As Managing Editor for The Close, I spend a lot of my time thinking about the future. How will the role real estate agents play in society change over the next 10 years, five years … or in the next six months?
That’s why in this edition of The Pivot, I’m going to try to answer a question that would have gotten me laughed out of the room just a few years ago: Are personal websites a waste of time and money today?
I’m going to sum up all the best arguments—pros and cons—I’ve heard from industry thought leaders and top producers. Then, I’ll go over some actionable resources you can use no matter what you decide.
5 Good Reasons Why Agent Websites ARE a Waste of Money in 2021
Let’s start the debate with the negatives. Here’s why some think the real estate industry has been so thoroughly disrupted over the last decade that agent websites just aren’t worth the hassle anymore:
1. The Current Agent Website SaaS Model Is Broken ($$)
In many ways, the SaaS (software as a service) model has been a godsend for the software industry. Instead of shelling out money upfront for software, today you can “rent” that same software for a seemingly low monthly fee. Sounds great, right?
Well, not really. Many agents make the mistake of getting locked into long-term contracts for their software, which ends up costing them much more than they would have spent just buying it. Worse, at the end of that long-term contract, they don’t even get to keep the software.
Think about it. If you spend, say, $250 per month for your website, which is not unusual these days, that comes out to $3,000 per year, EVERY year, for as long as you want to have a website. In two years, you would have spent $6,000 on your site. In three years, $9,000. In just four years, coincidentally the length of time it takes to become a successful agent, you would have shelled out a shocking $12,000 for your website.
But wait, what about WordPress? What about the DIY IDX websites we’ve written about here on The Close? Well, that leads us nicely into the second problem with agent websites in 2021:
2. Websites Require Hard Work & Constant Maintenance
Let’s set aside the fact that some, or even most, agents aren’t tech-savvy enough to build a high-quality WordPress website. Those of us who live in this world like to pretend it’s easy, but let’s face it—it’s not.
The bigger problem is that even if you did manage to muddle your way through learning WordPress and building a site, if you want that site to do anything at all for your business, it will require almost constant maintenance.
Here are just some of the tasks that you’ll be spending your precious hours on if you want a website: ranking on Google, protecting the site from hackers, blogging, optimizing for page speed, promoting the site, and on and on and on.
If this sounds like a worthwhile use of your time, I only have one question for you: Are you a web designer or a real estate agent?
3. SEO Is Even MORE Insanely Difficult in 2021
One of the most common pipe dreams I hear from agents is that someday, they’re going to drive lots of traffic to their website from Google. Well, as someone who built the very site you’re reading from Google traffic, let me ruin that dream for you: It’s just not going to happen. Sorry.
Yes, we built this site from the ground up using search engine optimization (SEO) to drive the majority of our traffic. We succeeded at SEO, so why can’t you? Of course, what you’re not seeing is that we spent several YEARS of full-time work from multiple talented employees to make this happen. Oh, and ranking for agent keywords is much, much easier than ranking for real estate keywords. We compete with Inman, but you have to compete with Zillow and Realtor.com.
So unless you’re willing to wait YEARS to rank and have several talented, full-time employees to throw at this, trying to rank on Google will be a huge waste of time, energy, and money.
4. Your Broker Already Has a Website With an Established Brand
SEO is difficult and time-consuming, but building a brand people know and trust can take a lifetime. In fact, I’m sure you can think of a dozen or more failed real estate brands right now. I know I can. Now, remember that almost all of those failed brands probably sunk hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars into building them.
As a new or even experienced agent, the goodwill and trust your broker’s brand gives you can mean the difference between thriving and starving. People seek out trusted brands more and more these days, hopping from Yelp to Google Reviews and a dozen other sites for social proof.
What are the odds that the branding you create with your website is going to be the equal of your broker’s brand? Now, what are the odds that the brand you create will be much worse?
5. Building Audiences on Social Media Channels Can Have a Better ROI
It is much, much, much easier to drive traffic to your business on social media than it will be to drive traffic to your website. In fact, I would bet $100 that many of you already have an audience on social media you can market to.
Instead of reinventing the wheel, why not double down on what works? Why not create content on platforms where you already have an audience and then work to build that audience? If you do, you will begin to realize that social media platforms are carefully designed to help you build that audience.
If you’re still on the fence, ask yourself how many times you’ve seen, say, an open house announcement, on an agent website. Now, how many have you seen on Instagram this afternoon?
If you agree with my arguments above (and have a few of your own) and decide not to build a website, then you’re going to want to double down on other ways to build your brand and generate leads online. Here are a few guides to get you started.
3 Good Reasons Why Agent Websites Are NOT a Waste of Money in 2021
Now for the positives. Yes, every agent and their mother has a website now, but that doesn’t mean agents shouldn’t at least try to claim a small corner of online real estate for themselves:
1. Real Estate Is a Marathon, Not a Sprint
While we’re not going to argue that wasting time and money on a website is why most agents fail after just two years, we will argue that spreading yourself thin is a big reason for failure.
Let’s face it: There are so many ways to generate leads and market yourself now that picking the right ones early on can be difficult. This is important because the fact is that pretty much all of them will require practice to get right.
So that means building a website and learning how to drive traffic to it and conversions from it are part of a strategy that you can master. Sure, it will take time, effort, and money, but cold calling, door knocking, and social media will, too. Maybe more.
So if you are somewhat tech-savvy, then investing early on in a website can pay off down the road. You can always work on a select few social media channels while you build your site.
2. You Will Switch Brokerages … a Lot
While your current broker may have a killer brand and a beautiful website that ranks well on Google, this will not always be the case. You may join a boutique brokerage to get a better split, or you might find a better cultural fit at a brokerage with a mediocre brand. That means switching brokerages can ruin your online presence.
There’s another problem with relying on your brokerage website. They own it. You don’t. Sure, you might get leads from it, but you’re an independent contractor. A business owner. Why are you working your tail off to help build someone else’s brand?
3. Buyers Might Not Care, but Homeowners Want You to Have a Website
It’s pretty easy to argue that your millennial first-time buyer might be, shall we say, not impressed with your attempts at building a professional website. It’s not your fault. They live online and can sniff out “fake it till you make it” brands almost instantly.
You know who will be much more likely to be impressed with your website? The boomer homeowner moving to Florida who wants a quick sale. They won’t think your Matterport tours and drone videos are like, so six months ago, like a younger buyer might.
If you put in the time, effort, and money to build a site and a brand to go along with it, you will have a much easier time converting homeowners who will not care one bit how many followers you have on Instagram.
Ready to claim your corner of digital real estate and start a website? Here are a few useful guides to get you started:
Real Estate SEO: 11 Tips to Dominate Local Search & Get Free Leads 
Over to You
What do you think? Are agent websites a waste of money in 2021? Let us know in the comments.