ADA Compliance: Fact or Fiction

For whatever reason the various real estate news portals across the web circulate a story about the importance of ADA compliance every few years, sending ripples of panic and fear through every real estate website owner online, as well as their poor tech people who manage those sites. To help dispel some myths, and offer some comfort to those confused we’ve prepared this article with helpful information you may want to consider.

Some Basic Info: Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) The ADA prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in employment, State and local government, public accommodations, commercial facilities, transportation, and telecommunications.

While it is certainly important to make sure your website is as usable and available as it can be for everyone, concern over these standards at this point in regards to your website is largely a non-issue, here’s three reasons why:

  • Most visually or hearing impaired internet users already have hardware and software that makes the web readable.
  • There are actually NO standard approved ADA compliance rules for websites.*
  • The only way this even becomes a concern is if a suit is brought against you, at which point you have over 14 months to get your website “compliant”.

Some of the items listed as being part of compliance are already taken care of in our system, or in basic standard web design best practices. These include:

  • Text alternatives for images
    Most major images in our system allow for users to edit alt tags as they please.
  • Captions for videos or other multimedia
    These are a standard part of almost all video. Especially via services like Youtube which we support.
  • Presenting content in different ways
    Very vague. Our content is provided in a fairly standard way. Text. Images. Links.
  • Making content easier to see and hear
    Very vague. Most browsers, and other softwares, also handle this on their own already.
  • Making it easier for everyone to use and navigate
    Very vague. Best of all, our websites already do this.
  • Website use from a keyboard
    These settings are generally able to be controlled via the users own system settings.
  • Giving users enough time to read and use the content
    Taken care of! We don’t encourage fast changing slides or page forwards.
  • Making sure the content you present doesn’t cause seizures
    None of our sites use seizure inducing content.
  • Having text that’s readable and understandable
    All of our text is readable.
  • Consistency of content and navigation throughout the site
    Consistency is part of any good web design, and just one of the things that we excel at.
  • Use of error messages and ways to get back to where one started
    Our system always provides error information and a means to go back or reload a page.
  • Content is compatible with various web browsers
    Our sites are tested to be available on all major browsers and screen sizes.

Curiously enough, most of the websites that are announcing this urgent need for compliance themselves are not ADA compliant. We can only assume these radical scare tactics from these sites and news sources is yet another way to Cry Wolf for attention in hopes of increasing interaction and web traffic.

Take Heart!
Once a standardized set of ADA compliance rules is released we will work diligently to include them into our system as part of our frequent, regular updates.

Should you make the decision to future proof your web presence with ADA compliance, we here at Tour Real Estate Inc, your providers of stunning real estate technology for over a decade, are happy to provide custom design towards this goal. Our attractive custom real estate websites provide a visually striking way to define your brand and stand out from the competition. Contact us to find out more!

*In July 2010, the DOJ released an advanced notice of proposed rule making seeking comments on website accessibility issues. The comment period closed in January 2011. The proposed rules have been delayed several times since that date. It appears that we will have to wait a little longer to see those rules—until at least 2018.

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Real Estate Apps: Consider This

As a provider of exceptional real estate technology for over a decade we’re often asked our opinions on current design trends and programs making their way throughout the industry.

We feel honored that so many well respected agents and brokerages would look to us as a source of insight into these items; as such make it a priority to be succinct with the information we provide. Whether it be just an agent asking if an email they received is a scam or more in depth questions about best SEO practices we’re always glad to talk with our clients and offer our knowledge towards their success.

One subject that has been a hot button item for a little while now is real estate apps!

We frequently get agents calling and saying “Oh this salesman that was in our broker meeting says we ABSOLUTELY have to have an APP! Gotta have it!” – which is exactly what someone selling apps would likely tell someone they thought might buy one.

So to help dispels some myths we’re putting together these quick points on why a real estate app might NOT be a good idea.

Cost
Apps are not cheap. Even when they promise and guarantee and offer payment plans. If you’re getting anything that’s not already pre-made for someone else it’s going to start around $5k and go up from there. Don’t forget, once it’s built it may still need updates and upgrades to stay current and functional.

Ease of Use
So you find a trustworthy developer, sign a contract, pay your money, and your shiny new app is ready to go…now what?
Well, you’ll need to get it approved and added to the google play and apple stores so people can find it. You’ll need to market the app so that potential users will even know it exists of course, and once they find it they’ll still need to decide if it’s something they want, install it and approve the permissions it needs before they can use it.

You STILL Need A Website
Even if your app goes off without a hitch the hard truth is there is still a large part of the population that will not use your app, even if they know about it. In fact, even if people are using your app you will still need at least the most basic of websites to legitimize yourself in the eyes of most clients and have any presence in search engines. It’s become as much a part of business as having business cards; while it’s never good to put all your eggs in one basket it also doesn’t make sense to just buy baskets because someone said you needed one.

A Better Way…
At Tour Real Estate Inc we provide truly mobile responsive web design! Nothing to download, nothing to install. You just tell your clients to go to your website and they’re greeted with a streamlined experience that puts your services as well as your listings on display in an attractive and easy to view format.  You’ve only got to promote your website – as you should be doing anyway – with less cost and time investment than any app could offer. We currently have several elegant real estate web design template that are fully optimized as well as mobile compliant and we’re always glad to offer custom design for those who really want to stand apart from the competition.

While we encourage people to diversify their marketing strategies whenever possible we also strive to help folks keep from spending money frivolously when there is no need to do so. We hope this information has been insightful into some of the reasons why a real estate app might not be the best idea and that you will feel free to contact us should you have any real estate technology needs that we can assist with!

UPDATED FEATURE: Agent Roster

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We’re gearing up for an exciting new year! As part of that we’ve been finishing up several refinements for our real estate website system. Specifically in this case our Agent Results pages for real estate team and brokerages. This updated layout features larger agent profile pictures (so be sure to login and update that photo to something new!) as well as a more streamlined and consistent data-set that put makes the pertinent info for each agent easy to read.

Next up you can expect to see improved agent profile pages as well as stunningly elegant property search results and details pages!
These sort of system updates have been part of our standard service protocol for years. We want our customers to be as successful as we can make them, so we don’t up-charge for every new function under the sun – we just keep making our websites better so that you can reap the benefits!

Are you a real estate professional who is ready to level up their game in the new year?
We can help! For over a decade we’ve helped shape the real estate technology industry; we have the tools and experience you need to seize your digital destiny!

A New Site Isn’t The Answer

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It’s a story we hear from time to time having worked in real estate technology for over a decade: an agent who has had a website for some time calls to complain about a lack of leads or to cancel their service just because they “aren’t getting anything out of the website”. There are even others still who are happy with their website overall but are easily lured astray by fast talking salesman with an arsenal of buzzwords and pockets full of urgency. While we’re glad to real estate professionals in whatever direction they are seeking success but it’s hard not to ask them out right: “Well, what have you been putting INTO your website?”.

See, it’s easy to complain about a lack of results from the work you didn’t do, and unfortunately more times than not the thing not working…is the website owner. You see simply having a site and just being online isn’t enough – it never really was – and just having a site that no one knows about ( that you’re also not actively telling people about ) is the surest way to get lost in the online noise.

We understand agents want to be selling real estate, not pushing buttons all day, but as a website owner and businessperson having at least some nominal involvement with your digital presence is a must. There are any number of systems that promise “set it and forget it” solutions to automate your advertising – but their quality is sub-par to say the least. And while there are any number of things you can and should be doing to promote yourself online the topic we want to touch on here is some of the reasons you may have not thought about in regards to switching your website to a new provider.

Change of Branding
Let’s change their coffee to brand x and see if they notice….oh believe me, they’ll notice! A sudden change in look or layout can be a real shock to website visitors who have visited your site lately, and for long term users of your site a change in the functions that they’ve come to depend on can also be a big disappointment. If you’re changing web systems make sure to keep your brand looking as consistent as possible – this is no problem if you’re migrating to TourRE as we offer excellent custom real estate web design to accommodate any need.

Loss of SEO
The age of your domain, and it’s contents play a large role in your search engine visibility. Sudden changes to your content, loss of data or meta-info, changes in link structures and other technical items in the code that makes up your website itself can really knock your SEO for a loop. If you’re changing web providers be prepared to not only disappear from the radar for a short time but possibly even having to start from square one in gaining good position in search results. This is even more true if you change the actual URL of your site.

Learning Curve
Even if you are fairly tech savvy there will always be a learning curve when you switch to a new system. No matter how intuitive a website is there is always a little down time involved in learning how to use the new tools you’ve acquired. Things that were once fairly easy to do like adding custom pages or links may now be unfamiliar.

Over-promising and Under Delivering
So you’re excited about your new site, you’re learning how to use it….three or four months go by…and the honeymoon is over…and you’ve got this great new site that you’re still sort of excited about, that may or may not do what your old site did, and may or may not cost as much or more than your old site — and! it’s performing just as poorly as your old site. What gives?! Well, in some cases you bought the sizzle instead of the steak and the new website simply does not do what the nice salesman promised – in other cases it’s the unfortunate fact that: you get out what you put in.

You’ve got to work the market for your marketing to work for you – let us help!
It may seem like strange to hear us not yell from the mountain tops “OUR WEBSITE’S ARE THE BEST!!!” ( and we believe they are ) but at the end of the day the website that does the best is the website you use and promote the most.  We’ve seen basic html websites outrank sites that people have thrown thousands of dollars at and it all comes down to how much promotion the website receives. Ready to get started? We’d love to talk with you about your ideas!

 

Real Estate Websites: Keeping Up!

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Today 9 out of 10 potential home buyers start their search for a home online. With the mega-budgets of big box real estate stores like Zillow and Trulia the individual agent – and even the larger agent real estate teams – struggle to compete and keep their heads above the waves, especially in regards to SEO and website visibility. The bad news: the search engines aren’t likely to stop playing favorites any time soon. The good news: there are things you can do to still remain viable and visible.

Be Mobile
As of April 21, 2015 Google announced that websites that were not mobile compliant would begin to be penalized — especially in mobile search results. Since over 45% of all website traffic these days comes from phones or mobile devices it is especially important to not only have a website that is visually pleasing but also easy to use on the mobile platform.

Tour Real Estate Inc offers several fully mobile responsive templates and we’re converting more of our classic designs every day; we also offer exceptional mobile responsive custom website design as well.

Be Visual
Humans are naturally visual creatures and it’s common knowledge that people online simply do not pay the same attention to text as they do images or video. So be sure to include plenty of eye-catching images in your marketing efforts both on your website as well as in your social media content. Videos are another great way to catch the eye; sites that make use of video tend to have longer “on site” times for visitors overall. Having a consistent and interesting youtube channel is an excellent idea also as it can give a healthy boost to visibility in general when done correctly.

Tour Real Estate Inc understands good design; we’ve been working in the real estate industry for over a decade. We can help you create a stunning custom look that will help you stand out from the competition.

Go Local
Again and again we have agents tell us “I want to be on the first page for Boise Idaho Real Estate” – which of course is the highest competition keyword on google – but what they really should be asking is: “What are my potential clients searching for?”. Optimize your website for local, lower competition keywords for better success. Fact is, unless you work with investors your potential clients aren’t likely to be searching for “Idaho MLS”, they will be searching for more common things that are relevant to them – maybe “affordable homes in Boise” or something along those lines. Be active in your local community also! For all the importance people put on social media one of the more powerful way to connect and get leads is still in the face-to-face world — so get involved in rotary, kiwanis or other local groups where you can shake hands and show your face.

Tour Real Estate Inc optimizes all of our websites from the moment they are launched, give you unparalleled content control,  and are glad to take extra time to talk with you about your specific goals and needs.

All is not lost! And while you may not have the budget to compete with the larger companies you can still claim your fair share of this market. It takes work and persistence but through using your website as the powerful tool it needs to be you can see results. Interested in standing out from the crowd and getting into the game? Let us help you create a dynamic online presence you can be proud of – contact TourRE today!

Real Estate Social Media Myths: BUSTED!

Although slow on the take up the real estate industry is finally catching on to the fact that social media is not only a viable means of marketing but also one of growing importance. This has lead to an influx of agents and offices who “absolutely have to be on such-and-such book”, which has in turn lead to an absolute flood of abandoned profiles and page owners frustrated by a lack of results for their efforts.

We’ll make some enemies here, but: Don’t Blame The Network. Like the old adage says you can’t expect results from work you didn’t do.

To help combat some of this frustration we want to offer a quick dose of reality in order to dispel some of the most common pitfalls and aggravations most real estate professionals run into when they do decide to put in the effort to run their own social media profiles.

All I have to do is post listings.
No. There is rarely a more poor way to run your social media presence. Your audience is exposed to thousands of pieces of “buy my stuff” marketing every single day; when they are on Facebook they very likely aren’t there looking to be spammed.

If you’ve branded your page correctly visitors will already be able to tell you are in real estate, and while it is fine to feature your listings having an endless stream of house pictures on your page not only does nothing to encourage fans to visit your website (where you hopefully have those listings in more detail) but it also discourages fans from caring what is on your page in general.  Solution: Post content relevant to your area, your fan base, or to showcase who you are.

Everyone I Follow Will Follow Me Back.
No. While it is good to like others pages and to interact with posts as your own business page as frequently as possible it is no guaranteed win. People sometimes will follow you back just because you followed them ( especially on twitter ), sometimes they won’t. Don’t rely on this happening. This is like showing up at a party where you don’t know a single person and expecting everyone to stop what they are doing in order to come over and talk to just you. Solution: Interact with other pages beyond just liking their page once. Frequent interaction can increase engagement.

I Shouldn’t Share Other Peoples Stuff.
No. Isn’t this SOCIAL media? Isn’t it supposed to be all about being social and sharing the great things you find? More than just a like or a plus one, sharing other peoples posts can drop the spotlight on you as someone who might be an online ally. It also allows you to more easily diversify your own content; after all, what’s more boring than someone who only talks about themselves all the time? Solution: Share! Share often!

Automation Is the Best!
Definitely NO. While automation can save you time your quality will suffer. There are even any number of services that you can pay to post content on your behalf – the drawback? It’s the same content spewed out on a thousand other pages. It’s not effective. It doesn’t show that you care about what you are providing your fans and even if that wasn’t true, particularly on Facebook, posts that are auto-generated from third parties can receive as much as 60% less visibility. Solution: Schedule your posts if need be, even hire someone to post for you, but make sure quality is maintained.

Pass Me My Blanket, I’m a Guru.
And it only took two weeks!
Yeah. About that. Not going to happen.
The internet is full of self-proclaimed gurus who know all the right buzzwords ,and even what some of them mean, but nothing worthwhile ever came easy or over night. Consistent effort will bring results, but don’t expect to have a thousand fans in just a few days without buying them. Beyond knowing how to use the tools within the systems effectively, and being able to create great content, there really are no deep dark secrets to mind blowing success in social media. Solution: It takes time; you’ve got to put in the effort – or pay someone else to – in order to see real results.

book1The good news?
None of this has to be hard! We’re glad to talk shop and offer great free tips and training to our real estate website clients. If you’re just getting started, or aren’t even sure where to begin, you may enjoy our Social Media Primer: Seizing Your Digital Destiny. We’d love to send you a copy at no cost or obligation, just send us an email and let us know you’d like a copy.

REALTORS: Reasons Why Your Social Media Falls Flat

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Social media social media social media – boy it sure it a hot topic these days isn’t it?! Guru’s and mavens popping up left and right, all experts – as of this month – in the great unquantifiable thing that is the silver bullet to kill your marketing monster.

We apologize for all of them. Fact is though social media is one of the most cost effective ways for you to get the word out about your services – especially if you’re bold enough to take it on yourself. To help you towards your goals we’ve put together  a quick list of common mistakes for the medium; feel free to pass them along to your page manager, guru, samurai, jedi WHATEVER they call themselves as they are likely making the same mistakes.

Not having a goal.
It’s hard to hit the mark if you don’t even have a target. Make sure before you begin your journey in social networking, or hire a ‘professional’, that you have an actual goal in mind. Whether it be simply getting more visibility, getting more sales, or increasing traffic to your website. It’s a lot easier to know if you’re getting there if you have an idea where there is.

Not using social media.
Kind of mind blowing isn’t it?! But if you’re not actually USING the platform how can you expect it to DO anything? Go to the store, buy some eggs, take them home and put them on the counter – now sit there and stare them and berate them for not becoming an omelet. Let us know how that turns out – same thing in social media.

Not understanding likes don’t equal sales.
Visibility is GREAT! People liking your stuff makes you feel happy and fuzzy warm that you’re LIKED….but it doesn’t sell a single unit. And if you’re expecting it to, you may want to refocus your overall marketing plan. Social media advertising is NOT like the advertising agencies of old. Marketing here doesn’t always equal sales, but it can build the relationships that drive sales and improve customer service.

Not shutting up.
B-But…you…you said I needed to post a lot in one of those other blog entries! Actually, I said you need to post consistently; there is a difference, but that’s not the point to this item. The one most common mistake users of social media make is only talking about themselves or their product. People are hit with thousands of pieces of advertising every day. I can assure you not one single potential customer wakes up in the morning looking forward to being spammed or advertised to.

Be sure to diversify your content, don’t just make it about you or your product. Mix in other inspirational, humorous, or interesting information. Be absolutely certain you answer and interact with every single fan that takes THEIR time to engage with your digital presence. There are a billion faceless companies they can look up if they are wanting anything less.

Not being consistent.
Mentioned this above, so this point will be quick. Setting it and forgetting it only works if you’re using one of those rotating ovens. When you post consistently you not only can more easily target your audience but you also are creating momentum for better exposure.

Not focusing.
Trying to do it all is the best way to fail at everything. Pick the social media platforms that best fit your marketing plans and your ability to manage. There is no value to being on 100 social platforms if you are only actively updating two of them. Nothing is more embarrassing to a page owner or disappointing to a visitor than getting to a page or profile and seeing ” Last Updated June 2011″.

You guys are big meanies!
Well…I guess you might think that, but really we just want to help you build real success through social media. Nay-sayers and smoke blowers are killing the industry; many professionals are beginning to simply opt out of it all together. We think that’s a real missed opportunity! Have questions about social media, your real estate website, or how to best use them altogether? We’re glad to help!