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How to build a real estate web platform: core features

14.05.2024
Read time: 13 minutes
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Although an increasing number of real estate platforms are developing mobile applications, maintaining a web presence remains crucial. According to data from the National Association of Realtors (NAR), over 90 percent of real estate firms have websites. Given the gravity of buying and selling properties, individuals don’t rely solely on mobile apps for these significant decisions.

Many opt to use their laptops for thorough property searches. NAR statistics reveal that 95 percent of all homebuyers conduct their searches online. This online search capability facilitates easy comparison of homes and allows buyers to pinpoint specific features they desire. To leave a strong first impression, a real estate web platform should function seamlessly and cater to the needs of agents, brokers, home sellers, and buyers alike.

How to Build the Real Estate platform

What are the potential sources of property listing data for a real estate platform?

A real estate platform can secure a continuous stream of property listing data through three primary methods. The first method is primarily relevant to the US market, while the other two are applicable to any market.

1. Pulling data from MLSs

In the United States, Multiple Listing Services (MLSs) are prevalent, supported by the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) with technological infrastructure ensuring data interoperability among MLS systems. As of 2020, there were 597 MLSs operating across the country. Brokers participating in an MLS agree to share their property listings with other participants within the MLS network.

MLSs typically utilize the RESO Web API standard to disseminate data to their participants and technology partners. This allows real estate portals such as Zillow, Redfin, and Realtor.com to display MLS listings on their platforms.

In contrast, MLS property technology is less advanced in other countries beyond the US and Canada. While some European countries like Germany, Spain, Italy, and the United Kingdom have forms of MLSs, the absence of comprehensive regulations concerning real estate transactions hampers their development. Consequently, variations in software systems among real estate agencies pose challenges to data sharing.

Create to Real Estate web platform

How can your platform pull data from an MLS?

To access data from an MLS, your platform can utilize the MLS's web APIs, through which the MLS shares data with participating brokers or technology partners. Trulia and Zillow obtain access to local MLSs by negotiating data sharing and syndication agreements. Conversely, Redfin, operating as a brokerage, can freely utilize data available through its membership in the Realtors MLS without such complexities.

In comparison, it appears that Zillow opts for a more challenging route. Instead of negotiating agreements, it could establish itself as a brokerage and directly pull data from an MLS. However, transitioning to a brokerage status entails significant legal obligations for a company, including the need to engage in sales by representing buyers and sellers within the MLS. This would require employing agents and managing them nationwide, adding considerable complexity.

  • Internet Data Exchange

In the United States, adherence to specific regulations set by the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) is mandatory for public property details, and compliance with the IDX (Internet Data Exchange) policy is essential. To facilitate the exchange of data between an MLS database and your website, integration of IDX is necessary.

IDX encompasses a framework of standards, regulations, and technologies designed to monitor the flow of real estate data from an MLS to your platform. It governs the manner in which your platform accesses MLS data and how this information is publicly presented.

  • Methods of receiving MLS data

Depending on the MLS you're retrieving data from, your platform can employ various methods, including iFrame, FTP, and RETS.

The most contemporary approach is leveraging the RESO Web API, which is increasingly adopted by agents and MLSs. This standardizes the movement of listings and can significantly reduce local hosting and security expenses. When combined with the RESO Data Dictionary, the RESO Web API ensures the uniform structure of property listings.

Additionally, there are third-party services offering APIs that streamline data flows from MLSs. Examples include SimplyRets, ATTOM Property API, and Mashvisor API.

2. Promoting the Publication of Properties by Agents, Brokers, and Landlords

Zillow effectively attracts real estate agents and brokers to their website. Their approach to enticing landlords involves offering a convenient tool for managing all listings in one centralized location. Encouraging real estate professionals to share properties with your platform is also greatly influenced by how effectively you assist them in promoting their services.

In the development of real estate platforms, there's a common practice of implementing optimized media services. This ensures that the platform can efficiently handle the simultaneous uploading of up to 50 images per listing, each up to 20 MB in size. Such advanced technical capabilities enable agents to showcase properties in detail to potential buyers. Tools like AWS Lambda can be utilized to optimize media services.

The array of benefits your platform offers to real estate professionals is extensive and requires thorough marketing research. Each successful real estate website employs its own unique strategies. For example, Rightmove, the leading real estate platform in the UK, provides agents with exclusive member benefits such as marketing and communication tools, reports, and a telephone lead service to ensure they never miss out on leads' inquiries.

3. Promoting Property Publication by Homeowners

Zillow offers FSBO (For Sale By Owner) listings, empowering homeowners to list their properties independently without the need for professional agents. Homeowners can register on the platform and directly post their listings, which undergo verification. If compliant with Zillow's guidelines, these listings are published.

On the other hand, Redfin sources information on FSBO listings from Fizber.com and FSBO.com but doesn't permit direct posting of FSBO listings on their website. Given that Redfin primarily relies on MLSs for data, if a listing is posted both on an MLS and as an FSBO, only the MLS listing is displayed on their website. Realtor.com is cautious about FSBO listings and doesn't allow homeowners to post them on their platform.

Interestingly, properties on Zillow may not always have a "for sale" label. Homeowners can specify a price at which they'd be willing to sell their property without formally listing it for sale. This type of listing, known as "Make Me Move," allows homeowners to gauge interest from potential buyers and even receive unexpected offers. FSBO represents a promising opportunity for emerging real estate businesses in both the US and Europe.

It's crucial to note that consumers often find it frustrating to encounter numerous listings for the same property on real estate platforms. Therefore, minimizing property duplication on your platform is essential to enhance user experience.

More core features of real estate web platforms

Developing a real estate web platform goes beyond merely listing available properties. To attract users, it must offer distinct value propositions. We conducted an analysis of the five most popular real estate platforms in the US and the UK: Zillow, Trulia, Realtor.com, Rightmove, and Zoopla. These platforms share common core features:

  1. Registration
  2. Search filters
  3. Maps
  4. Favorites
  5. Payments
  6. Messaging
  7. Calendar

A commercial real estate platform caters to agents, home buyers, and home sellers, presenting a challenge in satisfying all three groups. Prioritizing features requires understanding the diverse needs of these users. What matters most to home buyers and sellers? How can the platform serve the needs of real estate professionals? Emphasizing user experience across these three primary user groups is essential for success. Let's begin with the initial step users will encounter on your platform - registration.

Real Estate Website Development

What to focus on when creating a real estate platform

During the development of a real estate website, several common challenges need to be addressed. Here, we explore some of the most prevalent issues faced by real estate platforms:

Website speed:

A crucial factor in encouraging users to spend more time on your platform and return is ensuring fast website performance. Listings should load swiftly, and high-resolution photos should also load quickly. Studies show that the maximum acceptable load time for a webpage is three seconds. Exceeding this threshold puts you at risk of losing potential clients.

Site speed directly impacts traffic and user engagement. Longer loading times correlate with reduced time spent on the page on average. Therefore, it's imperative to take steps to optimize the speed of your real estate website.

  1. Optimizing images is a vital step in speeding up your website, especially for real estate platforms abundant in photos. While maintaining image resolution is crucial for showcasing properties effectively, you can preserve quality while reducing file size through compression.
  2. Carefully select your backend programming language and framework to optimize resource usage. Minimize the utilization of JavaScript, HTML, and CSS files, as they tend to load slowly. Approximately 80 percent of end-user response time is attributed to downloading images, stylesheets, scripts, Flash content, etc. To enhance page rendering speed, reduce the complexity and quantity of HTTP requests. One effective method is simplifying page design, although this can be challenging for content-rich real estate platforms. Alternatively, consider consolidating multiple CSS and JavaScript files into single files to reduce HTTP requests. Additionally, minify JavaScript, HTML, and CSS by eliminating unnecessary line breaks, extra spaces, and comments.
  3. As traffic volume increases, it's crucial to configure your web server appropriately to handle the load. An experienced software development company often implements a Content Delivery Network (CDN) to mitigate issues associated with unexpected surges in traffic. A CDN comprises geographically dispersed servers that accelerate the loading of static content like photos, CSS files, and JavaScript files. By connecting users to the nearest server, a CDN ensures that static content is retrieved from the closest source, thereby minimizing data travel distances and improving website speed. Limit the number of plugins on your website. While plugins offer functionality and enhance user experience, an excessive number can significantly impact website speed and even lead to crashes. Prioritize essential plugins and remove unnecessary ones to optimize site performance.

Web Platform to Real Estate Website

Responsive Website

A responsive website ensures that users enjoy a seamless experience across various devices, including desktops, smartphones, and tablets. It enables platform data to be accessed effortlessly regardless of the device used. However, there are several additional reasons why responsiveness is crucial.
Firstly, it helps boost lead generation by ensuring that mobile and tablet users can easily access your real estate platform.
Moreover, Google favors responsive websites and strongly recommends responsive design. With all pages having the same URL, indexing and crawling become simpler. Alternatively, another strategy to engage mobile users is by developing a standalone mobile app.

Creating a successful real estate website involves more than just designing an exceptional listings feed; it also entails fostering a community on your platform. Focus on offering essential services that users typically utilize when buying, selling, or renting properties. Strive to provide a comprehensive range of services, eliminating the need for users to navigate away from your platform to find additional real estate-related information. Select a real estate web app development company carefully, ensuring they possess the capability to address all potential challenges your platform may encounter.

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