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Website load times cannot be quantified for Real Estate Websites

Services for Real Estate Pros with Agent Reputation

There are a number of websites that ask you to type in your URL, wherein they will scrub your website looking for errors that may effect your SEO including load speed and other processes running within your website. Many of these sites hope and pray they find negative results so they can sell you their SEO services. Others are just there to help.

Some of these sites are simple like Website Grader that will point out a few generic things with no actionable items. And of course they need your e mail address for the purposes of pushing the SEO services of HubSpot. Then you have other systems like GtMetrix that are over the top GeekSpeak and the layperson Realtor does know what the results mean.

These website review systems can be fairly accurate for 99.9% of the businesses in the world. However, this does not hold true for real estate websites that contain IDX’s, MLS feeds and many third-party lead capture technologies running on the homepage of your website. I will offer my observations in as simple terms as possible without getting too geeky.

A website is a container. Most business websites contain fairly basic pages. Mostly text, images, inventory, e commerce pages, about us, blogs, contact. Maybe a few have pop up newsletter sign ins. They will load quickly and have above average SEO scores. Then at the other end of the spectrum you have NEWS websites that are so third-party advertising heavy, they take days to load and are very intrusive with pop up ads, video ads and will even hijack your browser. They could care less about their horrible SEO scores. Somewhere in the middle would be real estate websites.

Most Realtor websites give the consumer the ability to search for homes. This search is taking place via any number of IDX, RETS and other database technologies that are providing MLS data in a consumer-friendly format, specifically to convert the user into a lead. This is “live” data coming from third parties. The IDX may be feeding data, but most of the time the images of the homes are being fed directly by your MLS. Since this data is called to your website from third parties, while your base website load time may be fast, it can be slowed down by technologies these testing services are not taking into account.

One issue are MLS’s that do not provide thumbnails of their image feeds. The images are coming in at full size (even if they look like thumbnails). GLVAR and over half the MLS’s in the US are not providing thumbnail images. The website is having to resize the larger images which causes speed test issues, since all these tests recommend loading images at exactly the right size for the space. An example would be having featured listings on your homepage. The more featured listings you have, even if in a carousel, all those images have to load. Or maybe you have an interactive map that shows active listings. The images and data of the properties within that map may have to load. The MLS image feed to your site is usually the slowest loading element.

We have been seeing a trend of Realtors asking for huge slideshows or videos to run at the top of their sites. Those are all large media files that have to load. Social media share functions, newsletter sign ups, what’s my home worth pop-ups and others can slow down a real estate website.

There are always things you can do or hire somebody to do, to optimize your website. But you have to take into consideration you have a real estate website with an IDX. You cannot compare your speed results to non-real estate websites. You need to compare your results to the Zillow’s of the world and other real estate websites that are in your market. You would be surprised at just how jacked up their websites are.

I mentioned WebSite Grader above. It was used on a real estate website and their system pointed out four things:

1) Page Speed: It said the site took 10 seconds to load. They had a statement that read, “Best-in-class websites should load in 3 seconds. Any slower and visitors will abandon your site, reducing conversions and sales”. OMG, sounds really scary! Rarely does a real estate website load in 3 seconds that has an IDX and let me introduce you to a concept related to this. Does the site take 10 seconds to load or does it “feel” like it took 10 seconds to load? Case in point. A visitor shows up on your website. You have a video at the top, 6 featured listings and a live listings map combined with any other data, images and pop ups on your homepage. Are they looking at a blank page because it is taking 10 seconds before they see anything? Or are they seeing a complete load though there are still some data calls going on in the background? You may have a few background load issues but if the consumer is seeing everything on your homepage within a few seconds, they are certainly not bouncing as the review system would suggest.

2) Page Requests: They state, “The more HTTP requests your website makes, the slower it becomes.” Every property you feature on your homepage is a request. The data is a request. The image is a request. The resizing request on the large images is a request. Maps are a request. Properties within the map are requests. There are social share requests. In the background you may have Facebook, Google and Adwerx pixel requests. Then you have Google analytics, which is a request. As a Realtor, unless you don’t want an IDX on your homepage, you will have more requests then the average business.

3) Page Size: They state, “The heavier the site page, the slower the load. For optimal performance, try to keep page size below 3MB.” 3 MB’s? Are you kidding me? Basically a blank page made up of mostly text and a couple of images…on a real estate website? If you want this kind of speed, remove the IDX from your homepage along with any videos, slideshows and other background processes.

4) Mobile Speed: If your website mobile speed is near 100% all is well with the world since more people are hitting you from mobile then desktop.

Two take-a-ways:

At the end of the day, you need to find a balance between trying to increase your “site” speed versus the “user experience” speed.

Website review systems do not take into account the conversion elements within real estate websites. You have to compare apples to apples when representing yourself online in your specific market.

Bob Stewart
ActiveRain - Mesa, AZ

Great post CJ. I think it's easy to be alarmed by something like this without considering everything that is taking place on a real estate website. Even the best of the best real estate websites are not going to load as fast as a site that is making zero third party calls.

You nailed it here!

Oct 26, 2017 04:29 PM
CJ Hays

Thanks Bob!

Oct 26, 2017 05:23 PM
Richie Alan Naggar
people first...then business Ran Right Realty - Riverside, CA
agent & author

So it is all coming down to speed? That means shorter & weaker attention spans

Oct 26, 2017 05:49 PM
CJ Hays

No. It is coming down to user experience

Oct 26, 2017 11:20 PM
Randy Mitchelson,APR
Marketing Advisor & Squeeze Mortgage - Bonita Springs, FL
First Impressions are made at First Click

Speed is just one of many SEO factors. Monitoring your bounce rate in Google Analytics will be another indicator if you have a load speed problem.

Oct 26, 2017 08:31 PM
CJ Hays

That is true, but not what this post is about

Oct 26, 2017 11:21 PM
Debra Leisek
Bay Realty,Inc Homer Alaska - Homer, AK

Well Its all Greek to me but I know that is you got a compliment from Bob Stewart that's something to write home about! 

Oct 26, 2017 11:48 PM
Kat Palmiotti
eXp Commercial, Referral Divison - Kalispell, MT
Helping your Montana dreams take root

This was a very interesting read. I haven't used one of these tools to measure website speed and the like, but if I do now I'll know what they are actually saying! 

Oct 27, 2017 04:24 AM
Andrew Mooers | 207.532.6573
Northern Maine Real Estate-Aroostook County Broker

The site can load fast but have difficult or missing navigation, or too little information the buyer, seller wants right now. Lots goes into this real estate marketing delivery to save time, to gain reach and frequency in your message.

Oct 27, 2017 05:35 AM
Margaret Goss
@Properties - Winnetka, IL
Chicago's North Shore & Winnetka Real Estate

This was so interesting! It makes sense that IDX would make a real estate website fundamentally different from a normal website.

Oct 27, 2017 10:36 AM
Betsy N. Robinson - Serving the Sandhills, NC
Everything Pines Partners, LLC. - Whispering Pines, NC

This was really helpful, CJ.   Bottom line, more is not always better, and to find the delecate balance between offering relevant informative (of which there is so much) vs maintaining speed to address shorter and shorter attention spans is now the challenge.  Thanks for sharing.

Oct 27, 2017 01:30 PM
Gita Bantwal
RE/MAX Centre Realtors - Warwick, PA
REALTOR,ABR,CRS,SRES,GRI - Bucks County & Philadel

Thank you for the post. I learned a lot from reading it. I will read it again.

Oct 28, 2017 03:39 AM
John Wiley
Fort Myers, FL
Lee County, FL, ECO Broker, GRI, SRES,GREEN,PSA

I think you are right that there must be an acceptable balance between load speed and consumer experience.


Oct 28, 2017 07:50 AM
Kathleen Daniels, Probate & Trust Specialist
KD Realty - 408.972.1822 - San Jose, CA
Probate Real Estate Services

So true. So true.  IDX will slow a site down. People are on real estate sites, for the most part, for the IDX.  The same, I believe applies to secure sites. 

Oct 28, 2017 04:02 PM
CJ Hays

Sites with SSL? 5 millisecond difference most of the time and less then 2% of your CPU and Google is really digging SSL sites

Oct 30, 2017 11:24 AM
Dorte Engel
RE/MAX Leading Edge - Bowie, MD
ABC - Annapolis, Bowie, Crofton & rest of Maryland

Dear CJ,

This would be something to farm out to someone, who knows more about these details, it seems.

Oct 29, 2017 06:18 PM
Corey Martin
Martin Presence Group - Ruston, LA
Real Estate and Management Solutions

This was a very interesting article. Thanks for sharing. 

Oct 30, 2017 09:46 AM
Lyn Sims
Schaumburg, IL
Real Estate Broker Retired

Well I disagree & agree on some points. I personally was fed up with Placester who's load times became ridiculous. Why do I point them out by name? Because most agents will not take all you mentioned into account. Though it is true that I did not nor should I expect 3 sec load time, I did expect something less than 30 secs OR MORE. By then, the reader says adios I am out of here to another site that actually works better! 

Many agents don't realize the huge data chunk of a scrolling listing bar which has to come up first. If they did, they'd dump it & think of something else for the reader.


Oct 31, 2017 11:00 AM
Dario Ferreira
Attleboro, MA
Internet Marketing & SEO

I agree that IDX sites will take longer to load, but if you have a website page taking longer than 3-5 seconds to load, you'll have a big problem with conversions.

The way I look at it, one should aim for a home page loading in less than two seconds and property list and display pages less than 3-4.

I do see many real estate websites taking 10 seconds or more to load, and always wonder, how do they get any leads?

Dec 08, 2017 02:50 AM
CJ Hays
Agent Reputation - Las Vegas, NV
Reputation Marketing & Websites for Realtors

I have a couple of hundered website clients and they are getting leads and are ranking well. Probably why we have a 95% retention rate. Like I stated in the article, "Does the site take 10 seconds to load or does it “feel” like it took 10 seconds to load?" If the consumer sees a complete load in a few seconds, even if there are calls going on in the background on a real estate website, how does that effect conversion. With that said, real estate websites are containers for conversion technologies and you need traffic. Because page one positions are filled with the Zillows of the world, organics are down which is why so many agents are doing business with PPC companies like Boomtown, Cinc and Kunversion.

Dec 08, 2017 11:07 AM
Elaine Stewart
Elaine Stewart is the #1 Individual RE/MAX Agent for 13 years straight in the Coachella Valley. (760) 668-2399 - Palm Desert, CA
RE/MAX All-Pro

I have used these types of tools and you are right...of course,  your always right though CJ.  See you at R4 in Vegas!

Jan 22, 2018 06:28 PM