Having been a web designer using Joomla! for several years, we broached into the world of WordPress websites for our Real Estate based websites. We're going to be going through our experience with WordPress for Real Estate. Although WordPress isn't our software of choice, we stepped out in an honest and true effort to research, test, and analyze various WordPress plugins.
When we set out on this project we only had a few primary requirements, based on our experience in database design, prior experience in website design, and what clients have been looking for over the past 8 years.
- Be Affordable. Realtors are hit with so many fees, our goal/objective is to provide affordable options for Realtors to have their own branded website, import listings from their MLS with our iPALS RETS for Real Estate software, to be professional looking, and home buyer friendly.
- Have it's own database structure. This is a big one in that by having it's own database structure, the listing data is it's own, stored in its own location, dedicated to just that.
- A large number of possible data fields. Information is important, and having a large, respectable amount of information is important, but not so much that it's cluttered and overwhelming.
4. Have a nice looking photo gallery. Most Real Estate listing include lots of photos. Having a nice gallery to display them is important.
So how did WordPress fare in these areas? Honestly, not very well. If you go to the WordPress plugin directory, you will find pages upon pages of WordPress plugins for Real Estate. We spent hours installing and testing plugins, and most were lacking in one way or another, with many in more ways than one.
Is this due to poor developers? I wouldn't go that far. It appears that some of the plugins were good, but it all comes back to what we said in a previous blog regarding using the correct tools for the job, and WordPress essentially being a web based version of Microsoft Word. Can you do an extensive payroll system in Word? Probably, to a point, but you're ideally going to need more powerful software that is designed to handle that.
Affordability. This is a really big issue, as Realtors get nickled and dimed on every little thing. Nickle and diming is a major turnoff to not only us, but to many of the clients that we have worked with over the years. We're not about to mention the plugin, but I will explain one that we came across. There was one that would have met the requirements of 3 out of the 4 items listed above, but affordability knocked it out of the running. This plugin has a decent amount of information that could be entered. The data was stored in its own database, and the plugin was free. However, they then nickle and dimed you to death after that. Want a map to show listings on? That'll be $50. Want an image slideshow? That'll be another $50. Want to allow potential buyers to get a PDF version of the listing? That'll be another $50. All in all, all of their features were going to cost over $350.
Maybe it's because we've been a Joomla! designer for years, and we were never really excited about WordPress, but when I see what that particular developer was offering for $350, and I can get that, and much much more for a mere donation of $49.95 to the developer of a Joomla! component, it easily tells me which is the more affordable, and is more interested in helping than making a quick buck.
The majority of plugins that we tested simply created a blog post, then put the additional information, such as bedrooms, bathrooms, etc. as post meta, again as part of a blog post. Excuse me, but Real Estate listings are NOT BLOGS, but when you are working with blogging software, you've got to work with the framework of what you have. Every plugin that treated Real Estate listings as blogs were immediately discounted, and were no longer even in the list to be considered.
Having a separate database, to store the listing data, you would think would be a fairly straightforward, common sense, development 101 item. However, that was NOT the case. There were only a small handful of plugins in which the developers even showed that they had the slightest inkling of database design. Those that did have their own databases for the entire plugin, we limited, but this allowed them to pass on points 1 and 2 above. However, there were some that did a hybrid between their own database for some things, then utilizing the WordPress posts and post meta, which caused them to fail. Again, Real Estate listings ARE NOT BLOGS!!!!
The large majority of the plugins tested simply FAILED with number 3 above. This is either from every Tom, Dick, and Harry striving to throw something out on WordPress, in the hopes of getting some financial return, or it's "developers" who are creating plugins for a specific industry, and they have absolutely zero experience with that industry, and what people actually look for. Simply having fields for MLS number, description, bedrooms, bathrooms, square feet, and price are not sufficient information, and professional developers would know this.
Score: 99% of WordPress plugins FAIL on points 1, 2, and 3.
Gallery. Where do we start, and where do we end on this one? We could go on and on about how poor this one is in 99% of the plugins, but we've pretty much covered a lot of that already. Many of the plugins that may have scored high on item 1, 2, or 3 failed on number 4. Simply putting several images in a blog style content field doesn't classify it as a gallery. Once again, Real Estate listings ARE NOT BLOGS, and they need to be treated as content, not as a blog.
However, after all of the testing, it doesn't really surprise us that the majority of plugins utilized the blogging features, or simply treated the information as you would a blog. As WordPress itself states: "WordPress started as just a blogging system", and still today that underlying engine is still for blogging. I'm sorry, but you can't take a Geo Metro, put a truck body on it, and call it a truck. It's still a Geo Metro in all but look.
Looking for a high quality, affordable Real Estate website? Look no further than RETS Websites.
Did you hear?
Effective June 1st your real estate website site must be in compliance with the new National Association of Realtor® standards.
That means if you have an IDX site, you need to make the switch to RETS.
We ONLY use RETS for our real estate websites!
This is not new software to us. We are not just developing it to be in compliance. We have been using RETS for a number of years now with a tried and tested system.
Contact us immediately to get your site switched over.
We have a number of affordable packages for individual agents, teams, and brokerage firms.
For anyone signing up with us PRIOR TO APRIL 1ST, 2015, you will get the FIRST 3 MONTHS HOSTING FREE!
So contact us immediately!
RETS Real Estate Sites
If you're still using IDX you need to know there are big changes coming to IDX that will affect your current site. Be proactive and make the switch to RETS now! RETS is the recommended way to receive MLS data.
RETS is becoming a commonplace acronym in the real estate industry. It stands for Real Estate Transaction Standard. And as you may already know, RETS feeds are the more modern and timely data feed, versus the dated IDX feed. RETS brings the data into your site and makes it a part of it, whereas IDX feeds simply frame in someone else's site. This makes a RETS feed the much more search engine friendly version. We're also able to update a site more often with a RETS feed over an IDX feed. This gives your clients more timely data and makes you look more professional and on top of the market.
Incorporating MLS listing data on a real estate agent's website can be fairly complicated, or it can be simple, depending on the process that's chosen, ie. IDX, RETS, framed, direct import, etc. Before we get into that, a brief vocabulary lesson is in order to understand the various terms and processes. Don't worry: We're leaving out as much of the tech speak as we can.
First, let's define some of the relevant terms:
IDX (Internet Data Exchange) – This refers to the data exchange between an MLS board's database and a realtor's website. Sometimes, IDX is used to refer to a specific method of data exchange, most of which are outlined below. IDX has to do with public MLS search, and is viewed as a form of advertising. The listings that are displayed here are only those allowed by other participants, but almost always includes the vast majority of the MLS database.
RETS (Real Estate Transaction Standard) – RETS is used to give brokers, agents and third parties access to listing and transaction data. MLS's nationwide are moving to adopt RETS as the industry standard because it drastically simplifies the process of getting listing data from an MLS to an agent's site. Key benefits include customization of how the listing data is displayed, fresh listing data (updated as often as every hour), and content added to the site (SEO – search engine optimization). The one main drawback is that the data feed is impossible to use by itself. That's where our software comes into play. It takes the data from RETS, and converts that data into readable content for your website.
First Month Hosting/Maintenance FREE to the next 10 new website orders.(Expires 02/28/2015)
Some of our Features...
Individual / Team / Brokerage Sites
Social Network Integration (post on your site & it feeds to your social media)
We have several different plans for individuals, teams, and brokerage offices to meet a variety of needs and budgets.We have several different plans for individuals, teams, and brokerage offices to meet a variety of needs and budgets.