The real estate business is highly profitable. At the same time, it is highly competitive. It is not enough to have just a website today. To stand out from the competitors, you should have an astonishing website, one that users bookmark and share with friends.
Some real estate agencies still rely on ready-made CMS and website builders that create look-a-like websites, barely handle assigned tasks, and fail to meet customer expectations. At the same time, successful companies refer to outsourcing development to build a real estate website with reliable back-end and amazing custom features.
Benefits Of Building a Real Estate Platform
By creating a high-quality real estate platform, you solve several business tasks at once. First, you gain more direct leads and save money on marketing and promotion campaigns. Second, you upgrade a business level and increase brand awareness. And finally, you get an opportunity to stand out among the competitors.
There could be a long list of advantages, but all of them fall into three main benefits.
Tailored UI/UX, fast responses, convenient apartment tours scheduling improve user engagement, and provide unique opportunities for building relationships with customers.
By focusing on communication with your prospects, you can make adjustments to the sales funnel and leverage your marketing strategy.
Collecting leads and saving them into your database is another benefit you get once you build a real estate website. No more manual work is required. The same goes for email marketing. Just set up the conditions under which your customers will receive messages, and voilà — email automation is done. You can also automate many routine recurring tasks, for example, when you need to fill out property-related documents, prepare monthly and quarterly budgets, or maintain a client database.
The better your agents and support engineers perform, the better results you get. When it comes to real estate software, it is important to implement multiple user access so that each team member could log in to their account. Team boards where you can schedule meetings, share documents, assign tasks, and export reports also play an essential role.
7 Key Features of Real Estate Web Platforms
You are free to implement as many features of real estate web platforms as you want. However, there are basic ones which should work like a charm.
Nobody likes filling in a dozen fields just to be able to use a website. Hence, your registration form should be as simple as that. Don’t forget to add an option to log in via Google, Facebook, LinkedIn or Apple ID.
In addition to that, you may encourage users to create profiles to make bookmarks, review previous searches, and other activities.
Here, you need to consider an IDX (Internet Data Exchange) integration. Thus, you will show not only your listings but also those which are added to Multiple Listing Service (MLS) — a huge database with property objects from different agents and brokers. The advantage of such a solution is pretty obvious — people who look for homes will be able to review longer lists, whereas agents/brokers can offer a wider range of real estate objects to fit clients’ requirements.
Users love good search; that’s why they love Google. The more relevant and precise search results you will provide, the more retention you will get. At this point, think about advanced search with multiple filtering to cover all possible queries.
For example, Trulia, one of the most popular real estate websites so far, has the following filtering options:
- For sale: location/price/number of bedrooms/type of property/selling options (resale, new construction, for sale by owner, etc.)/keyword/floor space and year of construction;
- For rent: location/price/number of bedrooms/pets/type of property/near subway option/amenities/floor space/availability of furniture.
Professional high-resolution photos of the property attract users at first sight. In case you allow sellers and agents to upload their own images, you should define the criteria and consider moderation.
Normally, people look for new homes and offices by location. However, most of them know nothing about the area of interest. For this reason, a map is a must-have feature every project manager should focus on while creating a real estate platform.
Of course, you can use Google Maps as well. Since millions of users are used to its interface, they will feel pretty comfortable with it. Although embedding Google Maps code to the site doesn’t take too much time and effort, you need to consider a so-called polygon search that allows both buyers and renters to point out certain areas on a map where they are going to buy/rent a new home.
Besides, think about providing some valuable information related to locations. For instance, Trulia specifies the number of schools/kindergartens in the neighborhood, city/district crime rate, average commute time, traffic volume, etc.
Along with users’ comments, another kind of feedback is crucial for the websites representing a highly competitive industry. Have you heard of Trustpilot? It’s a powerful review platform that assists your business in collecting and managing customer reviews. Using a perk system for your clients, you can encourage them to leave their impressions there to spread the word about your platform.
You can also contact online/offline media so that they can mention your brand in their posts. This is how to create a real estate platform that is trusted — share user comments and brand mentions.
While location and condition matters, it’s usually all about money. Surprisingly, a simple calculator is considered to be one of the most valuable features when it comes to property management software. Indeed, what can be better than specifying location, property type, number of rooms, amenities, and getting informed about the budget needed in a matter of seconds?
Interestingly, there are real estate platforms that offer several calculators at the same time. For example:
- Mortgage calculator,
- Affordability calculator,
- Refinance calculator,
- Rent/buy calculator.
Why You Should Create a Real Estate Platform With an Outsourced Team
Sad but true: there are still business owners who think that outsourcing real estate platform development won’t work out for them. Some business owners choose subscription-based ready-made software, while the others collaborate with freelancers from the Eastern Hemisphere.
Ready-made solutions vs. development
You probably already heard about platforms built on WordPress using IDX-plugin and other extensions. You are aware of subscription-based software that lets you create a website with pre-built features. Any of these options would be faster and cheaper if you are eager to build a real estate web platform in a matter of weeks. However, both these options mean time spent waiting for support, lack of integrations, and no custom features.
When considering choosing ready-made software, please keep in mind the following issues you may face:
- Limited functionality/lack of features,
- No customization,
- No scalability,
- Dependence on the provider’s tech support,
- Limited range of filters, currencies, languages, etc.
Advantages of outsourced real estate website development
Whereas some developers struggle to release a high-quality product due to the lack of expertise and knowledge of the local specifics in the U.S. and Europe, fortunately, there are outsource development companies in Europe with impressive case studies.
The main advantages of outsourcing real estate web development are the following:
- Focus on your specific business needs and expectations;
- Cost reduction in comparison to the development in the U.S. and UK;
- Access to the development and QA processes;
- High-quality solutions;
- Custom features and integrations;
- Tailored design according to the brand guidelines;
- Post-production maintenance and support.
How to calculate costs
Well, there are many factors that may affect pricing. The costs of real estate website development vary from $15,000 to $175,000. Don’t forget that development doesn’t include purchasing a domain name, hosting, and future support.
There are two ways you can get an approximate price for the product from outsourcing companies: either feature costs or stage costs. One way or another, you will pay for hours spent on the development. If you are looking for outsourcing real estate development in Ukraine, be ready to pay $25-$45 per hour.
Below, we described five main phases you should consider before you create an online real estate platform.
1. Content creation
When we are talking about content in terms of real estate website development, we mean branding assets, professional photos, renderings, text copies, and various building data (e.g., floor plans, stacking charts, animations, etc.). In some cases, the customer can provide all of these services, but this task often goes to the design team along with the concept and general vision.
2. Project management
Normally, it is a Project Manager who coordinates web development and is responsible for organizing the project’s entire lifecycle from the very beginning to the launch.
They take care of matching all client requirements, delivering brand assets (logos, images, icons, fonts, colors, etc.), estimating production schedules, coordinating with design, development, and QA teams. Besides this, their main task is ensuring the quality of deliverables and communicating with customers to explain the progress and make sure all the needs or expectations are met.
The design stage consists of several components that affect your future site’s whole concept, including UX across all devices (desktop, mobile, tablet). Be ready to discuss:
- Entire visual performance,
- Content layout (for each page),
- Color schemes,
- Graphic elements (mini-menus, buttons, icons, CTAs, etc.).
The estimation depends on how many pages should be processed, how many visual elements should be added, and how complex the custom graphics should be.
4. Web development
The development stage, basically, means that the design becomes a clickable and interactive website prototype. The platform should work on both back-end and front-end sides and function on every popular device and browser.
Again, the amount of hours required for this phase may vary due to the number of pages, clickable elements, integrations, and custom features. The basic scope of work includes:
- Search filters,
- Property pages,
- Interactive maps,
- Dynamic stacked charts,
- User profiles,
- Third-party integrations.
5. Maintenance and support
Once your real estate web platform goes live, collaboration with the developers goes to the next level. Now you need to ensure that your website runs smoothly and all possible bugs are fixed as soon as possible. Ongoing services are no less important than the development itself because they include the following:
- Server-side maintenance,
- Security updates/patches,
- 3rd party tools and plugin updates,
- Tech support,
- Data back-ups,
- Regular reports.
How to Create a Real Estate Platform From Scratch
First, you need to do market research to define what makes your competitors successful, what they missed, and how you can offer a better solution to solve customer problems.
Then, you work on your unique idea and concept. You have to decide not only how to build a real estate website but also who your target audience will consist of. Will they be only buyers, sellers, and realtors? Or, perhaps, investors and mortgage companies as well? What direction would you like to expand? What languages and currencies are you going to support? What kind of integrations do you want to implement?
Well, you need to answer many questions before you go to the developers with your idea. However, as a development company, we are always happy to help with the project from the very beginning, so it is not always necessary to puzzle over all those things by yourself.
In a nutshell, there are three ways you can go to create real estate solutions:
- In-house development
This works in case you already have a team of experienced developers or consider creating such a team, renting an office, purchasing equipment, etc. Prepare to spend money on administrative needs, salaries, software/hardware, furniture, etc.
- Local software development studio
A local development team could be a good option if money is no concern, and you prefer real conversations to online meetings, chats, and calls. The good news is that there could be a good deal of decent software development firms in your area; just don’t forget to review feedback and their portfolios. Finally, note that the U.S. average hourly rate is $150, and the Western Europe rate — $100.
- Offshore development company
Obviously, the best option for entrepreneurs who want to reduce costs, get a high-quality product and don’t mind online communication. An average cost per hour for real estate web development in Eastern Europe (including Ukraine) can range between $25 and $45, which is three times cheaper than in the U.S.
How We Created an Online Real Estate Platform: Case Study
Although we appreciate our high ratings on Clutch, GoodFirms, and Upwork, it is always good to meet customers who reached out to us through recommendations from friends. The case below shows how a simple phrase, “Hey, take a look at these guys, they are really good!” transformed into a beneficial collaboration and brought one more decent player to the highly competitive real estate market in the U.S.
In December 2019, a customer from the U.S. contacted the OSDB team with an initiative to launch a complex real estate platform in the U.S. market. After the consultation, the client prepared an RFP document with all the features and business requirements they want us to deliver. Based on the paper, the OSDB team researched and created a project roadmap estimating delivery in the upcoming six months (starting from the design and investigation phase). As a result, the first version of the platform went live in precisely six months.
The main challenge
The product owner’s approach was to create an all-in-one portal for real estate agents, brokers, tenants, property owners, and service providers who can fix emergencies and small damages as well as maintain houses and apartments. Using the platform, each user was meant to benefit and solve their issues as quickly as possible.
The OSDB team offered different UIs (Progressive Web Applications and Desktop Dashboards) for different types of users with the various dashboards, set of permissions, and user profiles:
- A dashboard for an agency to manage its business and employees;
- A Progressive Web Application (PWA) for property managers who are in charge of particular properties;
- A PWA for tenants to communicate with property managers;
- A PWA for property owners to overview the state of their property portfolio;
- A PWA for service suppliers to handle service requests;
- A dashboard for service suppliers to overview their data and manage their cash flow;
- A dashboard for a product owner to manage all the processes.
One of the main client’s requirements was to launch the SaaS platform in the shortest terms and with no extra expenses. Since the Native Mobile Application development leads to additional hours needed to submit it to the App Store and Google Play, it was agreed to focus on the Progressive Web Application.
Of course, both the product owner and the developers realized that mobile users represent the biggest part of the target audience and must not be underestimated. The PWA model we’ve chosen allows enjoying all the features on any smartphone or tablet. No downloads from the App Store or Google Play are needed. At the same time, it can be accessed through the icon on the mobile device’s home screen — the same way as you open any app.
Scope of work
- Development: project management, backend, frontend, QA, DevOps;
- Design: understand & research, wireframing, User Experience design, User Interface, design, prototyping, brand ID.
The team included two back-end developers, three front-end developers, a designer, a QA specialist, and a PM.
Our team completed the task and managed to deliver the SaaS real estate platform within the initially estimated project roadmap. As an indicator of its success, one of the biggest real estate agencies in the U.S. became its first user after the launch.
Building a custom real estate SaaS platform could seem to be a pretty complicated task. You can go a short way and opt for a ready-made solution, but limit your platform in features. Another way is to take responsibility and the hassle and hire an in-house team. Or you can delegate the process to the outsource team, order a tailored solution to fit your needs, and devote your precious time to solving your current business tasks.
There is nothing impossible for a team of professionals with outstanding expertise in the field. We always recommend reviewing case studies and getting in touch personally to see if the development team matches you. Whatever business it is, communication comes first. So do not hesitate to contact us and discuss your project. Let’s beat your competitors together!