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Since creating my first real estate WordPress theme back in December of 2008, and thousands of buyers later, I've grown to know what buyers and real estate agents want in terms of features and ease of use.
In general, whenever you sit down to brainstorm a new theme, you need to think about the end-user: Put yourself in their shoes, how are they going to use the theme, what's most important to them in terms of features, design, etc.
In this case we're talking about the real estate industry, and over the course of this article, I'll cover key points and features that make up the perfect real estate WordPress theme.
Powerful Search Utility
Say you're looking for a home - the first thing you do when you're on a site is look for the search utility, right?
I know I did when I was looking to buy my first home, so this feature is usually priority number one. Take the WP Pro Real Estate 5 theme for example: The search utility is right up front and center in a nice bold background color preventing the user from getting lost scouring the homepage for what they really want.
Now, how do you accomplish a search utility like this in your theme?
As you probably know, different niches require different homepage styles and layouts. In the real estate market there are a few main things you'll want to focus on:
- Search - Make sure your search area is nice and high up on the page, with a clear and concise layout.
- Featured Listings - These are important as most realtors want to promote certain listings, they can be in the form of a slider, carousel or multi-column layout.
- Agent/Broker Contact Information - Obviously this one is very important, I recommend utilizing a top bar area in the header for phone and/or address information.
- Large Map Utility - A great way to showcase a set of listings is to use a large map with custom pins and infoboxes, it gives the user a quick and easy way to immediately start browsing without having to search on specifics. A great example of this in action is the WP Pro Real Estate 3 theme.
- Testimonials - These aren't required but I've found most people really like to use them, it gives the user a sense of security and a quick little background on the agent or broker they're looking into. A great example of this in action is the WP Pro Real Estate 5 theme.
- Optional Widgetized Areas & Footer - It's always good to allow your users the flexibility to have plenty of widgetized areas as this allows them to add and remove content blocks without coding knowledge.
Mapping is a huge part of a real estate theme, whether it be a more advanced map on the homepage showcasing a bunch of featured listings with custom pins and info windows, or the standard style on the individual listings pinning just a single location.
Agent & Broker Contact Information
Ok ,so you've found the perfect home — what's the next step? Contacting the agent or broker of course. What I've done is created Agent Info and Broker Information widgets. This allows the agent/broker to place their contact info in any of the 10 widget ready areas, heck they can place them in all 10 if they want — ensuring they won't lose that sale.
These days, the usage of mobile devices is huge, more and more people are browsing the internet on-the-go using smart phones and tablets.
Responsive web design (RWD) is an approach to web design in which a site is crafted to provide an optimal viewing experience — easy reading and navigation with a minimum of resizing, panning, and scrolling — across a wide range of devices, from desktop computer monitors to tablets and mobile phones.
You can see a great example of this in the WP Pro Real Estate 5 theme linked above. Use a QR code scanner app on your mobile device to check it out!
Any agent or brokerage is going to have a few listings that they'll want to feature front and center on the homepage, at the top of the listing search area, or in any one of the many sidebar areas.
Taking a look at the WP Pro Real Estate 5 theme you can see a nice set of featured listings on the homepage, then a featured spot atop the listing search results. There is also a very flexible listings widget included where a user can choose from the many taxonomy types (property type, status, beds, baths, city, state, zip/postcode) then set a certain tag to pull from, in this case they would choose the Status and the tag of Featured, then set the number they'd like displayed.
Listing Detail Template
Another important element is the listing detail or single template, this needs to be a nice tight and focused layout. The hierarchy of elements I have found to work best is as follows:
- Sub Header
- Previous/Next Listing Navigation
- Main Content Area
- Street Address, City, State, Zip/Postcode
- Bed, Bath, Sq Ft or M2, MLS or ID #
- Slider of Images
- Listing Description (Post Content)
- Listing Features
- Location (Google Maps)
- Sidebar (Widgets)
- Agent Info
- Broker Info
- Mortgage Calculator
- Request a Showing (Contact Form)
- Agents Other Listings
Here's an example of all these elements.
The Agent Template - or author.php - is a great way to showcase contact and bio information, along with a large map of that agent's listings. This is exactly what is done in the WP Pro Real Estate 5 theme shown below, or see the live example.
Layout & Customization Options
This isn't so much real estate specific but is an important aspect of any theme. Don't let your user get stuck into a single layout, offer them options. For instance in WP Pro Real Estate 4, I've included left column, right column, and three column layouts that can be chosen on a per page, per section (listing search and single) basis or generally site-wide.
Whether it is uploading a custom logo, or creating a custom skin, you need to allow your users to easily customize their theme to fit their specific needs. Take a look at the example below, I've built out an extensive admin framework to allow all sorts of theme options and possibilities.
Hopefully you've found these points and suggestions useful and I've inspired you to go on and create your own perfect real estate WordPress theme!