Having a nice looking, user friendly website is great useful. However, don't expect it to generate loads of quality leads. Standard real estate websites simply provide a page to drive our perspective clients and leads to. It should be connected with an IDX so that these prospects can search the MLS direclty through your site. You can typically set up a nice looking, operational website fairly inexpensively. And some brokerages even offer a website when you hang your license with them.
Here's the real skinny... There's been a lot of buzz surrounding the effectiveness of a real estate blog in gaining market recognition and generating leads. If you don't know what a blog is (I don't mean to insult your internet savvy-ness in any way), it is a web log of your own periodic posts, the more often you post quality content the better. And quality content can be FUN non-real estate related as well. After you have a well established blog (a lot of consecutive posts) it will organically come up in google searches much higher than traditional websites. Why?? Because of the depth of verbage in the postings and the constant additions to the site (makes the site look very recent, which search engines apparently love).
I would suggest doing some research in setting up a blog. These are some example real estate blogs that I was told to check out when I was investigating:
Also http://www.realestatetomato.com is a great resource. They can totally set up a blog for you but its expensive. They do give a lot of free info on their website though.
I hope this helps... happy blogging!
As far as investing $5,000-$10,000 for a great site, you will stand out from most every other agent because of the quality if it is done right....but choose your designer carefully. We've had lots of different websites over the years that are very effective, and the best thing you can do is to do real estate searches in different parts of the country to see what sites you like the best. Then contact some of the companies at the bottom of those sites, because they are the ones who designed them. You can generally look through their portfolios online, and give them a call to talk over their costs.
The real estate business hasn't really changed that much overall: buyers and sellers still like to deal with individuals instead of companies, and having and individual site is critical in this day and age.
It call comes down to marketing, lead generating and conversion ratio. Having been in the business for a few years, I could tell you that those key elements are what made my website succesful and worth the money spent. Beware that you can begin to just "Throw" money at your site. Throwing money at your site is not always the answer, driving traffic, providing good information and converting the lead into a sale is what really counts. If you spend $5000.00 on a website and you convert 1 lead worth 3% commission on a 300K home, you have almost doubled your investment. The trick is how to get to that point without breaking the bank.
We all know Real Estate is a numbers game and that is what your site comes down to. I would personally focus on a smaller number of quality leads as opposed to a huge number of junk leads. I have had experience with both and the junk leads are usually a waste of time.
You also have to continue improving your web site and make changes according to the changing market trends. As long as you have results you must keep working on it. Continue making research of what is avaiable and adapt to your client needs, you will definitely succeed on your objectives.
I will talk about this from the perspective of a new Agent- use the least expensive site available and drive the public, Just Mets, your Sphere of Influence and anyone else seeing your marketing, to the site and provide valuable resources for Buyers coming into town, Vendors that you recommend and worthwhile information about the area.
If you are a mid-level producing Agent, it is time to use one of the many web services that specialize in raising your ranking and that you "pay-per-click" to get potential Clients. Monitor the source of business over a 6 month period to decide whether or not to continue using that perticular web-service. Don't throw any more money at a website and never track the success, than you would toss it out the window as you drive down the road!
If you are at a stage in your business- $6M or above, consider leveraging your business with hiring a Webmaster to raise your ranking and utilize their other webdesign talents, as a valueble member of your Team. The more talent you hire, the greater the potential to break through your current ceiling.