Katherine Tarbox is a senior editor with REALTOR® Magazine. Formerly, she was editorial director for Washington Life. She is the author of the international bestselling book A Girl’s Life (Dutton, 2000) and has made hundreds of media appearances including The Today Show, The Oprah Winfrey Show, and CNN.
Winning With WordPress
Michelle Silverman, a sales associate with Prudential California Realty in La Jolla, Calif., was spending up to $200 a month on Web development and hosting fees. If she needed to make even a small change to her site, she had to call someone else to do it.
February 1, 2011
Then, she started hearing about WordPress, an open-source Web platform that enables users, even those without programming chops, to build and maintain an attractive site. Now, she’s saving more than $2,000 a year and maintaining her own site, ViewsofLaJolla.com. She pays about $10 a month to Host Gator; monthly hosting fees typically range from about $5 to $15, depending on the length of your contract and the capacity you need.
In an age when people can make snap judgments about your business on the basis of your Web site, the idea of designing one yourself might seem risky. But as WordPress—originally created as a blogging platform with its touted “famous 5-minute installation”—becomes more customizable and offers more real estate plug-ins (features such as event calendars and MLS data feeds), more and more practitioners are making the switch. At the REALTORS® Conference & Expo in November, more than 250 REALTORS® attended a daylong WordPress Camp to learn how to become their own webmasters.
With more than 1,000 design themes available to WordPress users—many of them free—you can decide whether you want a blog format or a more traditional site. “And once your content is in WordPress, you can update it quickly without relying on a developer,” says Stacey Harmon, founder of Agent Applause, a real estate marketing company in Newport Beach, Calif.
ChicagoHomePartner.com, KendraToddGroup.com, and PhoenixRealEstateGuy.com are a few other examples of WordPress-based real estate sites. If you like what you see, here’s how to set up your own:
Download. If you already own your domain, you can install WordPress in minutes through a variety of Web hosts such as GoDaddy, Register.com, and Bluehost. Because WordPress is a popular platform, many providers include the option of installing it through their control panels. If you host your site on your own server, consider asking a developer to install it through files downloadable at WordPress.org. (Note that there’s another option—WordPress.com—that allows you to set up a basic blog, hosted free on the WordPress servers. However, it’s not a recommended option for business users, since your ability to customize or use plug-ins is greatly reduced, and you won’t be able to accept advertising.)
Choose a look. Thousands of sites use the WordPress platform, but each webmaster can create a unique look by installing a theme and then customizing it. Some themes are free, such as Platform and Mystique. Many themes with special features for real estate, such as AgentPress and iReal Estate, cost less than $100. The theme you choose determines how your pages look to site visitors. Note that custom design or programming will add to the cost.
Plug it in. If themes are about aesthetics, plug-ins are about content. Adding plug-ins is like selecting the options on a new car. Harmon recommends: WordPress Database Backup, which backs up your site; Feed Statistics, a plug-in to track your statistics; and Nextgen Gallery, which allows you to incorporate image slide shows. There are thousands of plug-ins; most are free, though some have a one-time or monthly cost. To research which will be most helpful to your site, visit WordPress.org.
TIP:Despite the ease of installation, if you have no experience with code, you’ll want to hire a Web developer to install your WordPress site. If you want to do any custom design or programming, that’ll add to the cost.
Want know more?
Watch the WordPress Camp sessions—and a variety of other video content—free at http://narconferencelive.com. Click on Videos on Demand.