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Hubcaps on breadcrumbs? How BloodhoundRealty.com builds single-property web sites — and why they sell homes

Vance Shutes left a comment to my post about how we use web sites and web pages about particular houses as “breadcrumbs” to lead potential clients back to BloodhoundRealty.com. My response to him is long enough that I’m turning it into a post of its own.

Vance:

I’m intrigued by this concept. Will you be expanding on it during Unchained?

At BloodhoundBlog Unchained I will show you two different ways to leave a breadcrumb at every home you might ever want to sell. Each of those ways will result in a different kind of market penetration, but each should make you very easy to find and very hard to miss in your target markets.

Put into practice, these two ideas are worth thousands or tens of thousands of dollars in gross commission income just by themselves. I don’t normally keep secrets, but I wanted a big blow-out for Unchained. We have been quietly testing one of the two ideas and the results are coming in quite a bit better than I had predicted.

Are you setting up a separate page for each listing at BloodhoundRealty.com, or are you setting up a separate domain for each address?

For homes we are previewing for clients or photographing for other reasons, we host the pages on on Phoenix real estate web site, on our main file server. I don’t even know how many we have out there. Hundreds, certainly, possibly over a thousand. Someday I want to create a database of links so we can find them without having to hunt too hard.

For listings, we do a single-property web site on a separate domain. These are pretty elaborate, usually running to 60-100 megabytes of content before we’re done: Dozens of photos, an interactive floorplan of the house, a live Google map of the neighborhood, PDFs of the listing and the flyer, along with any historic photos or documents we have of the house, etc. If there is any question we can answer about the house on the web site, we do it.

Then we promote the home’s URL with everything else that we do: The custom yard sign, the business-card-sized open house invitation, our own brokerage web site, on-line promotions, Craigslist.com, etc. The single-property web site is the focal point of the home’s marketing, so we try to drive as much traffic as we can back to it. We’ve had people tell us they have spent hours and hours on our sites. We have sold homes to out-of-state buyers on the strength of our single-property web sites.

If it’s a separate domain, are you using a template on WordPress for the domain?

We have built weblogs as the single-property web sites for a couple of houses, but I haven’t loved the results. We didn’t have anything terribly interesting to post about, no one posted comments and the search-engine advantage of weblogs is usually not fast enough to matter. I like weblogs as single-property web sites for ordinary people, but that’s because they’re easy to build, not because there is any huge need for the blogging function itself.

For 909 West Culver Street in Phoenix we built a weblog, but it always felt kind of clunky to me. (But the house got multiple offers and sold for full price in five days.)

For 901 West Willetta Street we built a static web site using Slide Show Marge, the precursor to engenu. (Alas, the listing expired in 90 days and the house did not sell when it was relisted after us.)

With 1322 East Vermont Avenue we will be building the site (much of it tonight and tomorrow) in engenu, which brings us a lot of functionality we’ve never had before — except with manual editing. So, for example, an engenu site is easy to edit, adapt, reconfigure, add to, etc., with much of this being automated and with all of it being effected by anyone, just as you might edit a weblog post.

So at any given point, even though we might have plans to add a lot more content, the site will look finished. If you don’t tell people things are still to come, they won’t know. But if you do the mission-critical job completely, you’ll have a car you can drive today even if you can’t put the hubcaps on until tomorrow.

The bottom line: Single-property web sites sell houses. If we can spark an interest in the house by any means, a single-property web site is the perfect tool for satisfying that interest. We want for buyers to come to our web sites — and to stay on our web sites. We show and tell them absolutely everything there is to be known about the home, and we give them interactive tools like the floorplan and — starting with 1322 East Vermont Avenue — an Obeo virtual tour with virtual remodeling.

At a minimum, the more time buyers spend looking at our home, the less time they have to spend looking at other homes. Moreover, the commitment of action — the effort that goes into looking at and thinking about and acting upon our single-property web site — commits buyers to the home. And, of course, selling a home almost always boils down to love. A BloodhoundRealty.com single-property web site is like the old “wish book” catalog — a catalog built for one particular home. Buyers want to fall in love with their homes, and we want to give them everything they need to fall in love completely.

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8 comments

8 Comments so far

  1. Vance Shutes March 21st, 2008 11:44 am

    Greg,

    Thank you for the thorough answers here. I’m sure, though ūüėČ that there’s much more to come at Unchained!

  2. […] real estate and you will see that he knows what the heck he is doing. What did he do after reading this post?…Spent some late night hours and did […]

  3. Cheryl Johnson March 22nd, 2008 8:31 am

    We handle ~a lot~ of listings every year. Recently I let a whole bunch of single property domain names (123mainstreet.com for example) expire.

    The properties had all sold and closed in 2006 or 2007, and it seems bizarre to me to keep renewing the domain names in perpetuity…. although do I understand Greg’s pissing on the trees metaphor …. which leads me to the thought that maybe I should take another look at sub-domains instead for property address URLs..

  4. Greg Swann March 22nd, 2008 9:11 am

    The homes we sell tend to be in the $350,000 to $600,000 range. When we list a home, our plan is to sell it again and again from then on. We want to collect all the information we can about the home, and then just keep accumulating more. That alone should make us semi-irresistible to sellers. So the average carrying cost per domain between listings is maybe $50-$60, that offset by any additional business they bring in. (We figure hosting as overhead, since we have a dedicated server; the incremental added cost per domain is nothing.) I’m thinking one additional house pays for everything forever with a huge profit. Subdomains would work just as well — maybe even better if the base domain is very effective. The big issue for us is keeping the content out there in order to sustain our value to the current owner of the home we listed and to attract future buyers and sellers.

  5. […] Greg Swann this question¬†either.¬† But when he shows up on a listing appointment with examples of single¬†site home blogs and custom designed yard signs I doubt he¬†has¬†a problem either.¬† Given the anecdotal success I […]

  6. […] Building the custom web site for the home. Generally, we will acquire the domain for the home before we even go on the listing appointment. Using engenu, I can set up the gross anatomy of the single-property web site, then Cathleen or I can go in and finesse it page-by-page. In addition to many, many folders full of photos, which engenu will render as slide shows, we supplement our web sites with all the additional information we can find or create. For example, if we can lay our hands on historic photos of the home or neighborhood, we will scan them in order to provide that background information. The same goes for historic documents or newspaper articles. We will research the builder, the architectural styles or the construction methods and document those. Lately we’ve been building custom maps in Google Maps to help buyers discover local amenities. We try to have all these ancillary items done before the listing hits the MLS, but that’s not always possible. But we live by the idea that, if it looks done, it is done, so we don’t tell people about features that are still to come. That way, the web site always looks and feels finished, even if we don’t yet have the link for the finished virtual tour, for instance. Our sites are built to permit the easy addition of new or changed content, so we keep working on the site before and after the MLS listing goes live. […]

  7. […] Building the custom web site for the home. Generally, we will acquire the domain for the home before we even go on the listing appointment. Using engenu, I can set up the gross anatomy of the single-property web site, then Cathleen or I can go in and finesse it page-by-page. In addition to many, many folders full of photos, which engenu will render as slide shows, we supplement our web sites with all the additional information we can find or create. For example, if we can lay our hands on historic photos of the home or neighborhood, we will scan them in order to provide that background information. The same goes for historic documents or newspaper articles. We will research the builder, the architectural styles or the construction methods and document those. Lately we’ve been building custom maps in Google Maps to help buyers discover local amenities. We try to have all these ancillary items done before the listing hits the MLS, but that’s not always possible. But we live by the idea that, if it looks done, it is done, so we don’t tell people about features that are still to come. That way, the web site always looks and feels finished, even if we don’t yet have the link for the finished virtual tour, for instance. Our sites are built to permit the easy addition of new or changed content, so we keep working on the site before and after the MLS listing goes live. […]

  8. […] Building the custom web site for the home. Generally, we will acquire the domain for the home before we even go on the listing appointment. Using engenu, I can set up the gross anatomy of the single-property web site, then Cathleen or I can go in and finesse it page-by-page. In addition to many, many folders full of photos, which engenu will render as slide shows, we supplement our web sites with all the additional information we can find or create. For example, if we can lay our hands on historic photos of the home or neighborhood, we will scan them in order to provide that background information. The same goes for historic documents or newspaper articles. We will research the builder, the architectural styles or the construction methods and document those. Lately we’ve been building custom maps in Google Maps to help buyers discover local amenities. We try to have all these ancillary items done before the listing hits the MLS, but that’s not always possible. But we live by the idea that, if it looks done, it is done, so we don’t tell people about features that are still to come. That way, the web site always looks and feels finished, even if we don’t yet have the link for the finished virtual tour, for instance. Our sites are built to permit the easy addition of new or changed content, so we keep working on the site before and after the MLS listing goes live. […]