Custom Sites or Template Sites? Which way do I go?

By
Real Estate Agent with Rocky Mountain Real Estate

I know there are a ton of different companies out there that cater specifically to real estate industry web sites.  I've spoken at length with about 4 of these companies, as well as a couple of custom web designers.  I'm trying to decide which route would be better.  Here are the pros and cons that I have come up with. 

Custom Sites

+ Ability to have more input on design, layout, content etc.

+ Ability to have a few more bells and whistles.  (Flash etc.)

+ Designed around your branding (Logo, etc.)

- A lot more expensive.  You don't get the bulk pricing like the big boys

- Slower design period.  You have to come up with a lot of content.  (Text, pictures, etc.)

- Deal with more companies, (Hosting companies, design companies, SEO companies)

Template Sites

+ Quick.  You can have your site on-line as quick as a few minutes, to a few days.

+ Less time consuming.  A lot of content is already there for you.

+ Less expensive.  You really do get a lot for your money

- Less flexibility on design.

- Less originality.

- More corporate atmosphere.  On hold with customer service a lot.

I need advice!  Let me know which direction you guys went, and if you regret it or not.  I'd like to look back a year from now and know that I made the right decision.  Thanks in advance for your help!

 

 

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Show All Comments
Rainmaker
67,820
Denise Allen
Resh Realty Group - Chesapeake, VA
Realtor@ Chesapeake, Hampton Roads
Some template sites are quite good and you do a lot of customizing on them. 
Apr 11, 2008 06:53 PM #5
Rainer
16,005
Ben Myers
Rocky Mountain Real Estate - Meridian, ID
Broker, GRI, SRES, Boise, Idaho

Hey Denise, Lori, Patrick, Ernie and Barb thanks for your comments.  Tell me, what kind experiences have you had with some of the bigger providers out there, Z57, Advanced Access, etc.  Who would you guys recommend?  How much is normal to pay per month for one of the template sites?  Thanks for the help!

Apr 14, 2008 03:54 PM #6
Rainer
208,490
Bob Cumiskey
A1 Connection Realty, Inc. - Sun City Center, FL
US Army Retired, Your Sun City Center, Florida ~ Realtor
It's a tough choice Ben.  You have to weigh the options.  Guess it all depends on your pocketbook and your needs. 
Apr 14, 2008 04:03 PM #7
Rainer
1,024
Patsy Ryder - Santa Clara Real Estate
Exit Realty - Santa Clara, CA

Hi Ben,

Well, I think template websites are pretty good to start if you did not use any website before. Easy to create, easy to customize. I vote for template websites. Now I'm working on creating my own website and have chosen PropertyMinder. My trainer is always ready to help. Designs are very good. No problems with hosting. I'm very satisfied.

Apr 15, 2008 12:50 AM #8
Rainer
211,018
Find a Notary Public needAnotary
QEC Internet Services - Long Beach, CA

Pasty,

To add to your comment!  A web template helps you better understand what you know and what you don't know.  This is an inexpensive way to test an idea and allows you to better understand the process, procedure and strategies for building, maintaining and marketing a site.  You can learn this stuff yourself and it can be a lot of fun!  But it will take a time investment on your behalf if you’re new.

If nothing else it will help you determine if it is a project you need to handle ongoing or farm out to professionals. If you later decide to farm it out, it will make more sense when you get quotes for specific work you want of need.  You become an informed buyer.  You might want to consider the templates we have at www.BlastTemplates.com. You get LIFETIME access to our entire library.  Just install on your server, modify and done.  

If you don't control the back-end, you don't control your website.  All BlastTemplates templates are load and go. We always advise, going your own using templates, until you run into that wall of incompetence.  When you know that you know that you don’t know or after your site gets to the point of being relatively decent at converting visitors into clients, then and only then does it become time to bring in professional developers to build a custom site.
Apr 15, 2008 10:55 AM #9
Rainer
16,005
Ben Myers
Rocky Mountain Real Estate - Meridian, ID
Broker, GRI, SRES, Boise, Idaho
Thanks for the advice Patsy.  Sounds like most agents are going with some form of template site.  The more research I do, the more I see there is a lot in between the custom and the templates.  There are some great semi-custom options available.  What kind of things does your trainer help you out with?
Apr 15, 2008 06:38 PM #10
Rainer
67,466
Rob Aubrey
Cottonwood Heights, UT

The first question I always ask.

Do you have a plan and a budget to drive traffic to your site?

I think driving traffic is more important than the having a site that is 20-25% nicer. A good site and no traffic is well a waste of time and money. A so-so site with lots of traffic is awesome.

Personally I think you should put more into traffic budget then design.

You can have a web site that is an all white page with Times New Roman Font that says.

All The Listings All The Time

And the public will love it.

Apr 15, 2008 08:07 PM #11
Rainer
66,937
Rob Muller
ReMax Town & Country - Canton, GA
Cherokee County Real Estate

Ben,

     I had an Advanceaccess site for about a week and got rid of it. The customer service was terrible, it didn't work right, and was down almost half the week. and it's not like I am a Newbie to computers, I have built my own sites in the past.

I ended up going with a site from Real Estate Web Masters. It was the only template site solution that allowed the amount of customization I felt was needed for SEO. I opted for a more expensive package including custom IDX search and such, but you easily can start with one of their templates sites and add that other stuff later.

In under 6 months I am averaging 5 to 6 new sign-ups a day and expect that to only keep rising. They are also running a special right now on their basic templates that if you pay for the hosting, they waive the $700 set up fee.

Like I said, I tried a lot of diff companies and I highly recommend REW

Apr 15, 2008 08:56 PM #12
Ambassador
1,123,108
Jim Crawford
RE/MAX Paramount Properties - Atlanta, GA
Jim Crawford Atlanta Realtor - Atlanta Real Estate

I do neither!  I create my own sites, and plug in an IDX engine for real estate search!   I make avery good living from it!  My costs are about $400 a year for the plug in, $3.95 a month hosting and $8 for the domain!  It does not get any better!  My template site cost about $79

Apr 15, 2008 09:07 PM #13
Rainmaker
50,566
Janice Slaven
Prudential Georgia Realty - Suwanee, GA
Suwanee Georgia Real Estate

Something you might want to consider instead of a personal website which requires a good knowledge in optimization if you want it to really work for you is something I was introduced to today....Reply.com.

If you farm an area, this is a really interesting concept but expensive (very innovative, however)! But then again so is a really good custom website. Reply.com allows you to market to an area...say a particular city. For me, that would be Suwanee. Then you select which NEIGHBORHOODS you would like to farm. Reply.com helps you market a website FOR EACH INDIVIDUAL NEIGHBORHOOD through the cooperation of the  neighborhood's HOA. However, YOU have just the ONE website for ALL the neighborhod's in your farm with one site address. It's pretty cool. It is really worth taking the time to check out Here is the site:  https://marketplace.reply.com/Home.aspx

Let me know what you think if you check into it. The presentation was really impressive.

Janice Slaven

 

Apr 15, 2008 10:17 PM #14
Rainer
8,704
Shannon Drew
Hometown Realty - Yakima, WA
Hometown Realty, Yakima WA

I have a template site designed by Cevado Technology out of Wenatchee, WA. Most of the content is customizable by me as often as I like. I have flash on my home page and IDX, with a featured properties scroll on the home page, cost was $600 one time set-up fee and is about $50/mo for the hosting and IDX. It's really easy to view the site stats, too. It ranks higher on some some search engines...not so great on Google, yet, but I am working on that!

This was a good choice for me because I'm not at all technical. If I have problems, they have good tech support and will walk me through issues.

Apr 15, 2008 10:55 PM #15
Rainer
16,005
Ben Myers
Rocky Mountain Real Estate - Meridian, ID
Broker, GRI, SRES, Boise, Idaho

Rob A. - Great point.  I totally agree with you that a so so site with lots of traffic is better than a knock dead design that nobody sees.  Who do you use for your website(s)?

Rob M. - I know a few people that have AA sites, and they seem to do o.k. on the search engines, but I HATE the designs.  Good to know on the customer service as well.  They (AA) were one that I was going to stay away from.  I am going to check out your recommendation though.  Thanks!

Jim - I've thought about the route you've taken as well, but I'm just not that savvy with the websites yet.  Sounds like you are!  I did sign up for a Point2Homes site, which I've pointed one of my domain names.  I am struggling getting content and photos in there, but that one is up now.  Yours sounds like the most bang for the buck though!  What programs do you use to create your site? 

Janice - That is a great idea.  I have kicked that idea around as well, but I for sure want to have a main site up as well as some neighborhood sites.  I do see the value in them.  Are you doing the neighborhood sites now?  If so how is your response?  I'm going to check it out.

Shannon - You and I sound like we are in the same non-technical boat.  Does the place you use have a website I can check out?  Let me know.  Thanks for the input.

Thanks for all the help.  I welcome any and all suggestions, and also input on who you guys are using and how you like them.  This has been phenomenally helpful!

Apr 16, 2008 12:07 PM #16
Rainer
211,018
Find a Notary Public needAnotary
QEC Internet Services - Long Beach, CA

Shannon,

That flash home page will kill you relative to search engines. I caution you to design a site for your clients and not yourself.  If people can't find you, it will be hard to do business with you.  You will need an expert knowledge to get a flash site to attempt to rank well.

But, it is your site and you are free to use whatever presentation pleases you.  My experiences says ignoring my clients has a costly benefit and I've chosen not to pay that price.  

$50 per month is very expensive for hosting unless you have a dedicated server. There are many places you can acquire hosting free or for less than $10 per month.  If you have an DSL account with a major ISP, Verizon, SBC global, comcast, ie, they usually provide a free hosting area to build a website.

 

Apr 16, 2008 03:44 PM #17
Rainer
1,024
Patsy Ryder - Santa Clara Real Estate
Exit Realty - Santa Clara, CA

Ben,

First of all, I'm not so tech savvy as could be, so I was impressed with their service. After I filled the order form, they gave me almost complete website and I did not do anything. They added my photo and resume, then invited me on webinar training where I was able to ask all types of questions. From product questions to marketing and online advertising.

Apr 17, 2008 12:28 AM #18
Ambassador
1,123,108
Jim Crawford
RE/MAX Paramount Properties - Atlanta, GA
Jim Crawford Atlanta Realtor - Atlanta Real Estate

I use Microsoft Front Page!  I host with Godaddy for less than $3.85 a month.  The template was purchased from http://www.rtbwizards.com/template_details.asp?ItemNo=2019   the cost was $75

And here is wha the completed product looks like:  Prince William Homes for Sale

 

Apr 17, 2008 12:34 AM #19
Rainer
14,264
Geoff Scowcroft
Coldwell Banker - Studio City, CA

If your not a tech, I would use a template site. Are you selling real estate or learning how to program? I'm not sure of the cost vs. benifit of hiring someone to create a custom site. That can get very expensive. Check out the standard ones and see which sites match your personality.

I'm a tech and a software developer, so I developed our site (www.geoffre.com). I would not recommend this for most folks. I use Godaddy and ASP.NET 2.0, currently moving to 3.5 (ok, I can't shake off my geek).

Apr 17, 2008 12:49 AM #20
Rainer
16,005
Ben Myers
Rocky Mountain Real Estate - Meridian, ID
Broker, GRI, SRES, Boise, Idaho

Patsy - Thanks for the info.  I'm going to at the very least get in touch with them for more info. 

Jim - Nice job!  How does your site rank in the search engines?  I know that is the most important part of any site.

Geoff - I am not a programmer, nor will I ever be.  I think the best way or me to have a functional, profitable site will be to have someone else do it. 

Anyone else out there have any does and don'ts when choosing a website?  I'd love all the advice I can get.  Thanks to everyone who has commented so far, you guys have been a great help. 

Apr 17, 2008 11:27 AM #21
Rainer
48,339
Tucson Real Estate Experts Anne McKechnie
Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage - Tucson, AZ
Previews Property Specialist

I have gone around and around with sites. I would get a realestatewebmasters.com  site or dakno.com site. Both have their act together and produce good sites

 

Apr 17, 2008 05:26 PM #22
Rainer
16,005
Ben Myers
Rocky Mountain Real Estate - Meridian, ID
Broker, GRI, SRES, Boise, Idaho
Thanks Anne and Eddie.  I've had a couple of people tell me to go that route.  I'm definitely going to look into both companies.  Thanks for the input. 
Apr 18, 2008 04:42 PM #23
Rainmaker
975,472
Adrian Willanger
206 909-7536 TheHomeFunnel.com - Seattle, WA
Profit from my two decades of experience

Ben Thanks for the info I just got off the phone with a rep from Z57. So any thoughts or comments about them would be appreciated.

 

Best

Sep 28, 2011 01:15 PM #24
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Rainer
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Ben Myers

Broker, GRI, SRES, Boise, Idaho
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