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2008-08-19 22:45:09

How Much Should You Pay for a Real Estate Website?

The facts are that nearly every real estate agent or broker has a website of some kind. Many have more than one. Today, having a web presence is not the esoteric science and technology that it used to be. Anyone can do it. But while anyone can get a website, there remains huge differences in what real estate professionals end up paying for theirs. How much should you realistically expect to pay?

Realtors generally obtain their websites from one of four sources. These include: from the same provider as their Internet service, from the local web developer down the street, from one of the several website services that specialize in real estate web services, or from your broker or franchise. The prices for each of these varies considerably.

Internet Suppliers
For sites offered by Internet service providers or from major Internet suppliers, website prices vary depending on whether they are customized or template-based. For example, and both offer template-based websites with hosting that are generally between $5.00 per month and $12.00 per month depending on the number of pages. For fully customized sites, these same companies offer sites ranging from $12.00 per month up to $100 per month.
Local Web Developers
At the other end of the spectrum are local web developers. These may range from a highly qualified graphic designer all the way down to a local nerd high-school kid. Generally, these resources charge by the hour. Their rates may be as little as $20 per hour going upwards to as much as $100+ an hour in addition to ongoing hosting fees of $5 to $15 per month . A first pass at building a website from scratch can often require 20-80 hours of effort depending on the type of technology used. Also, realtors should expect ongoing maintenance fees at the same hourly rate whenever changes are made to the website.

Real Estate Web Services
For websites offered from traditional real estate web services the pricing is higher but equally varied.  In a recent webpage sampling of real estate web companies like RealtySoft, Alamode and Top Producer, prices for template-based websites with hosting will range from $25 per month (RealtySoft)  up to $250 per month (Top Producer) depending on the size, sets of features that are available, and number of pages. Some companies in this genre offer “free” websites as an inducement to subscribe to their regular offerings. These free websites have extremely limited capacity (e.g. 3 listing images) or, in some cases, come with third-party advertisements embedded in the website.
According to the 2007 Realtor Technology Survey of the NAR, the fees paid for technology services to brokers spread out as follows: no fee (approx. 60%), less than $20 per month (approx. 10%), less than $40 per month (approx. 10%) and more than $40 per month (approx. 20%).

Determining value
It’s difficult to put all these prices into perspective without taking into consideration the effort that realtor must make in creating or maintaining their website. 
Internet service-based websites offer the best prices. By far; but while most Internet service-based websites use templates of some sort, the realtor should expect that they will have to completely populate all pages and provide all content and maintenance.

Using the local web developer is much more expensive. They has similar issues to the above unless the web developer has experience in the real estate industry. The realtor will need to provide precise guidance to the developer. The benefit is that the realtor will get exactly what they want (which can sometimes not be a good thing!).

Although prices vary considerably, using a real estate web service does have the advantage of offering more focus and experience in the real estate marketplace. The sites offered are template-based but some companies do offer a wide variety of templates plus complete customization. Depending on the price to be paid, real estate web services, particularly those that offer “all-in-one” site management features are likely not to require as much effort on the part of the realtor as the other alternatives above.

Lastly, broker-based web services or those that are provided by the franchise, can be a great value (e.g. free). This has to be assessed against the benefits of the site. Obviously, if the technology or site used does not provide competitive features or does not provide enough flexibility to allow the realtor to “stand out” in the market, then the realtor must consider adding other web resources.
The trend is down
There is a large difference between $250 per month for web services and $5 per month for web services (or free!). But the price trend is going down. There was a time when real estate specialized services could command premium pricing. But as the realtor on the street becomes more technology competent, the prices will continue to decrease. Soon it the selection of a website service will not be about technology but more about what saves the realtor the most time in installation and regular maintenance of the site. In the long run, this is the bigger expense of any website.
(Peyman Aleagha is the founder and CEO of RealtySoft®, the lowest cost Internet technology service provider to the real estate industry, delivers a comprehensive suite of solutions to meet the national and local needs of Real Estate organizations and professionals across North America. RealtySoft is a privately held corporation located in Toronto.)

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