This article is targeted towards the marketing or ops professional tasked with designing and managing websites for real estate investment firms.
Like any endeavor of significant scale, there are unique opportunities and risks involved. We’ll do our best to inform and encourage your ideal path.
If you don’t have an internal team it may seem that hiring an agency is a no-brainer, but I want to at least suggest that you consider the possibility of assembling a short-term internal team specifically tasked with building your website portfolio.
You may not feel equipped to be the “quarterback” to a crew of likely remote contractors, but if that’s the case then I would consider first finding a marketing consultant specializing in websites for real estate investment firms to lead the team.
If you have a robust internal team, still consider an outside consultant even if only to help you understand what current technologies and opportunities exist.
I will write a follow up on what to look for in an agency, but let’s suffice to say that they should specialize in your industry.
Anyway, here’s the real meat and potatoes to help you design your REIT (or similar) portfolio of websites.
Can your property websites be grouped? How would you categorize your properties into different tiers?
The first step once you determine who will produce your portfolio is understanding how many different “types” of sites you will need to build.
Often, you’ll find categories such as industrial, commercial, residential or a tiered system such as “flagship” sites, B-level, C-level, etc.
You may own a few premiere properties that you want completely bespoke websites for, and that’s great! But it will be a much simpler process if you can group sites into templates. They will look completely different, but maintain appropriate uniformity.
Once you develop your taxonomy, prioritize your production order – but let’s not get ahead of ourselves!
Do you currently use 3rd party softwares to manage listings, billings, applications or any other processes related to the properties?
If so, now is a perfect time to consider integrating them into your new websites. If you don’t currently use any 3rd party software to manage your assets, then this is also an ideal time to determine if you should start using one.
Here’s an example how we integrated View The Space (VTS) software into TEI Retail’s website. This gave them real-time commercial listings info fed directly from a central management point.
Once you build an integration, the wonderful news is that you can replicate it into multiple websites – centralizing your data and unlocking terrific time and cost savings vs. doing everything as one-offs.
Automating (point #2 above) is fantastic! But if you automate mistakes and low-quality information, it can really diminish your website’s stature.
We suggest as you are planning out your real estate website portfolio, determine the minimum standards that you will allow for a viable listing. This may mean requiring an image, a broker’s info, an address and contact information – but again, you should consider what matters most to your prospects.
To execute this, your integration will require controls to be scripted in place, and a good development team will give you a robust set of levers so that a non-technical staff member could change these standards on-the-fly.
Designing multiple websites at once can give you fantastic leverage to negotiate favorable pricing with your producers, and if you’re integrating software you can certainly find advantages in identifying a single product solution versus sourcing a unique one for each website.
If your ideal software integration is charging a prohibitive amount of fees, e.g. charging you for each instance of its usage, it may be time to consider commissioning a custom software application to serve your needs vs. using 3rd party.
There are also savings to be had in your hosting and registrar accounts. If you have different URLs spread across different registrars, save money by consolidating them into a package deal. The same goes for hosting – you may be paying for way more server space than you need, and could put all of your real estate portfolio websites on a single server.
You can yield a significant advantage by consolidating the amount of training and management required from your team. If you build 25 new websites that all operate fundamentally the same way – a single training document, video tutorial or team review can perfectly equip your staff to manage updates. Similarly, if you use an agency then you should expect savings in maintenance because you’ve effectively dropped the learning curve.
When prospects engage us to design websites for real estate investment firms, we often find that as their company grew, miscellaneous vendors serviced them along the way.
Once they reached a certain size, they contracted a “proper agency” that far-too-often used them as a stepping stone to gain bigger clients, and now they won’t even pick up the phone.
If you’re tasked with overhauling your portfolio, then this is a perfect opportunity to circle your wagons – i.e. get your registrar and hosting accounts in order, identify a single vendor you can communicate with for site design and management and equip your team as-necessary.
Designing a portfolio of websites for real estate investment firms is an extensive endeavor that can easily span months.
It is undoubtedly a significant investment. And like all investments you are best-served mitigating risks and capitalizing on all possible opportunities.
Hopefully this article serves as a 30,000′ primer to start your process.