For any business to succeed, an effective online presence is an important feature of the company’s sales and marketing strategy. For estate agents, possibly more so than any other sector, this is an absolutely essential feature of the business strategy.

Research shows that over 80% of all enquiries to estate agents are currently generated online, and nearly every buyer now performs the early stages of their house search online, without the help of an agent. Similarly, the vast majority of sellers will also conduct their initial research online when deciding which agent to employ in the sale of their house.

So, what are the key requirements of a good quality agency website, and with the understanding that this is one of the most important features of any agency, what factors should you consider?

An effective estate agency website will typically combine a multitude of functions and features that represent both the complexity and the importance of the roles the site needs to perform. There are effectively three distinct user groups the site needs to cater for, and each user group requires a very specific and particular range of tools and functions.

The agency staff

From the perspective of the agency, the site needs to provide for:

  • Quick and easy content management, enabling the update of news and information throughout the site as required;
  • A comprehensive property management facility, enabling property listing updates within the site and automatic export to all the portals;
  • Seamless integration with existing office systems, including enquiry management, applicant records management, appointment diaries, etc;
  • A range of community management and promotional features, such as newsletters, blogs, map integration and social media tools.

Potential buyers

Many prospective buyers will arrive at the site via a portal, so the site needs to initially impress the visitor with its visual appeal and then engage the user with both the presentation and navigation of content. This is best achieved by providing:

  • Clear and concise property listings, both short-listings and detail pages with excellent images and maybe even also video;
  • A comprehensive search facility with multiple user options to enable both quick-search and detailed search, enabling users to both save and refine their search;
  • Property comparison features and area orientation;
  • An intuitive enquiry system that enables visitors to keep track of their enquiries and viewings through a personal correspondence archive;
  • A newsletter and registration facility to enable visitors to keep in contact with the agency and receive useful information about additional properties or services available to them.

Potential sellers

Attracting new clients who wish to sell their home is key to the success of any agency. With most sellers now deciding which agency to use through online research, it is important that the website provides them with the confidence they require to make that choice and that the site reflects the credentials of the agency. In support of this function, the site needs to provide:

  • Listings on all the main property portals to ensure a wide reach to potential buyers;
  • High visibility in search engines such that the site itself can actually be found online and can be seen to attract sufficient traffic;
  • The ability to provide featured properties;
  • Lists of accreditations, user feedback and testimonials;
  • Highlighting of key services or specialisations and visibility of all fees;
  • Clear signposts to encourage visitors to make contact.

These features need to be provided within a stable architecture that facilitates seamless updates and bug fixes, is constantly monitored and supported, delivers detailed reporting features and that is both easy to use and provided with adequate training for its internal users.

Once all of the technical details have been considered and accommodated, the website needs to implemented within a design that is both visually appealing to the eye and sensitive to the agency brand, but one that also provides for the display of a considerable amount of content on the page. Designs also need to be responsive to the vast array of devices on which they can now be viewed. With many users now viewing the web on portable devices and smart phones, any successful venture must accommodate all of these options.

The final detail to consider is visibility. For any property website to reach its target audience, it needs to be linked into the major property portals, such as Rightmove, Zoopla or PrimeLocation. The site also needs to be indexed with the major search engines, particularly with Google, and to benefit from an ongoing SEO strategy to ensure it continues to be visible in search results. Supportive marketing strategies delivered through Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and YouTube will also serve to enhance the reach of the site.