If you’re a real estate agent, and you’re thinking about getting a new, strategic website for your real estate business, you’re likely going to shop around and interview a few different real estate website development companies (and you certainly should), but with a ton of companies out there, how do you choose? And what do you ask them to make sure you’re making an informed decision and getting the results you want?
When you’re interviewing companies, in my opinion, here are some of the questions you should ask before you hire them, as well as what their answers should be:
1 – How much of your business is real estate versus other industries?
A – You should work with a website development company that specializes in real estate. After all, real estate is a complex business, and the more the company you’re working with understands the business up front, the less research they’ll need to do, the better the recommendations are that they can provide you, and the better the result will be.
2 – Who owns the website once it launches?
A – A lot of companies actually retain some form of ownership over the end product, which can make it hard to leave or change providers later. You should own everything. If you don’t own anything, then you’re basically stuck with them, and it will be extremely hard, if not impossible, to leave if they raise their fees, if they aren’t delivering what they promised, or if you’re generally unhappy working with them.
3. Is the platform you’re developing on open or closed/proprietary?
A – A lot of templated website companies build websites on their own closed platforms, and while that may seem fine at the beginning, it could give you a lot of headaches later. If you’ve been with the company for years, and you’ve put a ton of time into writing blog posts, adding new pages, running advertising campaigns, and fine-tuning all aspects of your website, and you decide you want to leave, it won’t be easy, and may even be impossible. In some cases, you won’t even be able to export the content of the website, so unless you’re planning on a lot of copy/pasting, all of your content will be left behind. An open-source platform an open-source plan, that you ultimately own, will give you much more control over your website, your work, and your business.
4 – What can I expect as part of the process of working with you on a website project.
A – The company you’re working with should have a clear, established process that makes sense, sets clear objectives, goals, and timelines, and works best with the way you work, and if not, you shouldn’t work with them.
5 – What can I change on the website versus what do you have to change?
A – Nothing is worse than being forced to contact a web development company to have simple content changes made on the website, especially when they bill you for it. Your website should have a simple, straight-forward way for content to be edited and minor changes made, without you needing to learn how to write complex computer code (after all, hopefully, you’ll be updating content frequently!) Needing to get the company to make more complicated changes is completely normal, but smaller things should be editable by you, and you should be able to generally administer the website on your own without much hassle.
6. How much control do I have over the website we’ll be designing?
A – This is a bit of a trick question because ultimately, you shouldn’t have complete control over what the end product is. After all, if you’re a busy real estate professional, then chances are you know a lot about real estate and not a lot about planning a strategic website. A well-planned website is more than a website that just looks good; what pages exist and why, what content is on those pages, what page flow the user will take, what your workflow is like, how you define the success of the website, etc, are all really important parts of making a successful real estate website. And you should be working with a company that has a strong, experienced team in place that helps make, or guide you through, those decisions. If a company lets you, or worse makes you, do everything, then chances are the end result won’t be successful because you likely don’t know how to make all of those decisions without guidance.
7. If you’re promising a custom website, what exactly does that mean?
A – There are a lot of real estate template companies out there, and almost all of them offer some sort of ‘custom website,’ but what does that really mean? Are they just taking one of their templates and making changes to it to customize what it looks like based on what you ask for? A true custom website involves strategy; it involves taking a deep dive into how your business runs, who your customers are, and what your goals are, and to do that, you need to have a team of people strategize, plan, and build a truly custom product, from scratch, that solves actual problems for you.
8. How many people will I be working with, and what are their roles in the project?
A – If you’re only working with a developer, your website project is set up to fail from the beginning. A successful real estate website project requires multiple people, each with their own area of expertise, to deliver a great end product that represents you and meets the objectives you’ve all set from the beginning. While you certainly need a developer, a developer is not a designer, or a content strategist, or an SEO expert. A successful, well-thought-out real estate website project should have at least 4 to 5 people working on it.
A successful website project requires a lot of questions to be asked up front, by experienced people, so that the company has a deep understanding of your business. If they’re not asking questions, besides what your credit card number is, then you should really rethink working with them.
9 – Can I speak to some of your clients, on the phone, to ask them about their experience working with you?
A – A company that is proud of their work, and has a long list of happy clients will certainly be able to provide you with people that you can call and ask them what experience they had working with you. In fact, when you’re talking to some of their clients, you can probably ask them most of the same questions in this list about the company you’re researching.
10 – If our relationship doesn’t work out, and I want to leave, how easy is it for me to do that?
A – You should be able to leave or change companies, at any time, for any reason, without any notice, and you should be able to take everything that you’ve paid for with you, and any respectable company will let you do just that. There shouldn’t be any barriers to you leaving. For your website, you should simply be able to transfer hosting companies, change passwords, and cut ties completely if you want to.
If a company makes it difficult for you to leave later, you probably shouldn’t be working with them now.
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