Luxury real estate agents need luxury websites, and that means custom photography, professional video, a solid personal brand and much more.

October is Luxury Month on Inman. Inman Handbooks offer deep dives on luxury marketing and agent branding, luxury staging, referrals, and more. We’re thinking about what luxury means now, examining how the pandemic is reshaping the needs of luxury buyers, and talking to top luxury agents, all month long.

Michael LaFido of @properties’ The LaFido Team in Elmhurst, Illinois, created a separate education and coaching program on how to break into and thrive in the luxury market.

Getting LUXE certified can be done in person or online, and it usually takes a couple of days. No experience in the segment is necessary, and it also earns you a LUXE Luxury Listing Specialist logo to put on your website.

And speaking of, a term on LaFido’s website summarizes nicely another important lesson he espouses: “It’s not the market, it’s the marketing.”

So, if you’re going to be a luxury agent, you better have a website worthy of that certification badge. So, what does a luxury agent’s website look like?

Clean visuals

On a phone call with Inman, LaFido explained that in today’s “Tinder” business environment, where people react so fast to what’s visual, listing agents have to do more.

Michael LaFido

“The confused mind doesn’t buy, right? So properties have to stand out,” he said. “Images and visuals have to dominate, then once a person is interested, they’ll read about it.”

LaFido also stresses photo order on websites and in related luxury marketing endeavors. “Buyers don’t need to be guided room-to-room, I don’t advocate for capturing every room, capture what accentuates the property, like the crown molding, or even the town around it. Lead with that.”

LaFido said that when we made the jump to focus strictly on luxury, he knew his collateral and website had to be cleaner, less cluttered. He focused his efforts on web-friendly lifestyle videos that can be watched “above the fold” (before scrolling), citing influence by what agents in Los Angeles were doing.

“I was one of the first to adapt that video style to the Midwest,” he said.

Exclusivity

Also, luxury sites need to communicate exclusivity as opposed to being designed for the everyday buyer. Aspiring buyers and listing clients need to feel as if they’re the only ones browsing the site.

Malte Kramer is the founder and CEO of Luxury Presence, a company that develops luxury real estate websites. His company built LaFido’s site. On a phone call with Inman, he echoed his client’s view that websites designed to sell luxury listings can’t be status quo.

Malte Kramer

“It has to be a proof-point that the agent can market the property in an elegant, elevated way. If it doesn’t look great, there’s a risk that a very sophisticated seller with a high-end property won’t trust that agent to deliver,” he said.

Gregg Pitzele is vice president of sales at Agent Image, a website design firm for the real estate industry. The company has created sites for a number of prominent luxury agents, including Atlanta’s Quiana Watson and Los Angeles’ The Altman Brothers.

“Their websites have to impress people who are looking at properties at that level,” Pitzele said in a call with Inman. “And they need to keep that wow factor going with each page after that [the homepage].”

Customization

In summary, a luxury agent’s website needs to look the part. It can’t be a standard brokerage offering or down-and-dirty over-nighter offered by a web host.

In most cases, luxury property websites are from-scratch custom or heavily professionally developed templates from a platform such as WordPress. They should reflect the homes you want it to showcase. Modern. Spacious. Creative.

Building a custom site typically takes longer to develop, Pitzele says.

“In some cases, the homepage alone could take 30 days, but it varies, and comes down to how many pages the site will be, but some do take months, and we don’t set a time limit.”

Agents should know that a custom website is not a hands-off project. In fact, usually the more money being spent, the more interaction the agent team should expect to have with the development team. There will likely be multiple creative people involved and a project manager leading it.

“We try to do the best we can to set expectation off the bat about communication … we can’t just take their money and build a site, we have to good discussions ahead of time,” Pitzele said.

Agent branding

You matter, too. Luxury homeowners want to feel good about anyone they partner with to represent their property. Craft a compelling bio on why what you do is best for their home. If you have accolades, share them. Has your company ever been featured in a news story? If so, make sure prospects know that, too.

Jarad Hull, chief product manager at Ben Kinney Companies and CEO of BlueRoof360, a web technology firm that Ben Kinney Companies acquired, said in a phone call with Inman that investing in a custom website for luxury listing business starts with agents valuing their own brand.

Jarad Hull

“How important is your brand to your customer?” he said in a phone call with Inman. “How important is making sure your online presence matches who you are in the real estate space?”

A luxury listing website, Hull said, needs to be an extension of what the agent wants potential clients to think of them. Yet, his sales team often experiences some push back from agents who say referral business is enough, doubting the value of a custom site.

“You’ve probably lost deals and didn’t get deals that you’re not even aware of because the people Googled you, went to your website and didn’t choose you.”

Kramer of Luxury Presence encourages his clients to make “content days,” or dedicated one- or two-day windows dedicated to agent lifestyle photos and videos. He suggests agents bring multiple outfits and allow themselves the time to stay connected to the website’s completion goals.

A larger marketing strategy

Real Estate Webmasters is one of the more prominent names in website design and technology development for real estate. The company has built sites for The Agency (several of the brokerage’s agents, including Mauricio Umansky, are Inman contributors) and Nook, among others. The company is also beta testing a new luxury website platform called Renaissance.

Morgan Carey

Founder and CEO Morgan Carey believes at the luxury level, the website has to be part of something more. He asks luxury clients about an over-arching marketing plan.

“You’re going to need a cohesive strategy here, how does syndication to and from your website work,” he said over Google Meet. “Do they have internal marketing people yet? Have they hired a third-party marketing or consulting company?”

Luxury real estate sellers have different expectations, according to Carey. “It’s different, they require a different kind of attention and communication,” he said. “But they need you to deliver at a higher level. Because, there’s bigger dollars involved, you can’t hire your nephew to build you site when you’re marketing $50 million properties.”

Featured listings need to be front-page accessible, not hidden under a menu. These homes need to link to dedicated pages that, when applicable, tell a story and exemplify a lifestyle, especially if in some way famous or historical. Hire copywriters whenever possible.

“Making sure the property detail pages in particular are extremely well designed [is also critical], have high resolution photos, and are using virtual tours, video tours if possible,” Kramer said. “Ideally, those pages provide an experience for that property, instead of simple information, for both buyers and for attracting sellers.”

Mobile functionality

Mobile usability is also critical, according to Kramer. “That’s where the majority of search is coming from.” And Carey agrees because it is for all levels of search experience.

“I think we’ve crossed 60 percent now in terms of consumption of content [on mobile],” he said. “When it comes to speed and optimization, you need to make sure people are doing WPO, web performance optimization.”

In other words, higher quality images and longer form video doesn’t always translate well to the smartphone screen. But in the the luxury search environment, it has to. “It’s massively important, and it better be fast,” Carey said.

Still, while websites sell experience and brand, agents sell houses. The best website doesn’t equate to being the best agent. Pay attention to what your competition does, but trying to beat their website feature-to-feature isn’t a sound strategy.

Luxury agents need a website that gets them into the conversation, that makes the phone ring. It’s all on you after that.

Have a technology product you would like to discuss? Email Craig Rowe

Craig C. Rowe started in commercial real estate at the dawn of the dot-com boom, helping an array of commercial real estate companies fortify their online presence and analyze internal software decisions. He now helps agents with technology decisions and marketing through reviewing software and tech for Inman.

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