Thought Leadership, WordPress, WWW

Essential elements of a real estate website

Real Estate Search

Owning a home has always been every person's dream. But more importantly, having a home is a necessity. So where do we usually go to when we are looking for homes? It used to be through word of mouth and newspapers, but in this day and age, the answer is on the web. As a result, when I developed an Australian Real Estate plugin for WordPress, I did a lot of research to understand what makes a good real estate website. In this post, let's have a look at essential elements of a real estate website that enables home buyers and renters to find their future homes efficiently and quickly.

Clear navigation consisting of Buy, Rent & Sold
Every website must have a clear menu that helps users navigate easily. If you are not sure what to have in a navigation, think about the main purpose of the website, the reasons why people visit the website. In the case of a real estate website, visitors use it to find properties to buy and to rent. Returning visitors may also like to know what properties were sold recently. Therefore, the main navigation items for a real estate website are Properties for sale, Properties for rent and Sold properties.

Property search engine
Google may be the smartest search engine that understands human's speak but with a real estate website, it's better to have a search engine that needs to be told exactly what you're looking for. Think suburbs, price ranges, numbers of bedroom, bathroom, car space required, additional features such as air-condition, gas kitchen, close to train station and so on. A property search engine, therefore, should have drop downs that allow users to choose and filter their specifications.

Sort option
After the ability to filter and search with specific criteria, the next important element for a real estate website is sort option. There are some common sort options for a real estate website, by recent date, by price and by suburb name.

When it comes to properties, it's all about location location location! Every property listing needs to have a map and if the map is interactive where it allows users to zoom in, find directions and switch between satellite and aerial views then, it is even better! There are a few map APIs that you can use for your real estate website, Google Maps which is the most popular and the easiest to use, Bing Maps by Microsoft and Mapbox. When choosing which map API to use, it is important to find out the coverage of the map API before deciding on anything as not all map providers have street data for all countries. For Australia Real Estate plugin, I am using Google Maps as it has the best coverage for Australian street addresses.

Gallery/Photos slideshow
Believe it or not, there are people who buy or rent properties without actually seeing them in person. They make decisions based on the photos that they see on real estate websites. A property listing with good photos sell better than those without and therefore, it is important that a real estate website has a gallery/slideshow of photos on every listing page.

Almost everyone needs to obtain a loan in order to purchase a home. To save time and to increase conversion, pre-fill and customise mortgage calculator for each property and calculate the estimated repayment amount. Moreover, a lot of real estate companies provide finance for customers and if you can integrate this offering seamlessly with mortgage calculators, it will be a double win for the company. Apart from mortgage/home loan calculators, there are other useful calculators that can be embedded into a real estate website, such as stamp duty calculator, borrowing power calculator and refinancing calculator.

Contact form
This is very crucial and often a forgotten element of a real estate website. For a real estate website, it is not enough just to have a 'contact us' page with contact details. Every property listing page should have a contact form that allows visitors to send a quick message to the agent/company to enquire about the property they are currently looking at. No opening email program, no manually typing in email address required.

Mobile-friendly site
As Generation Y's are entering into the property market, we need to provide a real estate site that works for Gen Y's. A lot of Gen Y's are using their mobile devices for everything, from ordering takeaways to buying homes. That is why a real estate website must work on mobile devices because in this day and age, it is unrealistic to expect everyone to be sitting at their desks while they are looking for properties to buy or rent.

Printer-friendly style
But for those who sit at their desks and browse homes, they probably want to print the property listing that they are interested in so they could take it with them. A print out of a property listing should include all the important information about the property, the address (as well as the map), the price, the numbers of bedroom, bathroom and car space, and most importantly, the contact details of the company or the real estate agent.

Save for later
If a person is looking for a property to buy or rent, chances are he is looking at multiple properties at once to compare and choose the one that best suits him. In order to make it easy for them, a real estate website should allow users to save property listings into their favourites for later viewing. This is especially important for real estate portals with many properties available and not so much for small real estate websites with less than 10 properties.

Interested in the WordPress Plugin for Australia Real Estate websites?
I am looking at improving the Australian Real Estate WordPress plugin that I developed last year. While the plugin works well with the latest version of WordPress and it's being used by many real estate agencies in Australia, I believe that there is room for improvement. If you're interested to receive updates and notifications regrading this, please subscribe below.