Nowadays, we’re all used to paying for subscription services. Netflix, Spotify, Apple TV+, vehicle lease payments, the list goes on. We all have monthly payments for things we use in our lives.
As an agent, if you’re paying into a monthly subscription model for your website (not additional services), on a closed platform that’s proprietary to the company you bought it from, it means that you’re renting your website; you don’t really own it.
The renting model for real estate websites is really common, and a lot of agents don’t think twice about it. That said, owning your own website is vastly superior to renting one.
Why does that matter?
Let’s breakdown the rental versus buyer models:
- A rental model (usually called: SAAS – Software as a Service) is when you pay an up-front fee, followed by a continual monthly fee to keep everything up to date. The monthly fee isn’t optional because you’re using their infrastructure (more on that below). In most cases, the website you get in this model is also usually template-based.
- A purchase model is where you also pay a fee upfront, but you won’t pay monthly fees (other than hosting), and you have full control over everything surrounding your digital strategy. However, you’ll likely need to pay your developer whenever you want to make major changes to the website.
When you purchase a website, rather than renting it, you’re most likely going to be in a non-proprietary system. This means that the company that builds your website doesn’t own anything once the website is built.
There are a lot of reasons why this is better for you, but the main one is that if you no longer enjoy working with your current company, you can easily assess your options and move on in a pain-free way.
How reliant are you on your provider?
If you’re using a third-party, SAAS provider, then you don’t own your website. This makes you completely reliant on the company that’s providing you the service.
If the company decides to sell or pivot their business model, you could be left with no website at all. Can that really happen, though? You bet. A couple of years ago, when Lone Wolf’s website was sold, a lot of agents were left with nothing and many ended up with no website at all.
Even though the company that purchased it did reach out with a transition plan, many agents didn’t know about it or take it seriously. Eventually, their websites went offline, and they were left scrambling to figure out a solution (I spoke to a lot of them at this time).
In this same kind of scenario, a new company could also go ahead and raise their prices or change their terms without warning. If you don’t like it, too bad. Once you’re locked into their system, it becomes incredibly difficult to leave.
On the other hand, if you’re in a purchase model you own the website and everything within it. You aren’t reliant on anyone.
Even if the website developer you’re working with decided to change industries and is no longer building websites, you could quite easily have another developer pick things up for you.
Should you build out your digital strategy?
As part of the rental model, it also doesn’t even make much sense to invest heavily in your overall content and SEO strategy.
That’s because if you do decide to leave, a lot of your strategy will be left behind.
Even worse, some of the SAAS companies make it difficult, or impossible, to export your data and content and move it elsewhere, or at least, not without a lot of difficulties and headaches.
There’s also more to moving your website than just exporting content. You’ll need to keep track of all the URLs, move the images, and ask a whole bunch of questions to be able to move everything over to a new system. In a lot of cases, if you leave, you’ll be starting your strategy over again.
In a purchase model, it makes a lot of sense to continually invest in your overall strategy because your website isn’t going anywhere. You can continually post new content, add new listings, invest in SEO, and build out your overall digital strategy without any worries that one day you’ll need to move it all.
The purchase model is more sustainable because, ultimately, it is more reliable. You can really take the time and invest in content or SEO, without having to worry whether or not your website will simply disappear or you will have to engage with it on different terms (or at a higher price).
Should you be reliant on their backend tools and systems?
Many agents go with SAAS companies because of fancy CRMs and lead-management systems built directly into their backend. Is that the right way to go?
It all depends. If you plan to stay until the end of time, then that could work. If you ever plan on leaving, though, or even considering your options, it will not be simple.
Not only would you be moving your website, but you’ll also be moving your:
- Entire CRM
- Email drip campaigns
- Lead management process
- Whatever else is baked into their platform
In the beginning, it might seem incredibly convenient. As time goes on, though, you’ll discover that it keeps you locked into their system. That’s essentially the point of the service altogether.
Within a purchase model, there likely aren’t any CRMs or drip campaigns built into the platform; likely, your website is just tied into your CRMs and additional software via an API.
That’s much better for you in the long run because it makes you less reliant on software that you don’t have any control over.
Do You Want to Rent or Own?
Much like an agent would tell their clients that renting is like ‘throwing your money away’, the same thing applies to renting your website versus buying it outright.
At Artifakt Digital, we rely on building websites that are just as unique as our clients. That involves handing them the reigns when everything is complete so that they can take their digital strategy in a direction that suits them — without feeling tied to anything at all.
When it comes down to it, it should be your decision which model works best for you and your business. It’s important to know the differences, though, between renting a solution or owning one. That way, you can make the most informed decision possible for your needs.