In 2017, a real estate website builder allows Realtors to get a professional looking IDX site up and running in 60 minutes or less. We looked at the most popular options and rising stars and decided to review Placester, Real Geeks, and Zillow. These companies covered the range for agents, teams and small brokerages in terms of price, design, lead capture, and ease of use. Read on for our comparison and review of these three options, as well as our top recommendations.
Best Real Estate Website Builder for New Realtors: Placester
We chose Placester as the best real estate website builder for brand new Realtors because they offer an unbeatable combination of affordable pricing (free for NAR members), attractively designed templates, and basic lead capture.
Best Full Featured Real Estate Websites for Customization and Lead Capture: Real Geeks
We chose Real Geeks as our number one pick for customization and lead capture because their templates are gorgeous, and they offer a dizzying array of lead capture, autoresponders, and lead nurturing options that make Real Geeks an unbeatable option for agents, teams, and brokerages who want a robust online presence.
Real Estate Website Builder Comparison Table: Placester vs Real Geeks vs Zillow
|Free basic site for NAR members|
$120+ per month for full featured site
|Starting at $169 per month full featured site+ CRM (up to 2 agents)|
$500 setup fee
|Free basic site for Zillow Premier Agents|
|Site Design and Features|
|Excellent design, but free version lacks features||Excellent||Good|
|Very basic. Only option is an "email me" button (More options w/ other plans)||Advanced and highly customizable lead capture options||Intermediate:Capture leads using forms or popups.|
|Not with the NAR plan, but included in other plans.||Yes. Includes drip campaigns, autoresponders, etc.||Yes manage leads using basic free integrated CRM|
|Domain Options & Hosting|
|Have to connect a domain from a third-party, hosting included||Free domain included, hosting included||Have to connect a domain from a third-party, hosting included|
|Mobile and SEO Friendliness|
|Ease of Use|
|Phone (M-F 9-5 EST), email, and customer support portal||Email and phone 8 am CST - 11 pm CST, 7 days a week||Live chat, email, and self-help forums|
Best Real Estate Website Builder for New Realtors: Placester
We chose Placester as our number one choice for IDX websites (websites that pull in listings from your MLS) for new Realtors for three primary reasons. They offer the best bang for your buck (it’s hard to argue with FREE!), their templates are gorgeous, and they’re great for brand new Realtors who don’t yet have enough reviews to become Zillow Premier Agents.
NAR Realtor Benefits Program Makes Placester’s Sites the Best Value
By joining NAR’s member benefits program, Placester is able to offer Realtors attractive, functional, IDX enabled websites for less than the price of a cup of coffee every month. Actually, Placester’s websites for NAR members are the same price as thinking about a cup of coffee…they’re free for NAR members.
Design Matters: Placester’s Templates Are Sleek, Minimal, & Lovely
Let’s face it, people make split second judgments of brand quality all the time.
Luckily, Placester has put a lot of time, effort, and money into the design and layout of their templates. Font choices, icons, and most importantly layouts look polished, professional and on par with the latest design trends. The NAR exclusive “Chicago” template is especially nice. In fact, the design quality is pretty close to other realtor websites that costs hundreds of dollars per month. If I had one complaint is that since they went from $5 per month to free, the layout is a little less nice at the bottom of the page.
Here’s a quick screenshot of the top section of Placester’s Chicago template. The Layout is clean, attractive and even better, seems designed for conversion. The search box is prominent on the page, followed by testimonials, and a mortgage calculator. Click the image below to check a demo of the template.
Drawbacks: No Blog=Limited SEO & NAR Members only
The biggest drawback to Placester’s free sites is that they don’t give you a blog. For many, a blog is a crucial way to build traffic to the site organically through SEO optimization. If you can’t create content for your own site, then the odds of it ranking in Google are slim to none. You can still drive traffic to your site via PPC advertising (“Pay Per Click” Facebook, Google Adwords etc), but that’s pretty much your only option. The old pricing for these sites was a paltry $5 per month. While the new sites are free, Placester just pulled the only feature that makes it possible to rank on Google.
That said, getting a brand new website to rank on Google in most markets even with a blog is not easy. Even if you’re following real estate SEO best practices, it can take months to rank well enough to see any traffic at all. Not ideal for brand new agents who need great leads yesterday.
For non-NAR members on the other hand, Placester’s pricing is much less attractive. Non NAR members pay a relatively steep $150 per month and up for their sites, which pushes them into Real Geeks territory. For our money, Real Geeks offers more bang for the buck.
Best Full Featured Real Estate Websites for Customization & Lead Capture: Real Geeks
Starting at $169 per month, Real Geeks seems downright indulgent compared to Placester’s free NAR member sites or Zillow sites. That said, their templates are gorgeous, and they offer a dizzying array of lead capture, autoresponders, and lead nurturing options that make Real Geeks an unbeatable option for agents, teams, and brokerages who want a robust online presence.
Advanced Features for Capturing & Nurturing Buyer / Seller Leads
You can set up landing pages for capturing seller leads that offer automatically generated home valuations. You can then drive sellers to your home valuation pages via Real Geeks Facebook advertising tools, Google PPC ad building tools, or building up your page rank with a comprehensive SEO strategy.
SMS autoresponders are also a very cool feature that Real Geeks offers Realtors. Let’s face it, while emails are very easy to ignore, text messages almost demand your lead’s attention. That means much higher levels of engagement and ideally more listing appointments, more buyer clients, and more closed deals.
While Placester also offers a full featured plan that includes a CRM and some features Real Geeks does, we felt that Real Geeks offers a more robust, and more flexible platform. While they’re priced somewhat comparably ($120—$400 per month) Placester doesn’t really offer ways to capture seller leads. If you’re going to delve into Facebook or Google PPC advertising to get seller leads, you need a site to drive them too. This is what makes Real Geeks shine.
Deep Dive: If you want to learn more about more full featured Realtor website options like Real Geeks, check out our in-depth Real Estate Lead Generation Websites buyer’s guide. The article offers a detailed review and comparison of Real Geeks, Zurple, and Boomtown.
Drawbacks: Setup Fees
The only real drawbacks to going with Real Geeks are the setup fees which will run you around $500. While this is not a big deal for teams and brokerages, for an individual agent that $500 setup fee can sting a bit.
Best Free Website Builder for Zillow Premier Agents: Zillow Agent Websites
Let’s face it, free beer, free lunch, free parking, free leads… getting something for free is always a nice feeling. Getting a free IDX enabled website with a blog to build organic search traffic and basic lead capture options is about as good as it gets in our industry. If you’re a Zillow Premier Agent and don’t need a flashy, hip website, then a Zillow site might be all you need. You can build traffic to it by creating content for SEO, educate your leads, keep them there with the IDX feed, and capture their contact info. What else do you really need?
Have you checked out Zillow’s new advertising programs yet? New pricing structure, new chances to get buyer AND seller leads, and with the launch of realestate.com, more leads!!
Drawbacks: Aesthetics & Not Ideal for New Realtors
The only real drawbacks to using a free Zillow site is that they still look dated compared to the offerings from Placester and Real Geeks. That said, at the breakneck speed this space is moving in we expect that Zillow will offer more attractive templates in the near future. Once they do, they’ll go back to being our number one pick.
What To Look For In A Great Real Estate Website
The idea that your online presence is akin to a digital business card or brochure is still sadly pretty common among Realtors. They spend tons of money for a site, then just sit back and expect the leads to start pouring in. These days, nothing could be further from the truth. A “static” brochure-like website is about as useful for lead generation as being listed in the phone book.
Here’s the highlight reel of what every Realtor needs in a website in 2017. All the sites we reviewed for this article and all the sites listed below hit these marks, except for Placester’s free version for NAR members.
IDX Listings Feed
IDX listing feeds mean that your website can have every single listing on your MLS. That means that your leads can search for homes on your site and still not miss any great listings. More than anything else, buyers want to browse listings of homes for sale. Why not let them do it on your site instead of Zillow? Start a free trial of Diverse Solutions’ Mapping IDX today to see how installing this simple mapping plugin can capture the attention of visitors to your site. You can also click here to try an interactive demo.
Modern Responsive Design
In digital marketing speak, responsive just means that you site will look just as great on mobile devices as it does on a desktop. Considering that close to 52% of all buyers use a mobile device for their home search, responsiveness is crucial for any real estate website.
Just as importantly, your site needs to look fresh, up to date, and attractive. With websites ranging from free to a few dollars per month there is simply no excuse for a clunky, dated looking website.
Lead Capture Forms
Lead capture forms are the text boxes on websites where your leads can enter their contact information in order to get a response from you. The days of hunting around for an email address or phone number on the “about us” page are over. People want to get in touch quickly. They’re also more likely to do so if you have well placed lead capture forms.
A Way To Generate Unique Content For SEO
If you want a snowball’s chance of getting leads to actually come to your website, you need to be able to create content on a regular basis. This will make search engine pay attention to your site and make you rank higher in the search results.This was the one feature we wish Placester’s free sites offered.
In-Depth Review: Placester vs. Real Geeks vs. Zillow
In just a few short years, IDX enabled (websites that get a feed of listings from your MLS) Realtor websites have gone from a rare and expensive perk for top producers, to an affordable necessity for every new agent. The fact that these sites have come down so dramatically in price so quickly is proof positive that market competition in the tech industry for our money = great deals for Realtors. Without spending a dime you can get a website that would have cost thousands even a few years ago. Here’s a quick rundown of how pricing works for Placester, Real Geeks, and Zillow:
Real Estate Website Builder Price Comparison
|Placester||NAR agents: |
$150 per month ($120/mo w/ yearly subscription)
$150 per month ($120/mo w/ yearly subscription)
$400 per month ($320/mo w/ yearly subscription)
|Real Geeks||1-2 Agents:|
$500 setup fee
|$169 per month
$199 per month
$239 per month
|Zillow||Free for Zillow Premier Agents|
Deep Dive: We love these options for a quick, out-of-the-box solution to setting up a personal website… but what if you want to customize every inch of your site? For that, we recommend setting up a WordPress site with an IDX. Click here to see an interactive demo of Diverse Solutions’ Mapping IDX.
Design Quality & Features
Along with IDX and mobile responsiveness, an attractive, well designed website is no longer optional for Realtors. Here’s how the four companies stacked up in terms of design and features.
Next to Real Geeks, Placester had the most well designed templates. They have around a dozen different templates to choose from, most being competent looking. However, NAR members who want to take advantage of the free site are limited to the NAR exclusive Chicago template. Luckily, it’s a sleek, well designed template that should work for most people.
As far as features go, Placester sites for NAR members offer Google map previews, a map showing the closest schools with school grades, and advanced search options. There’s also a blog style testimonials page, and several side scrollers on the site. What you won’t get is a blog to help drive traffic to your site, and any decent lead capture options besides a pretty antiquated “email me” button.
Real Geeks sites look great, and are very customizable to boot. That means the “bones” of your site might look like another Real Geeks member’s, but you can add widgets, lead capture, landing pages, seller lead gen and more.
Real Geeks offers an amazing variety of features and options for their websites. You get all the standard stuff, but can also fully customize lead capture forms, generate seller leads, create landing pages, and set up autoresponders and SMS autoresponders from their CRM.
Zillow’s agent websites on the other hand look dated in comparison. Layouts are slightly awkward, and design details are a bit lacking. Not the end of the world, but when you’re trying to build a brand design matters.
As far as features go, Zillow sites also offer Google map previews, a list of nearby schools, and advanced search options. There’s also a blog and testimonials page. They also offer a “Premier Lenders” widget that highlights a lender you’re partnered with on Zillow, and active lead capture that requires people to sign up after viewing a certain amount of listings.
One nice thing about Zillow’s sites is that the testimonials link out to your Zillow reviews page. That makes getting your former clients to leave you great Zillow reviews easy.
Once you get someone to your site, you’re going to need a way to get their contact information. In 2017 that means lead capture forms and popups. Here’s how the four companies handle lead capture.
Free CRM Offered?
While there are a lot of great CRM options on the market today, getting one for free can be nice. Here’s how the four companies deal with CRM.
Want to learn more about the best real estate CRM? Check out our buyer’s guide comparing Contactually, REthink, and Top Producer.
Deep Dive: If you want to learn more about real estate CRM’s check out our in-depth buyer’s guide comparing Contactually, Top Producer and REthink. We also have a new how to guide on Relationship Marketing, which will teach you the theory behind leveraging your relationships to get more referrals and close more deals.
Domain Options & Hosting
If you want your website to have a chance at ranking on Google, you’re going to need two things; your own domain name, and a web host that serves up your page quickly on desktop and mobile. Here’s how the three companies stacked up in terms of domain options and hosting.
Deep Dive: Want to learn how professionals pick the right domain name in 2017? Check out our guide Real Estate Domain Names 2017: How to Pick the Best One.
Mobile & SEO Friendliness
Since so many buyers and sellers will be accessing your site via mobile devices, your site needs to be mobile friendly. In the web design industry, this is know as being “responsive”. In other words, when your site detects a user is visiting the website, it serves them a fast loading, easy to use mobile version of your site.
In order to test responsiveness, we used Google’s mobile website speed test tool which ranks sites responsiveness with a score from 1-100. All sites scored very well for mobile responsiveness.
As far as SEO goes, most agents think that just putting up a site with a few well placed keywords will be enough to get on the front page of google. In reality, nothing could be further from the truth. Ranking on google takes a lot of time, effort, and sometimes money. You need to continually create new content in order to rank on Google. Here’s how the three companies stacked up in terms of mobile and SEO friendliness.
Deep Dive: If you want to learn more about ranking your site on Google, check out our in-depth Real Estate SEO Guide 2017+ 25 Actionable Tips from The Pros
Ease of Use
Placester can be set up pretty quickly. Their templates are pretty thorough, and there is a lot of pre-populated structure that makes the setup process pretty smooth. You are basically just editing your logo, name, mls listing content/integration, colors, fonts, etc. You can also choose which search forms to use, from basic to advanced. Although the themes look similar to each other, they are all pretty decent. Once your website is built, managing content, leads, etc. is pretty intuitive. The dashboard is laid out nicely and there are lots of tutorials to help if you get stuck.
The only real drawback with the NAR plan is that the sites aren’t that customizable and don’t offer a blog. You can change copy and add pictures and even videos to your about page, but you can’t create landing pages, edit pages substantially, build traffic with a blog, or create new pages. Lead capture is also pretty antiquated. The only lead capture option anywhere on the site is an “email me” button. Not the end of the world, but unless they offer it in their email, you won’t even get your leads basic contact information.
When you bump up to the full featured sites starting at $120 per month for Realtors, you open up a whole world of editing possibilities as well as much more robust lead capture and CRM options. As you might imagine this means a steeper learning curve.
Real Geeks is also very intuitive and easy to use, but since they offer much more complexity with their sites and CRM, the learning curve is understandably steeper.
Zillow is a piece of cake to use. You can see the tabs down the left hand side of the screen. That’s how you change info on your site. Want to add a post? Simply select the “Posts” tab and click “Add new.”
Zillow basically has everything set up for you, including over 30 real estate specific widgets that can be added in seconds to any page (calculators, listings, search, etc).
The point is that you can have a real estate website set up in 30 minutes or less with little-to-no hassle. And if you need to edit info or want to change your template, you can do that at any time with little-to-no hassle.
While all three sites have pretty extensive training and setup instructions, if you do get stuck with something, knowing you can reach out to customer service is nice. Here’s how the three companies stacked up for customer service.
All Real Estate Website Builder Options
|Real Estate Website Builder||Best For|
|Placester||Affordability for NAR members, attractive templates. Full featured sites have more features.|
|Real Geeks||Customizability, CRM, lead capture, landing pages, facebook ads, and text autoresponders +other features.|
|Zillow||Basic websites totally free for Zillow Premier Agents|
|BoomTown||Amazing CRM and great looking templates|
|PipelineROI||Attractive Real estate websites and lead nurturing plans for $69 per month.|
(learn how here)
|Agents that don’t want to pay monthly fees for a real estate website
The only true 100% customizable option that can expand with your business for free.
|Web4realty||Affordable drag and drop real estate website builder.|
|Easy Agent Pro||Advanced lead capture and lots of toys to engage leads.|
|Agent Image||High end sites with high end price tags.|
|Chime||The new kid on the block that promises an “all in one” real estate platform.|
|Agent Evolution||Turnkey IDX sites as well as WordPress templates.|
The Bottom Line: Best Real Estate Website Builder
Due to intense competition in this space you can get a pretty decent website from Placester or Zillow for free. While it won’t be as advanced as some, it’s a great place for new agents to start building their online presence.