How to Build an IDX Real Estate Website
One of the best reasons to build your own IDX real estate website is that you get to actually own and control your website.
Many real estate agents who were using Placester to run their IDX real estate website found this out the hard way when Placester shut down their free IDX website service.
Building a WordPress IDX real estate website is pretty simple even if you’re a beginner to website building. Follow this guide as well as all resources I link to that contain additional guides and tutorials and you’ll be ready to go.
Here is our breakdown if you want to skip to a section in this guide to creating your very own IDX real estate website using WordPress!
- Brainstorm your domain URL
- Purchase a website hosting plan
- Install WordPress
- Choose a real estate website theme template
- Install Elementor (Page Builder)
- Sign up for an IDX service
- Design property listing pages
- Add WordPress plugins
- Backup your website
- Launch your IDX website
Step 1: Brainstorm your domain URL
The first step to building a new IDX real estate website is brainstorming your domain URL. This is the website address people will type in to find your website.
You can display your website domain URL on business cards, real estate signs, and other marketing materials.
Brainstorming a website domain is pretty simple. As a real estate agent, you can get pretty creative with website domain URL’s.
Here are a few domain examples I’d choose from:
As you can see, there are many ways to integrate your name into the URL.
When you combine your name with real estate keywords (homes, listings, agent, buys, sells), then people will also piece together that you are a real estate agent when they read your website domain.
But if you have a hard-to-spell name, then you can consider choosing a domain URL that does not involve your name. Instead, get creative and think of other real estate words to use.
Check out my full guide: How to Choose the Perfect Real Estate Domain
Where to Buy a Real Estate Domain Name?
When you’ve come up with a list of domain names, narrow it down to your top 3 or top 5 choices.
Then you will want to check if these domain URL’s are still available or if someone else is already using the domain for their website.
To check out different domain ideas for your real estate website, I recommend using Namecheap.com. It’s a domain registrar that sells domains at a very cheap price of $9/year on average.
How Namecheap Works:
- When you visit the home page of their website you’ll see a search bar.
- Enter your URL idea into the search bar
- Namecheap will check across the internet for that domain
- Namecheap will show you if the .com version is available and also other options like .net, .org, etc.
- Click add to cart
- Sign up for a Namecheap account
- Finish checkout
- Login to your dashboard to alter any settings and manage your domain
Another way to get your domain name is when you sign up for a website hosting service. Let’s jump into what website hosting is and why you need it when building your real estate website.
Step 2: Purchase a website hosting plan
In this section I’ll show you how to easily sign up for website hosting so you can self host your own real estate IDX website and never worry about losing it if a website service company goes out of business.
To get started, you need to choose a website hosting service. I explain the benefits of paying for a professional service like Siteground, Bluehost, or Flywheel in my guide Best Website Hosting for an IDX Real Estate Website.
One of the main features to look for with a website hosting company is speed. You want a fast loading website and the 3 recommend hosts above (Siteground, Bluehost, Flywheel) are all great for fast website hosting speed.
You also want to make sure it’s a self-hosted service. Let’s dive into the importance of running a self-hosted real estate website.
Why Self Host Your Real Estate Website?
Website hosting is necessary if you want to own and control your own website. You get access to more features, more website storage space, and you have the ability to build an audience & monetize your website.
Most real estate agents aren’t aware of self-hosting or choose not to because it costs money. Instead they opt for free website services.
However, if you sign up for a “free” website on a service like WordPress.com, Wix, SquareSpace, Blogger then you are a renter and don’t actually own and control your website.
Why is this a bad thing?
Becoming reliant on a website company to run your website can put your entire business at risk. Take Placester for example.
In 2019, Placester stopped hosting real estate agent’s IDX websites for free and many agents got burned, losing their IDX websites.
Imagine losing your website overnight and scrambling to come up with a new website quickly so visitors don’t run into an error page when trying to find you online after seeing your real estate signs around town.
The point here, is spent a couple bucks a month to self-host and you’ll be at peace of mind that you own your website, control it, and have lots of flexibility and features you wouldn’t have on a free service.
Sign Up for Hosting with Siteground
First, visit this link to head over to Siteground.com.
Click on their plans page to see pricing and options. We like the middle plan called Grow Big as it allows you more website storage, bandwidth, and you can run unlimited domains on that account.
For example, if I could set up a main website like AgentNickFoy.com and then I could create a smaller website just for my listings called NickFoyListings.com. It can be a one page website that displays all my listings and the URL is easy for people to remember.
Once you have decided on a plan that fits your real estate website’s needs, click the get started button to visit the next page of the sign up process.
It will ask you if you have a domain URL already or if you want to create a new one.
I fill in my domain URL I already have purchased from my Namecheap account, but you can also buy your domain name through your hosting company.
This keeps things simple, so you don’t have both a Siteground hosting account and a Namecheap account for your domain URL.
Next, fill out your account information.
Uncheck the extras at the bottom that add additional services and costs to your total.
I’ll show you how to backup your website and other similar features for free using WordPress plugins to save you the money, so ignore these add-on services.
Step 3: Install WordPress
Once your account is created with your hosting company, they’ll have a page where you can install WordPress to the domain URL you entered during the sign up process for your hosting account.
Some website hosting services automatically install WordPress by default too.
Once WordPress begins installing, you’ll usually get an email notification with your login details or a confirmation that installation is done.
The installation page should also reload and provide you with login details such as your username and password.
Take note, to access your website and to login to wordpress, you will need to memorize this URL extension… /wp-amin
It will take you directly to the login page for your website. Many beginners try visiting WordPress.com but this is incorrect.
A self-hosted website is actually run through WordPress.org, and sign in…is directly on your own domain URL with the extension /wp-admin after the .com.
Step 4: Choose a real estate website theme template
There are many real estate agent themes to choose from. You can start by searching WordPress’s free theme directory.
But beware that the demo / preview does not work very well so it will be hard to gauge what a demo site with that real estate agent theme will actually look like.
The demo functionality of these themes is much better so you can actually preview a sample real estate website to get a feel for layout and design ideas.
Real estate WordPress themes can run $40 to $99 but it’s a one-time flat fee so you won’t have to worry about it renewing annually.
Here is my list of recommended WordPress themes for real estate agents:
Check out my full list of 20+ Best WordPress Themes for Real Estate Agents
Install Elementor (Page Builder)
If you plan to design your own real estate website rather than outsourcing to a web design company, I would recommend checking out the free WordPress plugin called Elementor.
Elementor is a free page builder and it’s a drag & drop builder that is very user friendly so you can easily build your own pages with content boxes, image boxes, video boxes, testimonial boxes, etc.
Elementor is a powerful plugin that allows you to design any page layout from scratch or use pre-built templates from the Elementor page templates library.
They also have pre-built “sections” which are blocks of content you can add to your page template you were already custom designing.
It also works with any theme so you can integrate it seamlessly with any real estate WordPress theme you pick.
Honestly, you can build your custom real estate IDX website from scratch using the default WordPress theme that comes with the installation of WordPress. You don’t need a special real estate theme to get access to certain layouts or designs, it can be done with Elementor.
I still recommend installing a real estate theme first, because it can add additional functions to your website like property listings, agent profiles, and more.
If you search Google or YouTube, you’ll find tons of support articles, video tutorials, and answers to questions you might have about Elementor.
Once you install Elementor, there is another free plugin to install called Elementor Add-Ons. This plugin gives you access to additional widgets and content boxes you can drag onto your page for additional features on your real estate IDX website.
Elementor also has a pro version with many more advanced widgets and features that might be worth the investment if you want to take a look and browse what you’ll get with Elementor Pro.
Here is a tutorial video on how to use the Elementor Plugin to build a sample real estate agent home page. If you find it helpful, subscribe to my YouTube channel for more tutorials!
Sign up for an IDX service
Now that you’ve picked out your real estate WordPress theme and installed Elementor to assist you in building your website pages, it’s time to add property listings to your website.
IDX stand for Internet Data Exchange and it’s a service that allows real estate agents to display listings and properties from the MLS on their websites.
It’s a live feed so when properties sell or change price, the property listings are updated automatically and reflect the most recent version on your website.
This is a huge time saver!
Imagine custom inputting all of your listings to your website and having to manually update these listing pages when things change.
Instead, use an IDX service and create custom For Sale pages and My Listings pages that import data from a live feed.
This makes it easy to set up pages for every city, every zip code, and target neighborhoods so that these pages only display properties that match whatever criteria you set, just like in the MLS.
Which IDX Service Is Best for a WordPress Website?
The two leaders in the IDX real estate website space are iHomeFinder and IDX Broker.
Each of these services comes with a WordPress plugin you can install but first you’ll have to create an account on the IDX service’s website and copy the license activation key for your plugin to work.
Both allow you to create a search bar that can display across your home page so users can enter their search criteria and pull up homes for sale based on the criteria they input.
You can also build custom searches and import the “shortcodes” for these searches to your website. Simply use the “shortcode” widget in Elementor and drag it onto your page, then paste in the code in the text box field.
Custom searches you set up might be a page that displays only Miami, FL listings or only Miami Dade County Listings. You can break it into counties, cities, zip codes, and possibly subdivisions depending on your area.
How Much Does IDX Cost?
IDX services are not free. They can cost anywhere from $25 to $99 per month.
But the investment is worth it because it saves you time and time is worth money. What do you think an hour of your time is worth?
Price an hour of your time and multiply it by the 5 to 10 hours you’d spend updating your website every month and you’ll quickly see that you’ll save money using IDX instead of manually importing listings and updates.
Design property listing pages
In this section I’ll show you tutorials of how to build out different real estate pages for your IDX website.
With Elementor you can import pre-built pages like the About page, Contact page, and Services page.
You’ll also want a general home page that displays listings, property search bar functionality, short bio about you and your services, and then links to any important pages on your website or resources.
Add WordPress plugins
Plugins are a fancy term for “add-ons” and you don’t get access to them on the free WordPress.com websites which is another reason why having a self-hosted WordPress website is important.
If you visit WordPress.org, you’ll find their plugin directory full of 60,000+ different plugins that the WordPress community has created.
You can access this library of plugins from your WordPress dashboard on your website, by visiting the Plugins tab and clicking on “Add New”.
Filter through the different tabs like Popular, Featured, etc. or use the search bar to search plugins by name.
Here is my recommended list of plugins to install on your real estate website:
- Yoast SEO
- Updraft Plus
- Google Analytics WP Dashboard
- WP Fastest Cache
- Broken Link Checker
- Pretty Link
- Social Warfare
There are also plugins for adding Google Maps, YouTube Videos, Data Tables to your real estate website, but the Elementor page builder plugin already comes with these features, saving you from downloading extra plugins.
And customizing / styling them is much more user friendly with the Elementor Pro plugin compared to installing a third party plugin like an embed YouTube video plugin.
Let’s briefly discuss each of the above plugins and why they should be part of your real estate website.
#1: Yoast SEO
This plugin is the most downloaded of all and it helps your WordPress website become SEO friendly.
Optimizing your website for the search engines is crucial if you want your pages and blog posts to show up in the Google search results as well as Bing and Yahoo searches.
Yoast adds a tool on your blog post editor and page editor that allows you to check your copy / text on the page for different target keywords you want to focus on.
For example, you could target a local neighborhood someone might be searching like Foxwood Estates. You would use the word “Foxwood Estates” throughout your page in the Title, headings, subheadings, and body of text.
Then Yoast’s SEO tool will analyze the page and make recommendations of where you can optimize further to increase your chance of showing up in the search results when someone is looking for a Foxwood Estates home.
#2: Updraft Plus
This plugin allows you to easily backup your real estate website to the cloud, and it does so automatically on a schedule so you don’t have to worry ever.
You can choose from cloud storage systems like Dropbox, Google Drive, Amazon, etc.
It’s easy to set up. Just choose your backup schedule in the Updraft Plus settings page, then choose your backup cloud system that will store the backup files. Click save.
#3: Google Analytics WP Dashboard
Installing a Google Analytics plugin is important if you want to track visitors and see data related to your website traffic.
Google analytics is free, just sign up for an account on Analytics.Google.com
Then install the Google Analytics WP Dashboard plugin and connect to your account. It will verify you have access to your free Analytics account so sign up first before installing the plugin.
Then filter through data each month to learn more about where your visitors are coming from, which pages get visited most, average time on website, bounce rate, and many more statistics.
Security is important so your real estate IDX website doesn’t get hacked, malware, or viruses.
The Wordfence plugin makes it easy to secure your site and runs weekly or monthly checkups to ensure your real estate website is healthy and working properly.
This is a more complicated plugin to configure when you install it, so check out my tutorial for more information.
#5: WP Fastest Cache
Website speed is also very important as users expect your pages to load within 1 to 2 seconds. Any slower and you risk visitors leaving your website do to slow loading pages.
Help prevent this by installing a caching plugin like WP Fastest Cache which helps store page data in a way that speeds up load time for your website visitors as they browse around your site.
There are many other caching plugins you’ll see in the WordPress plugin directory, but I prefer to use WP Fastest Cache for its simplicity and effectiveness at making my website faster.
This plugin optimizes your images as you import them to your WordPress website so that the file size isn’t to big and heavy, slowing down your website.
It compresses the file size to the optimal size for each particular image without blurring the image.
I also recommend using a free tool BulkResizePhotos.com to optimize and resize images before importing them to WordPress.
For example, a professional real estate photo of a house might come off the camera at 5000 x 2500 pixels and have a massive file size of 6 MB.
This original final needs to be optimized and compressed down to a more website friendly size.
I try to get my image file sizes under 100 KB but professional photography usually ends up in the 200 KB to 400 KB range when I reduce the image size down to 1500 to 2000 pixels wide.
This is still a huge improvement from the 6MB file size (6,000 KB) that originally came off the camera.
Most computer screens are only 2000 pixels wide or smaller so you can comfortably reduce the image size in half to 2500 x 1250 pixels and still get crystal clear pictures on your web pages.
#7: Broken Link Checker
The Broken Link Checker plugin scans your website on a schedule to find any broken links and alerts you via an email so you can fix them.
It’s especially useful for real estate agents and real estate websites since you’ll have lots of different listing pages on your website as well as your blog posts interlinking to each other.
You also may need to update external website links that you are linking to from time to time, if those websites go down or pages get deleted.
For example, you might link to city government resource pages or local school pages. Their websites might change or pages may get removed, causing your links to lead people to an error page.
#8: Pretty Link
Pretty Link is super helpful if you want to create links you’ll remember and that other people will remember.
For example, maybe you want to advertise on a real estate billboard in your city. You can use a website link like AgentNickFoy.com/value to send people to a page where they can get a free home value estimate.
The normal link might be something like AgentNickFoy.com/whats-my-property-worth-123/
Or take a listing for example. It may have a difficult to remember property address link like AgentNickFoy.com/12345-Carrington-Way.
You can make this link simple (AgentNickFoy.com/Carrington) by using Pretty Link to redirect people who visit your custom link and sends them to the actual page.
#9: Social Warfare
Lastly, you’ll want a social media sharing plugin to add social share buttons to your pages and blog posts. This will be a great way to get your listings more shares on social media!
Social Warfare is great and easy to set up so you can have professional looking share buttons floating on your pages. You can choose top, bottom, or sidebar positions also!
It’s a free plugin, but you can also upgrade to Social Warfare Pro for additional features.
Backup your website
I’ll keep this section brief since we’ve already talked about the Updraft Plus backup plugin you should install to backup your real estate website.
Backing up your website once you’ve set it up is important so you can save yourself from having to rebuild a new website should something happen.
I recommend the Updraft Plus plugin because it has an automated backup schedule so your website can backup itself daily or weekly to make sure that any recent changes to your site are kept up with.
You’d hate to backup your website on Day 1, make lots of changes over the next 6 months and lose them because you forget to continually backup your website. Let the plugin do this for you on autopilot.
Another way to backup your website is to download the zip folders from your website hosting file directory.
Login to your hosting account and find the file manager in your control panel. Choose “Root” for your domain and you’ll see a sub-directory of folders. Download these zip folders to your computer or external hard drive for safe keeping.
Launch your IDX website
The final step to building your dream real estate website is to launch it! While your website is under construction you can install a plugin that creates a coming soon page, visitors run into.
This alerts them your website is not live yet but will be in the coming days or weeks. You can also set a countdown timer feature.
Once you’re ready to go live, remove the plugin and your website pages will be accessible.
You should also blast a message out on social media as well as to your email database, alerting everyone to check out your new real estate website!
Here’s a quick checklist before going live:
- Create core pages (home, about, contact, listings, blog feed)
- Create your menu navigation
- Interlink relevant pages to each other
- Check for broken links
- Optimize images on all pages
- Check page speeds using Pingdom or GT Metrix (google these)
- Check contact forms are working properly
- Backup website
IDX Real Estate Cost Breakdown:
- Website Hosting – $3.95/mo
- Domain URL – $1/mo
- IDX Service – $40/mo
- WordPress Theme – free to $99
- Elementor Page Builder – free
- Elementor Pro – $49 (optional upgrade)
This method I presented today is one of the most affordable ways to build your own IDX real estate website.
Doing it yourself isn’t that difficult and it saves you from going with an expensive service that can cost thousands of dollars per year.
Your new IDX website will cost maybe $500 per year depending on what add-ons and IDX service you use.
Are you ready to create your website?
That’s it. You’ve completed my guide to building an IDX real estate website. I hope you enjoyed the video tutorials and long article with step by step instructions.
Now don’t wait to get started, re-read this guide again and when you’re ready, click the link to start with Step 1.
Also…can you do me a huge favor?!?
Please share via the social share buttons or personally with your realtors in your office to give them a helpful guide to building their own real estate website too.
You can also check out my real estate marketing videos and training’s in my online school for real estate professionals. It’s an insightful and helpful course to better your marketing methods and generate more leads.
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