The top choice for many real estate professionals is to use a WordPress IDX website, which connects to the MLS and allows site visitors to search available property listings. It’s ideal for real estate agents looking to generate direct traffic and capture more leads by having their own domain name and website. Though WordPress isn’t the simplest platform to build a website, it is entirely possible to build one on your own without any experience.
Definition: The acronym IDX stands for Internet Data Display and refers to an agreement between brokers that allows information about a listing, as well as photographs of that listing, to be shared across the internet. This then is what allows you, or your clients, to search for properties meeting specific attributes. For more information about this topic, check out our article what is IDX.
Here’s how to build an IDX real estate website with WordPress in 11 steps:
1. Choose the Right CMS for Your Real Estate Website
The first step is to choose the right content management system (CMS) for your real estate website. The CMS is the backbone of any site because it’s the platform on which the site is built and managed. There are a number of great options available, including ultra-easy-to-use site builders like Squarespace and Wix. However, WordPress remains the world’s number one CMS for its vast flexibility and affordability.
WordPress is the CMS we recommend in the real estate industry because of its limitless capabilities. By investing a bit of time, you can create a beautiful IDX-enabled website without any coding experience by using the right tools. There are thousands of compatible plugins to simplify your website build. What’s more, users who do have coding experience can use WordPress to create a totally customized website while still benefiting from the platform’s other user-friendly features.
2. Get Web Hosting
Next, you’ll need to purchase a web hosting plan in order to be live on the web. While it’s possible to build a site before getting web hosting, we recommend choosing a web hosting company before setting up your IDX website. Many hosting plans come with a free domain name (approximately $15 value) plus time-savings such as one-click WordPress installation to make it easy to connect your web hosting and domain to WordPress without any manual configuration.
If you’re not sure which web hosting company to use, we recommend Bluehost, as it’s not only extremely affordable at less than $3 per month, but it also includes one-click WordPress setup, making the process headache-free. Additionally, it includes a ton of extras such as a free domain, free business email, and a free SSL certificate to protect you and visitors to your website, making it a great overall choice.
To get started, go to Bluehost and select a plan from the “WordPress” menu tab. The Basic plan should be sufficient for most real estate IDX websites; you get 50GB of website storage and five business email addresses. For teams or brokers who need more than five email addresses or want additional website space, consider the Plus plan. Keep in mind you can always change plans at any time as your hosting needs change.
3. Register Your Domain Name
Once you select your plan, you’ll be prompted to search for a domain name, which is your web address or URL (e.g., lakesiderealty.com). If you have an existing brand or agent name, choose a domain name that is as close to that real estate agent brand as possible. For agents or brokers without a brand, this is an ideal time to create a domain that makes your agency easy to remember.
Here are the things to think about when picking a domain name for your WordPress IDX website:
- Use a .com if you can: Buyers are familiar with .coms, and using one helps you appear more professional and legitimate. Since the .com is the most popular domain extension, it may be more challenging to find an available .com, but choosing an alternate domain like “.net” for your IDX website can cause you to lose leads. If your first choice isn’t available as a “.com,” it’s worth brainstorming more ideas for IDX real estate domain names.
- Include keywords or identifiers: When selecting a domain name, consider keywords and identifiers, such as your specialty and your location (e.g., lakesideluxuryrealty.com or lakesiderealtymn.com). This can help your real estate website rank on Google and establish your authority in a specific city or neighborhood.
- Avoid using symbols: Because symbols may not be easily pronounceable and are sometimes hard to type on mobile devices, you want to avoid using them—unless, of course, they’re an integral part of your brand.
Once you choose an available domain name, Bluehost will ask you to choose your account plan of either 12, 24, or 36 months and select any add-ons—like domain privacy. Make your final selections, input payment information, and complete your purchase.
4. Connect to WordPress Using the One-click Installation Tool
Next, connect WordPress and your domain to your web host by using the one-click WordPress installation tool. If you purchased your domain through your web host, this step is already complete. Either way, you can continue to WordPress by accessing the one-click WordPress installation tool from your web host’s dashboard. Doing so will then direct you to your WordPress dashboard.
Purchased your domain through a different provider?
Choose your web host from the list below to get a step-by-step guide to one-step WordPress installation:
5. Choose a Real Estate Theme
To build a website on WordPress, you can choose from a number of free or premium themes. While many WordPress themes are generic, some have been built with real estate in mind and are IDX-enabled. Look through the top real estate-specific website themes that we gathered or search for real estate themes in marketplaces like ThemeForest.
Once you choose and purchase a theme that’s suited to your needs, install it and import the demo content to get started.
Consider What You Want in Your WordPress IDX Website
Before you select and download a theme, consider the features necessary for lead generation and optimum user experience. Keep in mind that you want easy navigation, customized searches, and an attractive, uncluttered design. Also, think about the need for social media integration, search engine optimization (SEO) tools, contact forms, and dynamic content widgets like sliders.
Here are some things to consider before selecting your IDX website theme:
- Focus on design elements: Almost every single real estate WordPress theme has gorgeous pictures of attractive homes that showcase listings. More than likely, you will want a website design that allows you to do the same thing—prioritize attractive photos and property walk-throughs over text.
- Make sure it works well on mobile: A mobile-ready website is vital because the majority of your website visitors will be using a smartphone. Whatever your content, make sure all theme plugins, widgets, and sidebars are optimized for mobile devices.
- Don’t be fooled by listing functions: A lot of themes offer attractive real estate widgets—but many are not IDX compatible. For that reason, you should look specifically for themes that work with dsIDXpress, IDX Broker, and iHomefinder.
- Check reviews: If you’re considering a premium theme, always read through user reviews to get a better insight on how well the theme works for other users. This can save you a lot of time—and money—in the long run by helping you to choose the right theme the first time.
- Consider compatibility: Not all WordPress themes are created equally, and so you need to check whether a theme is compatible with both the version of WordPress you’re using and the plugins and tools you plan to use. For example, themes are commonly compatible with certain page builder plugins. Choosing a theme that works with the page builder of your choice will make it a lot easier to build and manage your real estate site.
Purchase & Download Your Theme
Once you make a list of your ideal theme’s functions and features, browse WordPress theme stores to find the best for your real estate brand. Ideally, you’ll find a feature-rich theme that requires minimal customization without the need to install a lot of third-party plugins.
With that in mind, browse the following WordPress theme sites and platforms:
- ThemeForest: ThemeForest offers top-tier WordPress themes for a variety of professional websites. Costs range from $25 to $99, depending on features.
- Template Monster: Second only to ThemeForest, Template Monster is one of the largest suppliers of WordPress themes; themes range from $69 to $98.
- Elegant Themes: Elegant Themes offers a rich database of both WordPress themes and plugins. Yearly access costs $89, or get lifetime access for a one-time fee of $249.
When you find a theme that meets your expectations, add it to your shopping cart and go through the payment process. After payment, the template site will prompt you to download it as a ZIP (archived) file to your computer. It’s recommended that you download your theme to your desktop for easy accessibility.
Install Your Theme
To install your theme, pull up your website dashboard by accessing it via your Bluehost account, or by navigating to www.yourbusiness.com/wp-admin—replacing the dummy domain with your own domain. Log in using your WordPress credentials as provided to you by Bluehost.
Once you access your WordPress dashboard, hover over “Appearance” in the main menu and then select “Themes.” Next, click on “Upload” at the top of the screen and then “Upload Theme.” Install your theme by navigating to the ZIP file of the theme you downloaded. Click “Install Now” and then click “Activate.”
Import Demo Content (for Premium Themes)
A major benefit of using a premium theme is that it should come with demo content. In other words, you can import the demo content and your site will appear fully designed. All you have to do is then customize it with your content. This makes it easier to visualize your end result and determine what you need to edit, so take a few minutes to click around the demo site and take note of your preferences. If your theme offers multiple demos, select the one that looks most like how you want yours to look.
How to import your theme’s demo content will vary by theme. However, for many, you can install the demo content for your WordPress IDX website by navigating to your dashboard, then hovering over “Tools,” and clicking on “Import.” Select “WordPress” at the bottom of the list and upload the XML file containing your theme’s demo content. If you’re having trouble, try installing all required plugins first, as some demo content cannot be imported without activated plugins.
If you’re having trouble finding instructions on how to install demo content, refer to your theme’s documentation. If you don’t find it there, it would be worth reaching out to theme support.
6. Install the IDX Plugin
Shortcut: Dashboard > Plugins > Add New > Upload Plugin > Activate
Even with an IDX-enabled website, you may still need an IDX plugin to display MLS information on your site in real time. Some themes have this functionality built-in, so review your theme’s documentation to confirm whether a plugin is necessary. If IDX capabilities are not included, visit a plugin marketplace like Envato to find one that will display listing information on your site. Learn more by visiting WordPress IDX providers.
After you have found the IDX plugin that you want, download it. Then, to install it, go to “Plugins” from the left-hand menu in the WordPress dashboard and click “Add New.” Next, click on “Upload Plugin,” choose the file you just downloaded, and click “Install Now.” Be sure to activate it on the plugin page as well.
Once you install your IDX plugin, you’ll be able to access it from the WordPress dashboard. When you use the plugin for the first time, you may need to enter an activation key. Next, connect the plugin to your local MLS provider to ensure your site is populated with current listings.
7. Add, Remove & Customize Pages
Shortcut: Pages > Add Pages
Even with an eye-catching theme and an IDX plugin, your website can’t serve your clients until you add and customize pages. To add a new page to your site, navigate to “Pages” from your WordPress dashboard and click on “Add Pages.” Depending on how you want to lay out your site, you’ll also be able to add IDX-enabled elements as widgets or in the text of posts and pages.
For details on how to customize your web pages, refer to this article on how to make a WordPress website, complete with a video tutorial.
Pro tip: If you prefer a drag-and-drop website editor, consider downloading and activating the Elementor Website Builder plugin.
8. Build Navigation & Menus
Shortcut: Appearance > Menus > Select Main Menu from drop-down > Select pages > Add to Menu > Save Menu
After your pages are built, start building out the navigation bar in your header. This section is called your “top bar” and will be instrumental in helping buyers find the content they need. To build the menu in the top bar, go back to your dashboard and click on “Appearance” in the sidebar. Then, click on “Menus.”
To build your top-level menu, select “Main Menu” from the drop-down box. Click “Select.” On the left-hand side of the page is the “Pages” tab; this area shows all of the pages you’ve created for your website. To add a page to your main menu, select it by checking the box next to it, then click on “Add to Menu.” You can drag and drop the pages within the menu to reorder and create subpages. When you’re done, click “Save Menu.”
Edit Page Names (Optional)
By default, WordPress uses the name of the page as the name that shows up in the menu, but you can adjust this by editing the navigation label for each menu item. To edit page names, click the drop-down arrow that corresponds to the page and under “Navigation Label,” type the name you want to display in your menu in the text box.
9. Customize Your Header & Footer
Shortcut: Appearance > Customize > Header
Once you build out your IDX website’s navigation and menus, it’s time to customize the header and footer to reflect your real estate brand. Update your website’s header by hovering over “Appearance” in your WordPress dashboard and then select “Customize” or “Header,” if available. Keep in mind that this will vary depending on your chosen theme. If you’re not able to find how to customize your header, check your theme’s documentation.
Next, edit your footer by hovering over “Appearance,” and then clicking on “Widgets” in the sidebar. As you’ll note, there is at least one tile named “Footer.” If you have more than one, select the first one and expand it. If you have an available widget on the left-hand side called Contact, drag and drop it into the Footer tile, then update with your contact information.
10. Prepare Your Site to Launch & Go Live
After you have made your final edits and tweaks to your new website, navigate around it as if you were your targeted user. Open a browser and type in your domain name. Explore the pages, the forms, and the listings to make sure everything is working properly. Try several different browsers to see if the site displays well on Chrome, Internet Explorer, Firefox, and Safari.
You should also review your site on a mobile device to make sure it’s fully responsive and there are no design or functionality issues. Give your friends or family access to your test website before you publish, and ask them to browse your site and provide feedback about the copy, images, and usability.
When preparing your site for launch, take time to:
- Proofread your website copy
- Click on every link to make sure none are broken
- Create a 404 redirect page
- Confirm that the site is responsive
- Use Yoast SEO to optimize your site for search
- Get an SSL certificate to improve site security (this may be included with your web hosting)
11. Hit Publish
Shortcut: Pages > Publish
When you’re ready for your WordPress IDX website to go live, navigate to each of your site’s pages and click “Publish.” Unless you enter a future publication date (and instead hit “Schedule”), this will cause each individual page to go live immediately. If you’re using a maintenance or coming soon plugin, like WP Maintenance Mode, you’ll need to toggle it off before the website goes live. Once each page is published, enter your URL to make sure everything is visible and loading properly.
After your site has been launched, submit it to be indexed by the Google Search Console. This is also a good time to add your website to your social media profiles on Google My Business, Yelp, Instagram, Facebook, and any real estate-specific sites. You can also ensure potential clients actually see your site by using several website marketing strategies to start generating traffic.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the best website builder for real estate?
If you prefer not to build an IDX-enabled real estate website with a CMS like WordPress, there are a number of easy-to-use real estate website builders for agents and brokers. The best website builder depends on your needs, but top platforms include tools like real estate landing pages, IDX connections, user-friendly website templates, and other lead generation features.
How do I create a free real estate website?
Many hosting sites charge for hosting and added features like an SSL certificate. However, platforms like Wix let real estate professionals create a free website using real estate-specific templates. You won’t be able to choose a custom domain name and loading speeds will be slow. Even so, if you need a totally free real estate website—especially something basic like a single property website—Wix may fit the bill.
How much should I spend on a real estate website?
If you hire a web developer to build a real estate website, it may cost anywhere from a few hundred dollars to several thousands of dollars, depending on the complexity of the site. Luckily, you can build your own real estate website for much less by paying around $3 per month for hosting on Bluehost and using a free website theme and plugins.
As a real estate agent, it’s important to have your own small business website that is also IDX-enabled. This means it can pull current listings from your local MLS. Not only does this help your current clients view properties that fit their needs, it’s a great way to generate new leads that may be ready to buy or sell a new home.
Still, an internet data exchange (IDX) website without reliable hosting can be a waste. To ensure you have an easy-to-use hosting service with one-click WordPress installation, consider Bluehost. It offers web hosting packages starting at $2.95 per month, plus 24/7 customer support and a 30-day, money-back guarantee. Start building your site on Bluehost today.