Since early October 2007 I’ve been working toward a simple goal - to get a working real estate site up. So far, I’ve worked on 3 different sites, each with varying degrees of success, and each with their own complex problems. The first site I began work on was actually my mortgage site. As this was my first experience using Joomla, I’m actually quite happy with the results thus far. I still have to incorporate an online loan application, but this will have to wait until I get my real estate sites up (or until the mortgage market shows signs of an upturn).
My first attempt at a real estate site was again, a mostly Joomla-based site. As you can see, I’ve done much more from a custom design standpoint. The site’s main application is the ability to pull IDS listing data from Sandicor servers via a RETS client application called Transparent RETS. For real estate self-webmasters, the combination of Joomla CMS + Open Realty for the real estate database functions + CMS Realty which allow the two CMS systems to talk to each other - seems like the way to go. Combine this with the ability to use a RETS or IDX client to pull data off your local MLS, and some limited design capability, real estate webmasters can put together a custom real estate site pretty quickly.
There are some glaring issues with using this combination. The first being with Search Engine Optimization functions. The systems used in coordination with each put together some ridiculously long URL’s! There has been discussion whether or not these URLs are Search Engine Friendly (SEF URLs). Joomla itself has available components that make SEF URLs. As of right now, none of these components are compatible with CMS Realty. The bottom line is, if you chose to go this route (Joomla+CMS Realty+Open Realty + RETS or IDX client software) - be prepared to have a system that doesn’t entirely work in terms of Search Engine Optimization.
The second problem with Joomla is that although Joomla CAN be used as a blogging platform, it pales in comparison to the ease of use, expandability, and SEO functions of a product like Wordpress. Since many Realtors have recognized that blogging is a way to reach your target audience, having a competent blogging platform is a must! Right now, Joomla just doesn’t cut it. Even with Joomla components that try to emulate the basic functions of Wordpress, there is absolutely no Joomla component substitute for the real thing.
With that said, why use Joomla in the first place? Answer: Because of everything else Joomla has to offer. As purely a Content Management System, Joomla is an excellent platform. For me, I was very interested in a free Directory component that was available to Joomla designers. With the basic functions of Joomla, the SEO components do an excellent of helping you with customizing title tags and meta tags.
I’ve recently been testing a standalone version of Open Realty on my new real estate site . For this site, I found a nice free XHTML/CSS template and customized it to use with Open Realty. This got me thinking. Would it be possible to port the same template to use with Joomla for my Joomla applications and functions, and then port the template to Wordpress to use with my blogging and be seamless to users?