You need to create a website for property management.
Website design has made great strides in recent years.
Anyone can get their website online with free templates, ready-made designs and website builders. Professional designers can focus more on brand voice than counting pixels.
This shift is remarkable in the fast-digitalizing, high-churn real estate industry.
However, a template for property management websites can help you get started in building your website. This could lead to poor website choices.
Pre-made templates or pre-made designs are like starting your office building hunt based on existing office layouts.
A good office layout is a great thing. It doesn’t matter if the location, building or lease terms don’t make sense.
The secret to professional web designers is that web pages are HTML and CSS combined with scripts. This means…
Any website template can be created on any web platform.
With this in mind, let’s take a look at a six-step guide for choosing the right template for your property management website on the right platform. This will allow you to create the design and functionality that you need.
1. Define your needs, budget and assets
With a little editing any template can be transformed into a property management template. This makes them very easy to market and easy to mislead. It is important to assess what you really need, your budget, and the assets that you have.
You have to be there
What functionality is your website required? Does it just need to be a brochure site or do you want it interactive? Is it necessary to allow for easy editing? Are you required to add a resident portal or an owner portal? Are you interested in interactive online renter applications? Are you interested in owners being able to submit maintenance request online? Are you interested in displaying properties that are available?
There are no right or wrong answers. However, it is important to think about these issues before you read sales templates.
Although price is powerful, it’s important not to only pay for the value of your business but also to pay for what really matters. Consider your physical location. Where can you save money and what do you spend your money on?
How much does a new client cost? What are your goals for growth? What is the expected lifespan of your website? What is the value of your time? How much time will you save by getting your website up and running correctly? What is the value of your staff’s time? How can a website make it easier for them?
There are no right answers, but it’s important to at least think about them before shopping for a design/designer/template.
Although pre-made templates for property management can be helpful, the site must still be yours. Do you have any photography? Are you able to digitize your logo? Are you familiar with the fonts and colors used? Are you able to provide content (e.g. Do you have content already written (i.e., about page information, renters and owners, etc.)?
There are no right or wrong answers. However, it is important to think about them before being influenced by pretty mock-ups.
2. Understanding Terminology and Options
It can be confusing and frustrating to learn website terminology. There are so many companies that mix, match, and misuse jargon in order to sell their products. These are the five essential elements you must have a website online today.
Your “address” online is a domain. It is available for lease from ICANN through accredited “domain registrars” for a set period. One can be purchased now and “pointed” to your website later. To make it easier, many website hosting companies also offer domain names for sale.
Your website is composed of computer files. These files must “live” somewhere. Hosting companies lease space on servers that store and serve website files every time someone visits your site.
Modern websites often contain many files. Websites often require software (or a content management system) to organize all files and make it easy to edit and maintain.
There are many options for website software.
We’ll use WordPress for our purposes.
WordPress powers over 25% of the Internet. WordPress has both its critics as well as its advocates. It’s still the best solution for most property management websites.
WordPress is kinda like a 4 door sedan or light SUV in website software.
It is very popular. It’s also popular because it suits most people’s needs. It is versatile, easy to use and can do so many things. People will say WordPress can be hacked or WordPress is slow. That’s similar to someone saying that sedans are more likely to be stolen than semi-trucks or that my Ferrari can beat your Honda Accord off the line.
Those criticisms may be true, but they are not.
We’ll also see that WordPress can be modified to minimize/eliminate its disadvantages and still retain its benefits for property management websites (i.e. marketing, ownership, integrations, etc).
As we have seen in the introduction, templates simply represent pre-made HTML and CSS (the computer languages used by browsers to generate a webpage). Although not essential, good design is almost impossible to create from scratch with mobile devices and other browsers. Every web designer needs a template or framework to get started.
There are many pre-made templates for property management websites that can be used as templates or paid for. They can also be bundled with custom design services.
Templates have one thing in common. Website templates should be focused on design, layout and content presentation… not functionality.
Plugins, extensions, or apps are software pieces that can be used to enhance the functionality and features of your website.
WordPress’ greatest advantage is its “extensibility”. WordPress offers a wide range of premium and free plugins. These plugins allow small property management websites to be equipped with advanced functionality. Many property management software companies offer WordPress plugins and compatible scripts that can be dropped into WordPress-powered sites.
3. Select & set up your Property Management Platform Website
There are many great website platforms. There are many ways to combine, match and mix the five pieces that you need to create a modern website.
This guide wouldn’t be useful if it didn’t help you to find a template and build a website that works.
We have already narrowed down the options for website software to WordPress. We now need to decide where WordPress software will reside and how it will integrate with your templates and plugins.
Two main options are available: WordPress.com and self-hosted WordPress.
Disclosure: I receive referral fees from the companies listed on this site. All data and opinions are based upon my professional experience as either a paying customer, or consultant to paying customers.
WordPress is a free, open-source software that’s supported by the community. It is free to download, install anywhere and use however you wish.
Self-host WordPress gives you complete freedom and responsibility. It’s almost like having your own house. You have the freedom to do what you like, but you also have the right to call the plumber.
A good hosting company can make all the difference in installing WordPress. Hosting companies can offer the security, support and services necessary to minimize the risks associated with hosting your WordPress site.
I recommend InMotion hosting to businesses for several reasons. Here is my full InMotion review.
- InMotion offers excellent support via chat, email, phone and knowledgebase.
- InMotion charges a slightly more to help businesses focus (not hobby bloggers) and is therefore more expensive.
- InMotion offers WordPress auto-install at checkout and an optional, free drag & drop design tool called BoldGrid.
- InMotion offers custom web design services that can reduce the need to search for random freelancers.
Check out InMotion Hosting’s current Business Hosting plans here.
The upside: You can download and use any theme or plugin you like if you host your WordPress software yourself. This setup is familiar to developers and consultants. It’s future-proof and saves money over other options.
The downside: Technical aspects are your responsibility. While InMotion offers support and consulting, you ultimately have the responsibility for everything. Self-hosting WordPress isn’t for everyone who doesn’t want to deal directly with technical issues.
WordPress.com is a hosted service that is managed by the original developer of WordPress software. It is an all-in-one package that bundles WordPress software with hosting, software support, and other services into one monthly plan.
WordPress.com can be described as self-hosting WordPress. This is similar to owning your building. While you can make all the customizations you wish “inside” the building, the maintenance and boring bits of the building are not your responsibility.
WordPress.com is a great choice for businesses. Here are a few reasons why I recommend it.
- WordPress.com is a WordPress-based website that takes care of all speed, security and technical issues while still allowing users to enjoy the benefits of WordPress software.
- WordPress.com’s Business Plan can be expensive but predictable. Maintenance fees will not be charged by a large consultant.
- WordPress.com offers a complete directory of premium templates that can be installed quickly.
- WordPress.com allows you to still install third-party plugins that have been approved – which is great for custom property management websites.
Check out WordPress.com’s Business Plan.
The upside: WordPress.com users get the most out of WordPress software, without having to deal with any technical issues.
The downside is that you will only be able to use a small version of WordPress. You will also lose some design options and functionality.
The Next Steps
There is no wrong choice. It all depends upon your goals and needs.
Register for InMotion Hosting’s Business Plan with WordPress auto-install.
Register for WordPress.com’s business plan.
4. Select & set up your Property Management Website Template
Once you are clear about what you have, and what you need to do with it, you can start looking for the perfect template for property management on your website.
Keep these things in mind when you shop.
- Don’t pay attention to the logo designs and mock-up photography. A template may only look one way because of the mock-up photography.
- Concentrate on the layout of the template.
- Take a look at more than the homepage. Take a look at the layout of subpages or unique pages.
- Any template can be used as a WordPress Theme. It is better to convert a Squarespace, Weebly or Wix template to WordPress than to just keep the template. This would be similar to choosing an office building based upon existing spaces. It is better to pick the right building and the location, and then spend money renovating it.
Self-hosted WordPress Templates
A self-hosted WordPress installation gives you a virtually unlimited number of templates. These are some places you can look for high-quality options.
- My roundup of WordPress Real estate themes – self-explanatory
- My roundup of WordPress Theme Frameworks: These are amazing templates that can create great websites with beautiful photos and colors.
- ThemeForest is a large marketplace that sells premium templates and themes. You can purchase, download, and install.
- MOJO Themes is another marketplace that offers premium templates and themes. You can purchase, download, and then install.
- TemplateMonster is another marketplace that offers premium templates and themes. You can purchase, download, and then install.
- WordPress.org Repository – The official marketplace for WordPress templates and themes. All templates can be downloaded and installed directly to your WordPress website.
InMotion Hosting customers will have access to the BoldGrid templates, which have drag-and-drop functionality. Their design services can be used to convert any template to WordPress + your branding.
A WordPress.com Business Plan allows you to upload templates from the sites mentioned above. You also have unlimited access WordPress.com’s premium template collection. All templates have advanced customization options that allow you to edit them.
These can be viewed here.
5. Select & Configure Your Property Management Website Functionality
Many theme and template makers combine functionality with design. This can be great, but it can also come with its own set of problems.
You can’t edit a theme that has too many functions. You can edit both design and functionality if you separate them.
WordPress plugins allow you to add functionality.
WordPress is ready to use right out of the box. It only requires very few plugins. The rule of thumb is to have fewer plugins than you need.
Installing the JetPack plugin on a self-hosted website is a good idea. It provides security and backups, as well as other fun features like contact forms and sharing buttons.
Here’s a list of must-have WordPress plugins. This includes Google Analytics & Redirects.
You’ve been waiting all this time for property management functionality.
It is crucial to clearly define your needs. It is easy to add WordPress features that you don’t need or your visitors want.
There are many great sources.
- WordPress.org Repository – The official repository for plugins. You can search for specific functionality. Note the rating and number of installations.
- ThemeForest is a great source for premium plugins across all industries.
- Property Management Software Providers. WordPress is a very popular CMS so your favourite software providers may have an integration. Do a Google Search!
6. You can refine your design and content
Once you’ve got your design and functionality set up, the fun starts.
It doesn’t matter if your website is an informational or brochure site, or a dynamic and constantly updated site, maintaining, revising, and editing are all part of the process.
Although it doesn’t have to take too much time, a website that is well maintained and updated regularly will be a great one.
Edit Your Design
This process should be easy using WordPress + a great template. BoldGrid by InMotion adds drag-and-drop functionality to WordPress. WordPress.com’s Customizer allows for easy click and edit customization.
This guide will explain how WordPress themes work, and also show you the WordPress Dashboard.
Remember to include the features your customers desire when designing and editing your website. Visitors might find it frustrating if they don’t like the look you choose.
Marketing your Property Management Website
Ahh, now for the fun part. There are no right or wrong answers.
Here’s the truth: a website is essential for long-term, real brand building. Social media networks change. A good website is one that you own.
You can position your website for any future events if you keep your best customers in mind and find out how they found you.
This topic is covered in my guide for planning a local marketing strategy.
Take a look at your budget and needs.
If self-hosted WordPress is what you need, then purchase a Business Hosting Plan that includes WordPress auto-install.
You can purchase a WordPress.com business plan here if you are looking for bundled WordPress services.