As ever more of our lives move inexorably online, the internet is becoming the main place where people look for new homes. The top property portals Rightmove and Zoopla between them attract well over 10 million unique visitors per month and the vast majority of estate agents and letting agents in the UK are signed up to at least one of the major portals.
On the back of this trend a new breed of online estate agents are emerging. NetMyHouse is one of these. With no city-centre shopfront to maintain and no local advertising costs, they are able to offer 0% commission on sales, instead charging a low monthly fee for purely-online advertising. The website, then, is their shopfront, so it’s even more critical than usual to get it looking just right.
NetMyHouse came to us as they set up. This is a great example of how a company can start off small and develop their website as their business grows. They had bought their own hosting package and an off-the-shelf design, and wanted some customisation.
In the first instance this was with just a sign-up form and a savings calculator, but as time went by we added more and more functionality: an administration system to keep track of the applications, adverts and payments; automated recurring payments for adverts using PayPal, and then a full property catalogue on-site search with Google map.
The business stands or falls on the impression it makes as a credible, professional and trustworthy service which can offer something unique in the crowded world of estate agency. The team at Hoppla knows how crucial the website is and has been deeply involved with its development throughout. They need to demonstrate their credibility from the off – so there’s plenty of prime properties and ‘recently sold’ on display, including a master map showing the country covered in coloured pushpins indicating available and sold properties. Performance in search engines is also vital.
The site has now grown to be our most sophisticated estate agents site. There are separate, password-protected areas of the site for vendors and field agents to update and upload details about the properties over a secure connection. Even online agents need to have someone visit to verify the clients’ description, take high-quality photos and perhaps provide additional services like creating Energy Performance Certificates. Clients also get the chance to edit the property details and upload photos
There is a booking system to allow potential buyers to book viewings of the property and ask questions to the vendor. Communication between the vendor and the potential buyer is all through the website and moderated to reduce the amount of hassle for the vendor. The system even integrates with a text messaging gateway to keep all everyone up to date on the sale process.