Starting a Real Estate Website Development: What to Consider

When it comes to selling or purchasing a house or apartment, people don’t call real estate agents anymore. For the last couple of decades, the most effective way to find a new dwelling or get rid of an old one is to turn to a real estate website.

Although there are dozens of such kinds of sites for each state in the U.S. (the same as for countries in Europe), it can still be beneficial for the new platforms to enter the market. One of the most essential conditions here would be an in-depth analysis of top competitors and figuring out what features to implement in terms of the real estate website development. In this guide, we’ll cover the process of building a real estate web portal.

Table of Contents:

The Three Best Real Estate Websites in the U.S.

According to Statista, as of January 2020, Zillow had more monthly visits than any other real estate web portal in the United States. To be precise, it gained over 36 million visits a month from people looking for the sale and rent offerings. The 2nd most popular source for the American home buyers and renters was Trulia, with impressive 23 million visits per month. Homes.com came in 3rd, having generated traffic of around 20 million monthly visits.

How did Zillow become so huge and popular?

Let’s have a look at Zillow's business model. For a long time, the company generated most of its revenue by selling advertising on the website. Recently Zillow also allowed paying rent online to the landlords for properties with the help of the so-called Zillow Rental Manager tool. Every time renters pay, Zillow charges transaction fees from their credit cards or PayPal accounts.

Besides, Zillow receives a blanket referral fee from brokers after they close home transactions. Since Zillow is a public trading company, a positive dynamic on the stock exchanges is one more source to monetize.

What makes Trulia different?

Initially, Trulia offered buying and selling properties in California only. However, many agents demanded to make their listings visible to more states, so the company became nationwide very soon. One year after launching, it was available across the U.S.

Trulia’s outstanding feature is a “price trend,” showing how a property’s price has been changing over time. It is also possible to compare that price with other items in the same state or city. Since 2012, Trulia has been trading on the New York Stock Exchange. In 2014 the company was acquired by Zillow.

The secret of Homes.com success

Homes.com is probably one of the oldest real estate websites on the market. It was launched in 1993 and since then, it has been meeting landlords’, buyers’, and realtors’ needs. The main feature of the website is a large database. As of 2020, Homes.com has been operating over 650 MLS IDX (Internet Data Exchange) listing feeds, providing more than 4.3 million listings. Homes.com sells its IDX data aggregation and search technologies to other real estate companies such as RE/MAX and ERA.

In a nutshell, the popularity of these platforms can be explained by huge databases, straightforward UI, and a variety of useful features. Other real estate examples that are also worth mentioning are Realtor.com, HomeFinder, and Redfin.

Real Estate Website Key Features

Registration and login

Remember that registration should be fast and simple — leave a few fields only. Consider creating a profile page so that users could review their activities, bookmarks, etc. Enable logging via Google account, Facebook, LinkedIn, and other popular social apps.

Search and filter

Another must-have feature for any real estate platform is the ability to filter search results by such criteria as price, location, year, number of bedrooms, bathrooms, etc. The development team should work on programming the efficient algorithms to provide accurate results based on filled fields and finding a solution to help users see the most relevant items according to their previous requests, preferences, and interests.

Listings and database

If you are not planning to use your own database, you will have to integrate with one of the listing syndication platforms. The most reliable are ListHub, 365 Connect, and RealBird. In this case, you will need a special template with different elements, including pictures, videos, price, area, etc. This is one of the most significant features without which setting up a real estate website won’t make any sense.

Maps and location

If you are interested in providing a better user experience, concentrate on this feature. Most competitors have integrated their platforms with map APIs like Google Maps, Mapbox, Area API, or Zillow Neighborhood Boundaries. And you can do the same. Defining the user's location and suggesting some properties nearby could also be an interesting option to add to the maps feature.

Speed and responsiveness

How long will it take for your site to load? Although a few additional milliseconds of the delay won’t mean anything for most users, this will be crucial for Google’s engine, which can affect your positions in the search results. Fast loading pages, especially on the mobile version, are essential not only for UX but also for SEO. Ensure that all the scripts on your future website work as expected, images are optimized, and a CDN is utilized.

Design and mobile version

Although it could be pretty hard to keep the balance between simplicity and a full-featured solution, you should do your best. Everything must be clear and easy to find. Try not to overload and make navigation simple. Remember that you should also focus on the mobile-friendly website development for real estate. Since most users go online from their tablets and phones, the mobile version has to be perfect.

Comments and messages

It is for you to decide whether users will be able to leave comments under the properties reviews. Of course, this requires some moderation to avoid spam and offensive language.

In terms of communication between visitors, you may consider integration with messaging platforms like Sendbird. In this case, you can save some time and costs for development.

Privacy and security

In a modern world, when even the biggest companies can be hacked, users' data leak protection is another significant feature that should be implemented before the site launch. Especially when it comes to integration with payment systems. It’s recommended to look for senior backend specialists who have experience in enhancing security.

What’s Better: a Real Estate Website or an App? Or Both?

Although 50% of the global Internet traffic is mobile, it doesn’t mean that creating a real estate listing directory should go to the iOS and Android developers. Indeed, Zillow has its apps in the Apple App Store and Google Play, but almost all the application users had registered on the platform and actively used it before they installed apps.

Considering a huge volume of data, including photos, videos, and thousands of landlords, realtors, and investor profiles, it is strongly recommended to start setting up a real estate website with a responsive mobile version. You can always release iOS and Android apps later, taking into account features you can skip or add.

Another point to consider before you make your own real estate website is the price of the development. In case you decide to create apps as well, costs will rise twice or even triple.

Unlike a real estate web portal, mobile applications are mostly optional since most users turn to their desktops and laptops to see photos in better resolution, learn the maps deeper, and experience 3D tours.

Real Estate Website Development Costs

Some sources on the web claim it is possible to use WordPress and IDX plug-in (for extracting the data from an MLS) to create a full-featured real estate directory. However, we strongly do not recommend doing that. Creating a real estate directory website on a very low budget may seem an attractive affair. However, the consequences of such a decision would be disappointing.

The price of the real estate portal depends on your business:
  • For a mid-size (custom functionality) project, you will pay $25 000 - $50 000;
  • A large (database-driven) marketplace will cost $50 000 - $100 000.
Interestingly, in the U.S., the price for building a real estate website often goes up to $300 000. It can be explained by an average hourly salary, which usually is no less than $150.

Alternatively, in Eastern Europe and Russia, the average software developer’s rate is $50/h (meaning the same qualification and expertise). </tr>
Feature Hours Price
Database integration 38 1900$
Listings 24 1200$
Registration 8 400$
Login 7 350$
Search 16 800$
Filter 16 800$
Maps 39 1950$
Videos 24 1200$
3D tours 98 4900
Comments 38 1900$
Messages 36 1800$
Payment 77 3850$
Security 52 2600$
Mobile UI optimization 78 3900$
Language support 24 1200$
Note that the rough estimation of creating a real estate directory website with the features mentioned above ranges between 1,500h and 2,100h. Considering these numbers, you are free to calculate the approximate price by yourself.

Hiring a Development Team for a Real Estate Website Building

Some business owners believe that outsourcing website development for the real estate marketplace is not a good idea. Their main arguments are about the lack of knowledge of the local specifics. However, many offshore development companies demonstrate astonishing case studies. The critical point here is to refer to experienced teams that can provide an impressive portfolio and a desire to meet and exceed customer expectations. Exceed Team is the one that exceeds expectations. First, we have developers who worked in the U.S. and European companies and therefore are well-informed about western business models and processes. Second, when we receive a request to create on-demand a real estate website, only senior-level experts are arranged (since such projects require excellent skills and expertise). Besides, Exceed Team provides a comprehensive technology stack including PHP, JavaScript, HTML, CSS, Ruby on Rails, MySQL, Amazon RDS, etc. Take a look at our case studies for the real estate industry to see how we work.

Conclusion

Building custom real estate applications doesn’t mean you need to offer more features than your competitors do. First, you just need to make them work better. Perfection has no limits; however, you should get closer to it than anyone else. If your product is excellent, it won’t spend too much on advertising and SEO; people will love it for its helpfulness and share your website. If you want your real estate website to stand out among competitors, focus on the development, not marketing. Hiring the right development team will eventually result in good ROI and bring you success once people realize you solve their problems rapidly and effectively. Contact Exceed Team to get started with your project!

If you have any further questions do not hesitate to contact