Having been a web designer using Joomla! for several years, we broached into the world of WordPress websites for our Real Estate based websites. We're going to be going through our experience with WordPress for Real Estate. Although WordPress isn't our software of choice, we stepped out in an honest and true effort to research, test, and analyze various WordPress plugins.
When we set out on this project we only had a few primary requirements, based on our experience in database design, prior experience in website design, and what clients have been looking for over the past 8 years.
- Be Affordable. Realtors are hit with so many fees, our goal/objective is to provide affordable options for Realtors to have their own branded website, import listings from their MLS with our iPALS RETS for Real Estate software, to be professional looking, and home buyer friendly.
- Have it's own database structure. This is a big one in that by having it's own database structure, the listing data is it's own, stored in its own location, dedicated to just that.
- A large number of possible data fields. Information is important, and having a large, respectable amount of information is important, but not so much that it's cluttered and overwhelming.
- Have a nice looking photo gallery. Most Real Estate listing include lots of photos. Having a nice gallery to display them is important.
So how did WordPress fare in these areas? Honestly, not very well. If you go to the WordPress plugin directory, you will find pages upon pages of WordPress plugins for Real Estate. We spent hours installing and testing plugins, and most were lacking in one way or another, with many in more ways than one.
Is this due to poor developers? I wouldn't go that far. It appears that some of the plugins were good, but it all comes back to what we said in a previous blog regarding using the correct tools for the job, and WordPress essentially being a web based version of Microsoft Word. Can you do an extensive payroll system in Word? Probably, to a point, but you're ideally going to need more powerful software that is designed to handle that.
Affordability. This is a really big issue, as Realtors get nickled and dimed on every little thing. Nickle and diming is a major turnoff to not only us, but to many of the clients that we have worked with over the years. We're not about to mention the plugin, but I will explain one that we came across. There was one that would have met the requirements of 3 out of the 4 items listed above, but affordability knocked it out of the running. This plugin has a decent amount of information that could be entered. The data was stored in its own database, and the plugin was free. However, they then nickle and dimed you to death after that. Want a map to show listings on? That'll be $50. Want an image slideshow? That'll be another $50. Want to allow potential buyers to get a PDF version of the listing? That'll be another $50. All in all, all of their features were going to cost over $350.
Maybe it's because we've been a Joomla! designer for years, and we were never really excited about WordPress, but when I see what that particular developer was offering for $350, and I can get that, and much much more for a mere donation of $49.95 to the developer of a Joomla! component, it easily tells me which is the more affordable, and is more interested in helping than making a quick buck.
The majority of plugins that we tested simply created a blog post, then put the additional information, such as bedrooms, bathrooms, etc. as post meta, again as part of a blog post. Excuse me, but Real Estate listings are NOT BLOGS, but when you are working with blogging software, you've got to work with the framework of what you have. Every plugin that treated Real Estate listings as blogs were immediately discounted, and were no longer even in the list to be considered.
Having a separate database, to store the listing data, you would think would be a fairly straightforward, common sense, development 101 item. However, that was NOT the case. There were only a small handful of plugins in which the developers even showed that they had the slightest inkling of database design. Those that did have their own databases for the entire plugin, we limited, but this allowed them to pass on points 1 and 2 above. However, there were some that did a hybrid between their own database for some things, then utilizing the WordPress posts and post meta, which caused them to fail. Again, Real Estate listings ARE NOT BLOGS!!!!
The large majority of the plugins tested simply FAILED with number 3 above. This is either from every Tom, Dick, and Harry striving to throw something out on WordPress, in the hopes of getting some financial return, or it's "developers" who are creating plugins for a specific industry, and they have absolutely zero experience with that industry, and what people actually look for. Simply having fields for MLS number, description, bedrooms, bathrooms, square feet, and price are not sufficient information, and professional developers would know this.
Score: 99% of WordPress plugins FAIL on points 1, 2, and 3.
Gallery. Where do we start, and where do we end on this one? We could go on and on about how poor this one is in 99% of the plugins, but we've pretty much covered a lot of that already. Many of the plugins that may have scored high on item 1, 2, or 3 failed on number 4. Simply putting several images in a blog style content field doesn't classify it as a gallery. Once again, Real Estate listings ARE NOT BLOGS, and they need to be treated as content, not as a blog.
However, after all of the testing, it doesn't really surprise us that the majority of plugins utilized the blogging features, or simply treated the information as you would a blog. As WordPress itself states: "WordPress started as just a blogging system", and still today that underlying engine is still for blogging. I'm sorry, but you can't take a Geo Metro, put a truck body on it, and call it a truck. It's still a Geo Metro in all but look.
Looking for a high quality, affordable Real Estate website? Look no further than RETS Websites.