If you’re a property manager looking to get a real estate website up and running quickly, you may be asking yourself whether an apartment website template is the way to go. But while the industry’s leading template providers seem like an attractive solution for some apartment brands, they often present more difficulties than they solve, turning short-term expediency into long-term headaches.
People use real estate website templates because they expect them to be the easy solution. In fact, many of these template providers are also Property Management Software providers, which is appealing to property managers because it has the potential to save time and effort when integrating their PMS and their website. It’s also affordable for most budgets because it’s a one-size-fits-all approach. By relying on a template instead of a fully custom site, property managers save money for their properties. Sounds pretty sweet, right?
Unfortunately, this picture perfect scenario often fails to materialize. Where leading template providers offered to save time and effort, they often deliver further challenges and sub-par results down the road, requiring further intervention from property managers to address these challenges. Here are some of the common issues we and our clients have noticed when working with the leading real estate website template providers.
Strict Templates Make You Blend In With The Crowd
Most apartment website templates are easy to spot a mile away. That’s because most templates are built for quantity, not quality. In other words, template providers want their templates to be applicable to a wide variety of housing brands, which tends to strip away a significant amount of visual character and functionality that might clash with a subset of brands.
The result is a look and feel that is very generic, with limited flexibility to showcase your specific branding elements and key differentiators. This is especially disadvantageous if your community is part of a competitive housing market and/or offers a lot of unique amenities and features that could earn you more attention, if only you were able to show them off more easily. Instead, with hundreds of other property sites out there using the same real estate website templates, by the time your prospects find your site, there’s a good chance they’ve already run into multiple lookalike apartment websites during their housing search. That means their first impression of your community is that it’s just like all the rest. Not exactly conversion-inspiring.
You might think this is an issue with all templated apartment websites, but not all templates are made equal. In fact, many templates offer more customization options so you can showcase your brand colors, patterns, voice, and key differentiators more prominently while still keeping costs low. Some real estate website experts also combine a templated approach with the assistance of professional web designers and developers to help you fully adapt a template to suit your needs, which could suit some brands better than the bare bones approach that most templates provide. Full disclosure: Threshold is one such real estate website provider, but we’re not the only option out there delivering this hybrid approach to real estate website design. Even if you work with another real estate marketing agency, we highly recommend this hybrid approach to launching a templated apartment website.
Not All Integrations Are Made Equal
While some leading template providers offer integrations with their own property management software and basic Google Analytics without too much trouble, integrating with other software can present surprising amounts of difficulty. This can be a problem when it comes to implementing a diverse ad mix, tracking digital marketing results, and identifying optimization opportunities.
For example, while some website template providers list dozens of available integrations with leading property management software, Internet Listing Services, analytics providers, collections and billing, marketing platforms, resident screening providers, and more, the truth is that many of these integrations are complicated and fickle, requiring a savvy web developer to decode and troubleshoot. And if you’re considering a templated website, it’s probably because you wanted to keep things simple and easy rather than needing the assistance of an expert in web development for apartments.
Plus, many desired integrations are missing, including leading third-party chatbots and CRM software. This means that the average templated website may be a poor choice for teams wanting a cutting-edge web experience with the modern touch that consumers have come to expect.
“Set It And Forget It” Leads To Poor UX
Typically speaking, property managers who opt for templated apartment websites are looking to simplify their life and avoid a lot of messing around with the website backend. For these folks, the ideal that they envision might be to get the real estate website design project out of the way so that they can focus on other things and not have to worry about the website again. Sounds nice, right?
Unfortunately, this “set it and forget it” approach often leads to poor UX when it comes to apartment websites. Templates may offer a quick way to get a basic website up and running, but this short-term advantage can pale in comparison to the long-term reality of real estate website maintenance. Amenity photos, external links, and specials info soon become outdated. Integrations break, leaving ugly and confusing elements on the your website—or worse, incoming leads fall through the cracks instead of being converted into new leases. In many ways, this isn’t a unique failing of templates, it’s just a reality of website management that property managers should be aware of while forming expectations and launching a website.
In the end, “set it and forget it” never lasts as long as you hoped, because before long, you’re forced to make site updates to ensure that your website continues to provide a quality user experience that inspires confidence in your prospects and delivers all the information and functionality they need to actually convert. So the goal you aim for in your apartment website should never be to “set it and forget it.” Someone will always need to be responsible periodically for ensuring the website is continuously optimized, or at least in proper working order. With this in mind, it may be well worth your effort to opt for a more hands-on approach from the very beginning, rather than locking yourself into a template that limits your capabilities and presents challenges for the web developer(s) you work with.