I have conversations with clients all the time that begin with “my friend/son/son’s friend designed my website and I like the look of the homepage but I don’t like the way it works with the MLS data and the navigation.” This is a common problem for Realtors® because the specific requirements of real estate data mean that being a good web designer does not mean that someone can build a good real estate website.
If you go to a general web developer and ask them to build you a Real Estate website, what they will do is build you a nice looking website and then “frame in” an IDX feed. (For more information on how this works please have a look at our past blog post about Integrating Real Estate Technology Into Your Website) In short, “framing in” MLS information means taking another website and making it look like it is part of yours. The most fundamental problem with framing in MLS information is that all of the “framed” information is invisible to search engines, and if building your real estate business is important, then one of your main priorities HAS to be building up your visibility in search engines. If you are building a Real Estate web site and there is no real estate information actually built directly into your site, chances are your site will not get much traction with Google, and you will just end up with a good looking customer service brochure for clients you’re already working with. And, that’s not why you’re building a website, is it?
But, it’s not just the search engines that matter; your website also needs to work for people and on the human side, framed MLS information is also damaging. Not only is it harder to maintain branding using a framed IDX solution, since you will have to maintain your website and your IDX, but it also limits your ability to add value to the property information (ex. not allowing you to call out specific properties in a school district or near a body of water). In short, it does not allow you to feature your knowledge of the market area and intersect it with property listings. Featuring framed MLS information on your website is like buying a car without a stereo and putting a boom box in the passenger seat. You have all of the pieces and it sort of does what you want but it is not going to impress anyone.
The IDX issue is just the first problem in a list of many. Lack of ongoing support unfamiliarity with the real estate market and a host of other problems can arise from working with a freelance web designer. Any perceived flexibility that you gain from working with a freelancer is far outweighed by the benefits of working with an established business with experience in the online real estate world.
The moral of the story is that no matter how great your Friend/Friend’s Son/Son’s Friend or Son is they are not the best choice to help you build an effective real estate web presence.