For the last two decades, an online presence became a vital component of a real estate professional's marketing strategy. Most luxury property realtors have websites to stay current with new technologies, but the results they gain are often less than expected. Why? Because they are not aware of essential factors of an effective luxury real estate website design.
In this article, I am going to highlight 9 key points of an impressive elite real estate website and explain why they matter.
This information will be useful both for those who intend to create a successful website from scratch and for companies already having one. The first ones will understand where to move, the least - where they turned wrong.
Let’s get started.
1. Do not offer a property - Offer a lifestyle
No matter what kind of website you need to build - for elite mansions, middle-class houses, or affordable apartments - it has to inspire customers' confidence and immerse them into how a property will look like in the future.
A luxury real estate buyer has one million of details to try on their lifestyle.
When it comes to an apartment located in a metropolitan city, people are rather interested in an infrastructure: traffic intersection, parking, where to walk a dog, where to walk with a child, and like stuff that. And vice versa: if you offer a private home or luxury housing, people will likely to expect to live at a sufficient distance from the urban bustle, annoying neighbors, and the eyes of curious passers-by.
When choosing middle-class homes, people tend to pay attention to such things as a distance to their office, nearest school, kindergarten, shops, and so on. They generally have more demands on the infrastructure and conveniences and less - to privacy and accordance of their new homes to their lifestyle.
But when it comes to high-end property, it should be sold as a part of the lifestyle. People looking for such apartments do not care much about nearby subway stations, supermarkets, or hospitals - they have private drivers, doctors, and housekeepers. All basic needs of such clients are already satisfied, and to find a place to live for them is not a state of emergency. What they really care about is a comfort, exclusivity, and privacy.
Find advantages of a building and sell it through your website. In short, if they are thinking about a house changing, there should be something to attract their attention. It may be, for example, famous neighbors, nearby Michelin-starred restaurants, ultimate privacy, picturesque location - everything that ensures they will be surrounded by people of “their level.” And it works both for wealthy buyers, representatives of high society, and those who wish to enter this world of waterfronts, golf, expensive cars, and monitored security system. Moreover, the least will likely to be the first to buy such a prestigious apartment.
So a luxury real estate needs to be offered as a ticket to a VIP club of happy people. That is why it is admissible on such websites to present those trifles which are usually ignored in the middle-class real estate business: an exclusive facade, solar panels, reclaimed materials - all those things pointing on a high level of a housing. I call them irrational because they are meaningless in a budget segment.
2. Cheap renders fear people away
Well-designed 3D renders are the biggest investment and, at the same time, a minimal requirement of any respectable luxury property website.
This applies for both luxury and economy class real estate. People always want to buy the best for less money. So, even building a website for deluxe apartments, use only quality renders to demonstrate higher class. Thus, you allegedly offer a business class of the price of a middle one.
Well-designed animations and spatial processions put together with 3D rendering software such as 3D Studio Max, VRAY, Maxwell. Various platforms like Easy Render give designers an opportunity to create an experience of living in an apartment before the wall paint dries and doors are opened.
3. Do not ignore disadvantages - Play ahead of the curve
Tell your customers not only about advantages but also flaws. Highlight and outplay them.
Let’s say, a house looks perfect, though there are no nearby parks. Your website confesses, “Yes, a location lacks a playground, but there is a slice of nature just a 15-minutes ride on the jaw-dropping mountain highway where you may rest.” Or “Despite a remoteness from the downtown, you will have no time for boring - a beautiful pinery nearby is a perfect place to go for a family picnics, and a river may become a reason to finally try rafting.
If a mansion can boast of a splendid lake view but is located near a noisy railway station, do not conceal it but say, “Buying this house, you get a breathtaking view and can enjoy sunsets and sunrises right out of your balcony. And as there is a railway station nearby, we set double glasses for soundproof to get you rid of noisy sounds.” Those critical to the matter will likely to pass your proposition away. However, romantic persons who were always dreaming of meeting amazing sunrises with a cup of steaming black coffee may ponder about a purchase. This is called “sales.”
Luxury real estate sites present to their users not only pluses of the property they sell but also flaws. Disadvantages, as well as advantages, need to be pointed and outplayed.
4. Create stunning photo gallery
In our previous article 10 Steps to Designing World’s Best Restaurant Website, we’ve mentioned that the best restaurant website implies an absence of the photo gallery per se - a user understands how cool an establishment is even without observing any photos. However, when it comes to a luxury real estate site, the story differs dramatically.
A quality photo gallery for a real estate website is essential. Those who have ever looked for a house or apartment online probably aware that many real estate photos are really awful. If shots placed on even the best designed real estate website look dingy and unprofessional, buyers are going not only to find the property unappealing but to associate the company itself as dingy and unprofessional.
A real estate website photo gallery creates the first impression. And the first impression tends to be long-lasting. Take a look, for example, at the best real estate websites from our previous selection and you will get it without words.
Use a picture to create an impression of offering the best option. You may not simply stuff your website with shots and attach a map - specify what is located nearby. One goes to work, one walks with a family/friends/dog, one goes to a bar to drink a beer, one rides somewhere for the weekend - each scenario should be specified. The task is to show a potential customer how great is to live there, so they would have no need to think out but imagine themselves cooking in their new kitchen or having a party in their new living room.
5. Do not try to sell property to everyone - Define your customer
Your customer has a portrait, and your goal is to determine it. Do not be fooled into thinking that you provide real estate services to everyone. At the very least, you probably do business with buyers and sellers within a specific financial bracket.
Who is your target audience? Are they local? Are they from out of town? How old are they? Are they first-time homebuyers? Once you figured it all out, you need to interview 10-20 potential buyers and ask them how they are choosing luxury housing to buy. What is the most important for them? What do they draw attention to?
At Vintage, we are very scrupulous in defining a target audience of the future best luxury real estate website. Maybe that sounds a little exaggerated, but the truth is that it is possible to develop a stunning website that fails to attract anyone at all. It happens when it is developed without taking your potential client into account.
The same could be applied to almost any business. For example, hotels are the same story: when browsing any 5+ star hotel on booking.com, you may see a bunch of unfavorable reviews from unsatisfied visitors alongside with words of praise.
It does not mean that the hotel is good or bad - it simply means that it attracted not its client. To avoid such mistakes, I advise you to hire a good real estate business strategist who will help you analyze your buyers and make a selection.
6. Bet on quality content
Without good content, your website will be more or less a cliched tool.
For luxury real estate companies, personality is usually what helps turn a prospect into a client. Real estate in the US is a $200+ billion industry, and new players are cropping up constantly to get a slice of that revenue for themselves. However, the bunch of the largest companies controls around 1/3 of the industry's revenue. And they are in a constant battle with each other over the same properties, while smaller players, not to mention brokers, are battling at similar fronts. In such a crowded space, with relatively little differentiation in the buyer's mind's eye, all of them need to make a meaningful investment to generate a meaningful response. Content is that investment.
A simple Google search of “New York Luxury Real Estate” shows that only a few sell-side companies reach the first pages. The rest searching results are editorial-style articles, Sotheby’s, Zillow, Douglas Elliman, and so on. And now ask yourself whether you want your luxury property website to be listed in these results?
Bear in mind: stunning videos, professional photos, relevant animation do not sell but catch an attention. What sells is a solid and aesthetically pleasing brand, targeted content, and search optimization.
7. Use advanced technology
Do not get me wrong - I do not advise you to cram your website with a million of aerial photos, virtual tours, crazy animations, and stuff like that. If your company sells luxury houses for older couples, the last thing they expect to see on a top real estate website is a proposal to download an app and use Google Cardboard.
A website inherits the style. Do not overdo. However, some elements are permissible.
Timeline slider, constructor, aerial photography, drone use - technology offers a tremendous opportunity for the business of real estate and the broader economy. Video storytelling is also a great option: your website may tell a first-person story of a small girl or young mother: how they cook, wake up, and clean their new house. It increases confidence and let imagine how great would be to live there.
If a building is completed, a quadrocopter shooting works perfectly. Offer a showreel. It has to be a single desire after visiting your website - “I want it!” But use technology wisely - do not forget about your target audience.
8. Create email subscription
Inform your customers about building progress: photos, monthly reports, live streams.
The consumer buying-decision process is long-term, so it makes sense to create email subscription and send clients emails from time to time. For example, there is a new design of an apartment interior or a new floor is finally finished. The first 2-3 emails will acquaint people with a company and property it offers. These emails can include videos, news, special articles, even interviews with a construction superintendent or company owner. After you caught subscribers’ attention, send them a limited special offer (5-7% discount) in a fourth one. And close the deal. This is decision-making circle.
It is important to understand that a person can just forget about you. That is why you need to subscribe your potential buyers to a newsletter and squeeze them further through email marketing.
9. Pay attention to a mobile version of your website
Today’s consumers do their research online. Whether they’re looking for a product to buy, a restaurant to eat at, or a house to buy, they know that they can find exactly what they are looking for on the Internet. Moreover, 60% of users visit real estate websites via their smartphones first.
It is crucial to establish a mobile-responsive website. This means that users could find all necessary information quickly and easily no matter what device they use - desktop, laptop, tablet, or smartphone - without being redirected to another website. Let people a chance to see your beautiful houses.
I hope you found this article helpful. If you have more things to add to this list - feel free to share your thoughts in a comment section below. Still have some difficulties or want to entrust your website to professionals? Reach out to us - together we will transform your real estate website into something really luxury.