Are you master of your domain?
Virtually every realtor has a web site, but they vary greatly in design, content, and COST. There are realtor sites that range from simple electronic brochures, to complex sites with lists of links, volumes of community information, and dynamically updating real estate listings that people can search. The topic of what kind of web site is right for you is enough for a full day seminar and is not something we can cover here. What we WILL cover in this article is the foundation for your web site finding a designer, registering your domain, and setting up hosting.
Step 1 Find A Designer
There are many people who promote themselves as web designers, and it is difficult to sort out the pros from the amateurs. Here are some important questions to ask a prospective real estate web site designer: How many other real estate web sites have you created? Can I see samples of your other real estate work? Can you help me to get my web site found in Google and Yahoo? How much do you charge and do I have to use your hosting? This last question is very important. Most "bargain" designers that target realtors will charge a seemingly low fee such as $495 but will require you to use costly hosting that is often TEN TIMES the price of typical web hosting (see below for more about hosting). It is not unusual for effective real estate web sites to cost $2,000 to $3,000 and up, with ongoing fees for getting you found in search engines.
Step 2 Register Your Domain
As the Internet caught on, it became popular to register "generic" domains like "gaithersburghomes.com" or "buysomerealestate.com". There is NO evidence to suggest that such generic names are helpful in getting you found online. In addition, such names are quite forgettable and do nothing to reinforce YOUR image and brand in the mind of the buyer or seller. The most important thing you have to market is YOU so all of your materials should reinforce your image. The best domain for your site will usually be your name, the name of your team, or something that incorporates your name such as www.andywerner.com or www.soldbysisler.com. Many people use GoDaddy.com for registering domains, but I encourage you to use a company with a simpler system for setting up not only your domain, but also your e-mail addresses and web site such as www.1and1.com. Which leads us to
Step 3 Set Up Your Hosting
There are many hosting options out there and this is not a paid endorsement, but I happen to like 1-and-1 (www.1and1.com), which is one of the largest hosting companies in the world. They give you a lot of value for your money and packages start at less than $5 per month (that's NOT a misprint it really says FIVE dollars per month). Through a single, inexpensive account, you can register domains, set up e-mail addresses, and host your web site. They have great tools to analyze where your web traffic is coming from, and can even help you build a simple, template-driven web site by yourself. There is also a web mail interface for when you are traveling that is not as limited as what is offered by MRIS. Whoever you choose, look for a provider that offers a very comprehensive, all-in-one package for a single monthly fee. Hosts that charge you "a la carte" for e-mail addresses and the amount of web traffic you have should be avoided.