, RightMove, Realtor.
Property Management Websites
Property management websites are all about homeowners. They're in the driving seat and can fully manage their property and potential customers. Usually, websites for property management are focused on residential and commercial properties.
Examples: Appfolio, TennantCloud, Yardi.
Real Estate Aggregators
A property aggregator speaks for itself. It's a real estate website that collects property ads from different websites and displays them on one. Real Estate Aggregators are one of the most convenient ways to find a property to buy or rent cos it allows to compare the price, location, size, and condition, all in one place.
Examples: Nestoria, LoopNet, Apartments.com.
How To Make Money on Real Estate Websites?
So how do real estate websites actually make money? There are 3 basic ways to monetize your real estate website. You can choose either one or have a mix.
Listing fees are suitable for real state marketplaces. It basically works this way: before sellers list a property, they have to pay a 1% fee to the platform.
This model means you set a fixed monthly or yearly fee for homeowners. So they can publish a limited or unlimited number of listings. This one is best for real estate marketplaces and property management websites.
Paid advertisement is one of the most well-known business models. It works well for real estate platforms because the whole process is very well set up. You not only earn money by promoting ads, but you target the offers to the right audience.
Tech Trends in Creating a Real Estate Website
Tech transformation is making waves through various industries, including real estates. Some real estate platforms have already adopted the latest technologies, while others are only about to do so. These are the trending technologies that you should pay attention to while creating a real estate website.
Big data refers to the collection of the information left by users in the digital realm. This data is now reused to empower other platforms. Real estate apps like Zillow and Trulia already use big data to generate real estate options based on the databases. Thus, the apps can provide information about the neighborhood, the crime rate in the region, schools, and even the number of children in the area (so that your child won’t be alone if you move there).
AI and Machine Learning
This one is still paving the way for the industry. Now the property search engines provide results based on such data as location and size. AI and machine learning integration will help engines sort out search results based on the user’s values, preferences, tastes, and even personality traits.
Besides that, AI may also help to predict price movements on the market. The technology analyzes historical price movements to forecast changes to the property price in the future. It does so by considering factors such as local crime rate, schools, transportation, and marketplace activities.
Virtual and Augmented Reality (VR/AR)
Website building for real estate demands VR/AR because it makes a user experience more engaging. Imagine that realtors and home sellers can conduct virtual home tours, and people don’t need to spend their time getting to the place to see it. Needless to say, virtual home tours are becoming increasingly relevant during the COVID-19 massive lockdowns.
Internet of Things (IoT)
This technology relates to a network of smart devices connected to the e-cloud, continually sending, receiving, and updating information. In the future, IoT can help homebuyers download full details of the property’s upkeep and maintenance history. Thus, there is no longer a need for costly bills for inspections.
How to Build a Real Estate Website in 6 Steps
Discover the industry
The Discovery stage is a phase of the product development lifecycle when we learn about the market. In simple words, we dive into the real estate industry, study the competitors, search for their strong and weak sides, and search for the prospective niches we can cover with the product.
Study your audience
The next step in making a real estate website that people truly need is to search for these needs. That's why we conduct user interviews, surveys and arrange focus groups. It helps us build a product that directly responds to the user's needs, not imaginary ones.
At the end of these 2 stages of real estate website development, we end up with the roadmap that includes:
- Hypotheses: Delivering a Solution;
- Problem Statement;
- Assumptions of solutions;
- Lean Canvas – business idea execution;
- User interviews;
- Proto Persona;
- Prototyping and testing
- Customer Journey Map (CJM)
Choose a real estate website type
Once you find the real users’ needs to cover, choosing the website type is much easier. Here’re 6 of the most popular:
- Real Estate Marketplaces
- Property Listing Website
- Property Management Websites
- Real Estate Aggregators
- Selling and Buying Websites
- Renting Websites
They differ by the types of properties, functionality for homebuyers, realtors, home sellers, etc.
While making a real estate website design, it's important to pay equal attention to UX&UI parts. Since user experience at real estate websites is personalized for three user roles:
- Home sellers;
The profiles for different user roles should include other functions and allow you to switch roles on the website. With well-thought UX design, websites became easier to use and navigate. So make sure to hire a good UX designer for your project.
In addition, for better business results, your site design must be mobile-oriented.
Develop the MVP
To build a real estate website that solves a problem, we at Uptech really recommend starting with MVP. It lets you validate the idea cheap and fast, get feedback from real users, and have valid proof that your idea works for stakeholders and investors.
A good example of starting small and growing into a #1 real estate app is – Yaza. It’s an app that allows real estate professionals to record, map, and share video home and neighborhood tours with buyers. Check it out.
Launch & Test & Improve
We're coming close to the finish line in real estate website development, and the next step is to introduce your product to the market. That's truly my favorite part because you check how users interact with your product.
Usually, it's a cycle of interactions: you capture feedback, find possible improvements, communicate the product requirements to the team, implement changes, and test.
Though it looks huge, you should go through this cycle during the entire product development process. Note feedback collection may go in parallel with development. You shouldn't wait until the implementation.
4 Features Your Real Estate Platform Cannot Exist Without
The app market is swarmed with different real estate websites, of different complexity and features. Yet, there is a list of features that must be included in a real estate platform to satisfy the users. Let us dive into each of them.
The list of available listings is the cornerstone of any real estate website. The broader it is, the more popular the platform becomes. The good news is you can develop such a database by yourself using brokers’ databases.
Which databases you will integrate with your platforms depends on the region your platform will cover. Let’s take the US real estate market as an example. The primary sources for this market are the US National Association of Realtors (NAR) and the Multiple Listing Service (MLS).
Authentication and personalisation
User experience at real estate websites is usually personalized for three user roles: agents, homebuyers, and home sellers. The profiles for different user roles should include other functions and allow you to switch roles on the website.
Real estate platforms like Zillow and Trulia also feature a registration via Facebook, Instagram, and Gmail. Social network integration helps accelerate the signup process while integrating some additional personal data, like photos, gender, age, location, etc.
As the platform uses personal data for a more customized experience, you need to ensure data protection. So make sure your website complies with the OWASP standards and GDCP regulations.
A user friendly search engine capable of performing complex searches is an essential component of a real estate platform. The simplest iteration of search would only include such conventional filters as location, price, size, etc. However, modern real estate platforms leverage the power of big data and integrations to provide much more detailed information about properties:
- Opinion of the local citizens about the neighborhood, its infrastructure, schools, maintenance, etc;
- Information about the crime rate in the region;
- LGBT protection rate that reflects how the locals and the local legislation treats LGBT people;
- Likelihood of natural disasters;
- Average age rate, family status, education of the local citizens.
A real estate platform is hardly conceivable without maps, as a property’s location is one of the basic considerations for a potential homebuyer. The majority of real estate websites use Google Maps, mostly because users are accustomed to it. Yet, you can also use a map service called Open Street Maps as an alternative option.
Besides only showing the location based on user IP and GPS, real estate platforms integrate with many web services to deliver useful statistics on the map: nearby restaurants, schools, and even streetlights. This is how Trulia displays this information in the Neighbourhood section:
Top 3 Features that Will Make Your Real Estate Platform Stand Out
Implementing the right functionality in your app is half the battle to develop a real estate website that hits the mark. Here is a small list of additional features already implemented in other real estate platforms:
This one is a custom feature, allowing a user to add some options in the search results to the favorites' list, like you put products in a cart on a typical e-commerce website.
The 'favorites' section allows users to weigh their options without rushing into buying/renting a house. Data gathered from the favorites list can also be used for analyses and generating new property suggestions.
In-app Messaging Solution
Once users make a decision, they will probably want to contact a realtor or a home seller to discuss the details. In-app chat is the best way users can communicate efficiently.
Calendar for an Appointment Booking
Once users have selected an apartment/house, they will want to take a tour around there. To do that, they would need to contact a realtor and schedule a visit. However, a far more comfy option would be to browse the calendar on the app for available slots.
Uptech has implemented this one in a real estate project called Nomad. At the user tests and following the product’s launch, we could see that a calendar for appointments can largely simplify searching and minimize unnecessary arrangements.
How Much Does it Cost to Start a Real Estate Business?
I always find it difficult to name the exact amount of money. Everything depends on the complexity of the website and the number of professionals engaged.
If it's MVP, that would definitely cost less, and the development would be faster. If you want to develop a full-fledged product with more complex features, the price goes higher.
So, from our experience, the price of a custom real estate website may start at $60K and reach $120K. We recently posted the article on the web app cost and really dove deep into details there, so you can check it out.
How Can We Help with Creating Real Estate Websites
Uptech has broad experience in building real estate websites. With profound experience, our team has provided a product management consultancy for the client.
Nomad is a digital platform that uses technology to simplify buying and renting homes in Dubai. Nomad was founded in 2019 to turn a traditionally cumbersome offline experience into one that is online and seamless. Like traditional real estate services, Nomad provides a listing database and search engine to find a property. The website features 3D virtual tours and in-person visits. The platform relieves users from the fuss of financing, registration, and ownership transfer, which usually involves tedious paperwork.'
For Nomad we did a full-scale Discovery stage, which includes:
- Profound market research;
- Numerous user interviews;
- Multiple users tests.
We also provided UX/UI Design, a full web development cycle, helped to launch an MVP and the first version.
We have in-depth knowledge of the real estate domain, including the industry’s top trends and most popular features. We also have experience integrating third-party components, like maps, admin panels, and multi-listing services into the platforms.
The real estate industry has shifted online over the past years. Most homebuyers search for homes through real estate websites. As a result, real estate businesses are left with no other choice than to build a real estate website.
I have highlighted 6 steps on how to build a real estate website that meets users' needs. Apart from that, you should follow the recent trends and include key features to make your website stand out among the myriad of other real estate platforms.
If you want to know more about our experience or like to share an idea for the product, do not hesitate to contact us.