Have suggestions for products that you’d like to see reviewed by our real estate technology expert? Email Craig Rowe.

Real estate transactions are executed on standard forms under (ideally) hard deadlines.

State rules and industrywide best practices fence in maverick sales tactics, and immense brokerages offer cookie-cutter sales training and teach to the test.

It’s no wonder, then, that when it comes to website needs, agents seek solutions that originate from templates using canned content.

I think agents should look beyond what’s on the shelf and seek custom, from-scratch website solutions — because a paint-by-numbers approach isn’t what’s best for consumers.

If it’s time to step out of line with your next website, use this question-based scale to size up prospective vendors.

Starting with a base score of 50, assign a point total ranging from 1 to 10 for each. Anything above 85 gets a request for proposal (RFP). The rest get sent packing.

1. Can you show me other real estate websites you’ve built?

It doesn’t matter if they have or not; what you want to know is if the real estate sites they’ve developed look like your competitors’ sites.

If they do, don’t rate higher than a 6.

2. Explain how you internally manage client projects.

Good website companies employ account managers. Account managers translate business needs to the designer and back again. They are important conduits to getting projects produced on time, within budget and according to your solution.

Plus, they’re customer-facing sources of project accountability, which can be hard to uncover in creative businesses. They also hold you accountable for content, budget and design decisions.

If a single account manager handles every client, be wary. If you feel good about the account manager, give at least 7 points.

3. What else do you think would help my business?

Mind. Blown. Website firms have to constantly convince prospective clients that unique Internet solutions are worthwhile. And that they require money. Thus, they can be apathetic heading into meetings.

However, if they react to this question with authentic, creative solutions, it shows they were committing time to your solution before they had the business.

Like what they had to say? No fewer than 7 points.

4. Will you outsource any aspect of my project?

Simple. You want to know if your potential website partner is a devotee of “The Four-Hour Work Week” or a dependable, proven business leader who knows how to hire talent.

Yes: No higher than 5. No: Start at 7. Rate higher for good explanations why the company operates this way.

5. How will you measure the success of my site?

Website solution providers need to prove they can do more than program pretty. They need to implement solutions, not just landing pages.

Ask them to share a couple of case studies. Look for increased and sustained page views, client industry awards, blog traffic and general growth of the clients.

If they prove their mettle, you could go 10 here. If they dodge and weave, no more than half that.

Now get out there and be different. And score like Russian ice skating judges.

What website design firm do you use — and what do you think? Leave a comment and let us know!

Do you have a product for our tech expert to review? Email Craig Rowe.

Inman Connect San Francisco is right around the corner — register now and save $200!

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