When it comes to real estate websites, it is vital to choose a vendor that fits the vision of your firm. Your brokerage will likely have an ongoing relationship with the vendor, so it's important to take the time and do the necessary due diligence before pulling the trigger.
Before even asking for a demo, ask for references and testimonials. Customer feedback provides a quick glimpse into a vendor’s success, strategies, benefits and gives you an idea of what type of website you can expect.
You can take it a step further and call a few (out of market) firms and speak to their technology/marketing team to understand the pros and cons of working with them. This will save you a lot of time upfront as opposed to walking through multiple demos and finding something that doesn’t resonate with your firm.
Before deciding on a website vendor, consider the length of the service agreement with them.. It's common for a brokerage firm to want out of their contract or to “move” their website to a different vendor after a certain amount of time.
To make sure you are in a good position to change vendors, there should be a clause in the contract that states “contract duration” or “exit” if the time comes to jump ship and switch. Many vendors require a multi-year relationship, while others allow you to fully own and take your website elsewhere whenever you please. It it is much harder to switch from a website vendor who has proprietary software to run their website vs. a vendor who creates websites using open source platforms, such as WordPress.
It goes without saying that everyone is looking for the best bang for their buck. In real estate. There is a lot of influx between different vendors and pricing strategies that each vendor uses to their advantage. Many vendors will charge for any small change on a website, while others will make change requests part of the overall price or charge a monthly fee.
Be mindful of what capabilities you have in-house for website updates and what you will need your website vendor to handle. For major changes, you will most likely need the website vendor to step in and complete the work. This again takes into consideration the technology being used for the website and what talent you have in house to make changes.
Always ask what a vendor’s hourly rate or pricing structure is for small change requests or if you can make the changes yourself. Believe it or not, many vendors only allow for simple change requests and require you to “upgrade” or pay a premium fee for changes that would be considered very small. The pricing structure should align with your company goals and in-house capabilities to alleviate any further charges that could come up with a potential vendor.
Brent Driggers is a web strategist for REAL Trends.