In my experience, one of the biggest challenges for someone building a real estate website is coming up with a helpful selection of tools to feature on the website. In this post I will cover some possiible tools your site visitors might enjoy.
Listing Search Tool
This one is a given, and most real estate websites have this tool in them. However, this feature can be provided in different ways.
The first is the more popular of the two. Agents usually provide access to the listing search tool through a link to a page that utilizes what is called an "iframe". This method allows the visitor to search listings on another website through a "frame" on the agent's website. While, usually less expensive to implement, this method has limitations. Since the data is not on the agent's website, it cannot be presented in any way other than how it is on the original site (the one inside the iframe). For example, let's say that the search tool has no way of searching for homes that are cabins. If you are using an iframe you cannot provide a way for your visitors to find that information. Enter, the data push.
The other method of providing a listing search to your site visitors is called a "data push" or "data feed". this method is more expensive to implement, but offers more freedom to utilize the information. Agents choosing to use this method, in most cases, need to have a professional developer handling their website. I won't explain all the details of how it works, but a simplified summary goes like this:
An agent can go through the local board of REALTORS to gain access to MLS data by means of a "push" or "feed". The data is pushed to the agent's daily where it is placed into the agent's own database. Since this information is now in a database controlled by the agent, the information can be sorted, filtered, and presented any way he chooses. This allows for greater flexibility in marketing your services.
This is a feature that is not always seen on websites but has great value from the visitors standpoint. In my opinion, you can never too many photos of properties as long as the page still loads relatively quickly. Often times, agents run slides of their featured properties allowing the slides to be clicked, once they are clicked, the viewer is taken to a page showing all their featured listings. Or, agents can feature a slideshow on the page of an existing property rotating photos of that property as a type of virtual tour.
Perhaps the most commonly used finance tool in use is the mortgage calculator. This tool allows the visitor to "run the numbers" on a property or on their specific situation to get an idea of what their budget will handle. These types of tools help keep site visitors on the website because they do not need to go find the tool somewhere else.
mapping properties is also an effective way to help site visitors. Perhaps someone wants to know if a specifc property is located near a lake. If the agent maps the listings, the visitor knows that without having to dig up the information on their own.
These are not all of the tools that can be utilized to assist site visitors, there are many others. The main thing agents need to keep in mind is how they can fill the needs of the site visitor. If that is the focus, the website will be successful.
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