We love beautiful web design. After all, it’s what our WebChoice designers do for a living. To stay ahead of the competition, we’re always looking out for real estate websites that inspire, awe and (occasionally) entertain us.
This is what we’ve seen so far this year.
1. Smarter mobile websites
As of March 26 this year, Google started indexing websites on a mobile-first basis. This means that sites are starting to be mapped from the mobile version—not the desktop site. At this stage, just a select ‘first wave’ of websites are being indexed this way. But if the last 10 years are anything to go by, it’s a mere matter of time before real estate websites are, too.
It’s not just Google that’s driving the prioritisation of mobile optimisation. According to ComScore, around 70% of digital media consumption is via our mobile phones. In other words, a potential client or tenant is significantly more likely to see an agency’s mobile site before their (probably nicer) desktop version.
Some agencies are using this trend to differentiate themselves from the pack. Knight Frank, for example, solves some of the standard design woes faced by real estate websites. Its mobile site incorporates a simple map of Australia, allowing visitors to search by area in a single tap. Shortcuts like these power a visitor’s journey through their site, helping them find what they’re looking for faster.
Site like Realestate.com.au, meanwhile, have opted for a style of mobile design that provides a progressive disclosure of options for users. They funnel visitors through their websites depending on what kind of action they intend to take (buy, sell, rent etc.) By helping them find what they want more easily, they’re less likely to leave. They’re probably more likely to give you their business, too.
2. More properties on the (same) map
We’ve all seen those property listings that conclude with a lone pin stuck into the centre of a map. But what you may not have seen yet are real estate websites where search results are collated as a cluster of pins on a single map. In other words, all your rental property results can be viewed relative to each other, in the same page. Hmm, where have we seen that before?
Airbnb of course. And that’s the idea, too. Features like these are what sets Airbnb apart from its competitors. Because accommodation decisions are so heavily based on location, giving customers the option to search using mapped property results is an ideal way to reduce the amount of homework involved in making that decision.
And making it easier for a prospective customer to do something on your website does the same thing. Since real estate decisions are also heavily influenced by locations, giving prospective renters and buyers the same kind of search options is a smart way to keep them on your site for longer, and raise your chances of sealing the deal. In the next 12 months, watch out as elite real estate agencies streak ahead with more sophisticated map integrations.
Psst! If you’re a WebChoice customer, we’ve already integrated this feature into your site—so check it out.
3. Video is still king
Our brains are wired for videos. According to Wirebuzz, viewers retain 95% more of a message when they watch it via video, compared to roughly 10% when read as text. Moreover, social videos generate in the order of 1200% more shares than image and text content combined. But do these shares result in sales? Website service Unbounce thinks they do. They cite studies showing videos on webpages can increase conversions by around 80%.
The message here is that videos continue to be a powerful tool for real estate websites. With so much storytelling required to sell properties (and indeed, your business), video provides a means for passive consumption of content. That’s likely to give you the edge over your more demanding competitors.
Historically, slow adoption of video in real estate was because of the perceived high cost of producing quality content. But videos need not be Logie winners to do well. In this regard, check out creators like Ballarat Real Estate, who have taken a more creative tack. They’ve created lower budget content that is entertaining and insightful in its own right. That means it remains relevant long after the property/ies in question have sold.
There are other creative players in real estate videos, too. If you’ve been living under a rock, check out the viral Zed Nasheet and the shirtless realtor of Barwon Heads to see how real estate videos are becoming content in their own right. But you’ll probably need a strong stomach (or at least serious abs) if you plan to attempt something similar.
That’s not the only way agencies are getting more video bang for their buck. Jellis Craig and Jason Real Estate have integrated video graphics into their homepage. This seamless content instantly connects you to their product, their brand, and their vision. Watch out for more of it in the coming year.
4. Beautiful, relevant graphics
You have less than a second to leave a first impression on your website visitors. And you have less than 60 seconds to help them decide whether they want to stay. The images you use will have a huge influence on whether they make it to the minute mark—or not.
Typically, real estate websites have struggled with two image-related issues. Some agencies use images that are way too big (generally, anything over 200kb). This causes glacially slow page load times. No matter how beautiful that picture of that crisp white kitchen or nearby beach, if the file’s too big, expect it to work against their business. As we’ve written previously, pages that take longer than a second to load can cause your potential clients to give up and leave.
If images aren’t monolithic, they’re often fuzzily, maddeningly pixelated. Nothing makes an agency look more outdated and unprofessional than images that look like they were resized in Microsoft Paint. If this is you, here’s how to get this one right. The tough reality is, if you intend to sell properties for prospective clients, your website should showcase how well you can sell yourself. Blurry pictures do not sell property. And if your agency insists on using pixelated images on its website? Neither will you.
But increasingly, real estate websites are engaging their visitors more, by investing in relevant, high-quality images. Agencies like First National Tweed Heads, Accommodation Wanaka and Snowy River Real Estate each use high-quality images that reflect the area they’re part of, that load quickly, and that stop you in your tracks. This is a tactic that pays off. In an instant, they tell us who they are, where they are, and the calibre of agents who work there.
And what’s more? They’ve managed to create something gorgeous and authentic that more than earns its place on the leaderboard.
This is not something you could ever achieve with a stock image of soft furnishings or pretty people drinking coffee in a kitchen. And it’s that originality that’s setting these agencies ahead of the pack.
So what’s next for real estate websites?
Smaller real estate agencies are about to get the edge. In the last 12 months, most of the major franchises have poured a lot of design dollars into their websites, and let’s be honest: the results are glorious. But as website design becomes more specialised, more beautiful, and more affordable, boutique agencies now have the chance to swoop in and take advantage.
In the next 12 months, expect to see more of these budding agencies whose websites have the same kind of design chutzpah as their heavyweight counterparts. There’ll be less stock imagery, better integration with other apps, and they’ll probably have superior mobile sites too.
Look out, Goliath.
If you’re thinking of updating your website, we can help!
WebChoice are creative specialists with more than 25 years of web design experience. We exclusively build real estate websites, so you can ensure we’ll build you a site that’s easy for your clients to use, and gorgeous to look at.