What Questions Should I Ask a Web Site Vendor

The questions you ask at the beginning of the process will go a long way toward preventing disputes down the road. Before you contact any web site designer, look at other Broker Reciprocity web sites. Use them as you would imagine a consumer using them. If you can’t search the Web yourself, have a few agents in your office do it. Have them report back to you on features they think are valuable.

Before you begin discussions with a web designer, ask for the web addresses of other brokerage sites they have built. While nothing prevents you working with a designer that has no previous Broker Reciprocity experience, you may find it more economical to work with one who has. Here are just some of the important questions to ask web site designers.

What are the set up costs for the web site? Most web site designers will want some kind of up-front fee to create your web site. Find out exactly what steps the designer will take during these initial stages.

What is included in the up-front fees? Find out if the package you are considering includes the complete design of a custom web site, or if it only includes certain “template” elements. Find out how much control you have over things like the graphic design of your site, the color scheme, etc.

Can I integrate the Broker Reciprocity site with my existing web site? You may already have a web site and a web site designer and you may just want to incorporate the Broker Reciprocity piece into that existing site. If you want to keep your existing designer, have him/her contact other designers who have Broker Reciprocity experience and help you select one who is best for you.

What are the maintenance costs and how frequently are they due? Most web site designers will charge you a monthly or quarterly maintenance fee. You should find out what you are receiving for this fee.

Is a hosting fee included, or is it payable separately? Once a designer creates your site, it will have to be “hosted” on a computer connected to the Internet. Your designer may include the cost of hosting in the maintenance fees. Or you may have to make separate arrangements for hosting. If the designer will host your site, ask for the web address of another site they host. Visit this site and evaluate the performance as it relates to search speed and display returns.

Does the maintenance fee include periodic changes to your site? You will want to change information on your site, things like firm special events, salesperson of the month, etc. Find out how many such changes are included in any maintenance fee, and how much additional changes will cost.

Does the maintenance fee include access to statistics about who is visiting your web site and when? Critical to any marketing plan involving the Internet is an understanding of who is visiting your web site and from where they are being referred. There are software packages available that will track activity on your web site and provide important answers to these questions. Will your web site designer provide this information to you? Is the cost included in your maintenance?

What is the cost for additional work and features? If you see something on another site your designer has created, he/she should be able to tell you how much it would cost to add it to your own site. Do not assume that a feature will appear on your site just because it appears on another site your designer created for another broker. The contract you write with the designer should list all the features you want and indicate their price.

Discuss changes you will probably have to make. Find out how much they will cost:

  • Change an agent name
  • Add a link
  • Add a banner
  • Add a web page

Will the vendor display all photos on each listing, or just the main photo?

Will you own the domain name? If you are paying the designer to register your domain name, it’s important that the designer commit to registering it in your name.

Does the Broker own the site content? You will want to be able to take your web site design with you if you choose another designer down the road. Seek provisions in your contract that will guarantee this. Note: this is probably only applicable to “custom” site content. If you buy a “template” package, the web site vendor will not relinquish any rights in the template or the search interface to you).

Who is the designer/vendor? Is it a corporation, sole proprietor, LLC? Who will deliver on the promises the salesperson makes if that salesperson leaves?

What is vendor’s experience web-based databases, real estate web sites, etc., and with whom have they worked? If they have built other broker web sites, visit them.

How soon after you sign a contract will your web site be up? It is important to clarify all parties’ expectations here.

Where is the designer located and how will you communicate with them?

Ask the designer why they deserve your business. There are many options out there. Make the designer explain why they are the best.

Encourage the designer to contact Regional MLS. You may encourage the vendor to contact the Regional MLS to talk about what’s entailed in a Broker Reciprocity web site if they have any questions. They will provide better cost estimates if they know more about MLS’s systems and the rules and regulations of the program.

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