Templates one of the best kept secretes in real estate, or any business for that matter; but, what are they? Templates are pre-made or pre-designed documents that you can personally customize. In real estate, the common uses for templates are in the form of:
- Written Agreements
- Marketing Brochures
- Real Estate Property Flyers
- Personal--Property Websites
Why use templates? Templates are made to make real estate tasks easier, faster, and more convenient. They'll become the #1 tool in your business and a key resource in dominating the competition. Take for example contracts; if you've every used WinForms before, those are a form of template. The legal verbiage has already been pre-written for you; the only thing you need to do is fill-in the blanks with your client's information. Now image WinForms didn't exist! You'd have to write or commission an attorney to draft listing--purchase agreements for each and every property. This can be time consuming and very expensive; which are the main reasons templates are so popular. They are the biggest time and cost saver for business.
For many of the 'repetitive' duties, like marketing, templates make light work of complex tasks. Chances are you're not a graphic design superstar who can crank out marketing artwork and--or property flyers in 5 minutes. Actually, even hot-shot graphic designers couldn't do that from scratch. However, if 90% of the artwork and layout is pre-loaded for you, throwing in a few photos and typing in text is a breeze. With the help of templates, Top Producing agents can create listing flyers in less than 5 minutes. That's the power of templates. In fact, templates are the secret tool 'custom' graphic designers use to make property flyers. It's a short-cut they exploit and charge agents hundreds of dollars for. All they simply do is load-up a template and drop-in the property information and send you an invoice.
Websites are a great example of effective use for templates. Just like marketing flyers, you're probably clueless when it comes to html and java-script website coding. Website templates (sometimes called 'themes') make creating personal, professional, and--or property websites simple and easy. Although website templates are a bit more complex than document or marketing design templates, they are less complicated than trying to create a website from scratch. Most website templates are free! The most popular platform for creating a professional looking website is WordPress.
Should you use templates? Absolutely! Well, unless you're the sole heir to an oil company with an endless stream of income, you should definitely consider using templates. They save you time, money, and effort; especially for marketing and websites. Templates allow you to portray a professional and polished look to your clients and prospects. They're especially important for new agents. They're a cost effective way to enter into the market without looking like an amateur. Seasoned agents love them too, since they can basically eliminate the designer or programmer fees!
How about cost? Cost can vary depending on what template you're looking for. WinForm is sold through your Realtor Association and is typically a monthly fee (it used to be a 1 time fee, but now it's a monthly access fee which is another way for them to make more money). Marketing and Flyer templates can range in price from Free to $300. Prices are highly based on quality. Free templates are often simple and used as a "fish-hook" to get you in and upsell other products. An average price for a 'single' property marketing template is approximately $30-$40; which is very affordable since you can and will re-using them for your entire career. Package templates, like Turn-Key Flyer Templates, are one of the better value templates at 50+ template designs for only $95. Do the math, that's about $2.00 a template (or 94.3% off just buying a single template).
Website templates are a different story. I've found FREE is as good or even better than paid themes. Mentioned earlier, Wordpress is the most widely used website platform and is very easy to use. There are real estate designed themes that are free. A quick google search will point you to the most recent themes that you can easily pop-into your site. However, one paid theme that I've liked for quite some time is the ESTATE theme by WooThemes. It's purpose built for real estate and looks and functions very smoothly.
When researching templates, you'll notice some companies like to charge a monthly SUBSCRIPTION fee. This is a decision that you'll have to make based on your budget. The "subscription" gives you 'access' to online templates. Keep in mind you don't own these templates. Once you stop paying your subscription, it's over. Subscription based templates range from $9-$90 per month.
So which template system should you use?
That's a tough question and depends on your level of business and sales volume. High volume top producers might find the cost to convenience factor is better with a subscription service. Newer agents trying to manage monthly cash flow, paying a subscription for a service you might or might not use depending on your listing frequency is a fee that's hard to justify.
I personally don't like the subscriptions because I'm a stickler for cash flow. If you own a template out-right, the more you use it the less expensive it gets. Plus, subscription services like Imprev are full of extra fluff products that are used to justify a monthly fee; however, if you really look into it you might only use once in your career. My advice, try to find templates you can buy. Focus on the important templates that you'll use all the time: contracts, brochures, flyers, and your website theme.
What about software programs?
Great question, and again, this depends on your skill level. Templates come in many file formats and some come in their own software programs. Stick to the file format that you're most comfortable with. Contracts written in MS WORD .DOC or fill-able PDF file is good and easy to understand.
PDF format is actually a very understated technology that has make drastic improvements in the last few years. What most people don't realize is that PDFs can be made into fill-able form templates. The main benefit to PDF is that most, if not all, computer are compatible with Adobe PDF and Adobe Reader (which is free). Since there are no special software to use like: WORD, PHOTOSHOP, ILLUSTRATOR, or PUBLISHER, you don't have to worry about shelling out hundreds to buy or update your current software version. Adobe reader is free!
Website template are web based so you don't need to worry about software issues.
Where can I find templates?
There are handfuls of great companies on the internet that provide templates and template services. You'd really have to do research to find the templates that best fit your needs. Contracts are pretty simple, use WinForms. Marketing templates take a bit of research. My company, TurnKeyFlyers.com makes PDF based property templates. However, they might not fit your exact needs. There aren't many companies in the marketing template space. You can review them all within a few hours.
For website templates, I'd highly recommend looking into Wordpress.com and WooThemes. They're the most widely used and popular.
Templates are an essential tool for your business. They make your business run smoother, faster, and more efficient. They cut precious time, effort, and cost. Templates will help new agents look like rockstars, and help veteran agents perform like rockstars!
Happy marketing everyone!