Virtually on a daily basis we’re asked directly if a self-hosted real estate website is better than an out of box solution such as Active Rain or Posterous, and we directly answer, practically speaking, it is a rent versus own debate.
This debate spans back as many as five years as I’m aware and probably longer as msn blogs and other major brands offered this type of solution even before that. Personally, I’m not opposed to sites that offer this type of solution at all. I’m sure you’re shocked, but you have to look at boxed solutions for what they are. Simply put, they’re networks, or evolving networks in the case of Posterous. They’re also better results for your name in search terms when you consider you may be competing with many many Bob Smiths for a first page result in Google, or God forbid your name is Justin Timberlake. These solutions seen as networks are a choice, the same as Twitter versus Facebook. But who says you can only have one?
Let’s play Monopoly
The cons to a solution for your direct business however, is tantamount to depending on your Facebook fan page to be your business website. It is in fact only truly one facet of a complete web strategy. Links from your Facebook fan page should pull (push outward) to your actual business solution, what we would consider the actual web property that you own, not rent.
Being in control of your business in every possible way is critical when you consider cost of investment. It’s more than an ability to add a personalized domain name, in fact, that’s the least of your worries. What you as a real estate practitioner should be concerned with is the ability to control completely the presentation of content along with strategic capture solutions.
Another con is that your social web presences are in fact at the mercy of the provider. A inadvertent infraction could render your account suspended and deleted in most cases with very little remedy. You’re also at the mercy of network failures beyond your control with not a peep from your provider. Have you ever seen a 1-800 number for Google or Facebook? I haven’t, and you won’t, unless you’re paying for service. Free solutions also have a habit of becoming not free anymore, or ad supported. You may be able to pay your way out of ad support, but the service is no longer free. It begins to get even more insane when you’ve been with a network for years, have years of content generated, only to find it behind a pay wall. Depressing, right?
Questions you’re asking yourself
In your position asking the question of rent versus own, I would consider your budget. If your budget is zero as a new agent, then obviously, there’s a lot you can do with a free solution when you consider that having some web presence is better than none, and having a presence within some or all new media spaces (ie. ActiveRain, Posterous) is a positive. Ultimately, however, as a business owner you should be working towards a solution that is completely within your control. Your SEO is critical to your success, and specificity within your community as a result is crucial.
So again, out of the box solutions put in the proper perspective are advantageous tools for the real estate agent, but what is even more advantageous is your ability to scale your brand. As your business grows, as does your service offering with innovative search, and strategic marketing capture.
Scaling your business
The ability to add pages to your site and actually grow teams or even a brokerage come into play as a necessity as well. For example, do you have the ability to create a team page with all of the members of your team? Can you add the latest and greatest in IDX, or go even further with a full on consumer facing search solution? Can you partition the box solution for buyers and sellers? Or are you limited to only a forward facing blog site with no landing page to direct traffic? In some markets standard forward facing blogs under perform in comparison to general landing pages. Meeting the needs and level of your demographic is crucial to your success as a brand in the realm of conversion.
I know in our profession that the rent versus own debate is simple when we present it to our home buyers and sellers, but sometimes I wonder if we listen to our own advice and guidance? In most cases it boils down to the cobblers kid, doesn’t it?
Question for our savvy commentators
I pose this question to the self-hosted readers of AgentGenius Magazine: What are the pros and cons you to see to the rent versus own debate?