Back in March 2015 I published the ‘Top 100 Commercial Real Estate Company Websites’. Since then, I’ve continued to add to that list and it’s ballooned to 120 sites. I compiled the initial list when leading the redesign of the Atlas Real Estate Partners website, taking cues from what other real estate firms were doing.
However, with today’s post, I want to drill into the 9 Commercial Real Estate Investment Companies who go their Website design right and dive into what makes them great so you can apply these best practices to your firm’s site. In today’s world, it’s more important than ever for real estate investment companies to ensure they have a great website enabling them to scale their brand online. These sites aren’t necessarily the flashiest, but they have quality design, a clearly defined brand, are easy to navigate, and are producing great content.
The 9 CRE Firms that got it Right
- Origin Investments
- TwinRock Partners
- LongPoint Realty Partners
- Everest Medical Core Properties
- Kushner Companies
- Pathfinder Funds
- Benedict Canyon Partners
- RealOp Investments
- MRP Realty
Defining the Brand
Before even thinking about the actual design, you need to figure out what your brand is and how you want to convey it online. Here are a few questions to assist with the process:
- Describe the essence of the company brand in 3 words.
- What problem does the company solve?
- What makes the company unique?
- Who is your target audience and what’s important to them?
- How will someone in your target audience feel after viewing our website?
- What one thing about the site will stand out?
After defining your brand, you’re ready to move toward design. I’m going to walk, page-by-page, through the 9 sites and discuss the components that make them quality sites.
It’s important to convey exactly what the company does on the homepage. If a visitor doesn’t know exactly what you do, you’re done.
A professional design will build credibility with a visitor. I gravitate toward sites that utilize full-frame photography/video, along with a big, bold, and easy to read taglines. The tagline makes a powerful statement about what’s important to your brand and should stand out to the reader.
There are many similarities between the homepage designs; full-frame photography, a call-to-action, simple and easy to read tagline, and a clean and simple design aesthetic. Don’t overthink the homepage, just ensure it achieves the goal of describing what you do, building trust with the visitor, and guiding them toward the next action.
It’s important for private real estate investment companies to establish credibility up front, eliminating any doubts a viewer may have. Real estate investment is a fragmented and unregulated space, requiring firms to build trust through their marketing efforts.
In reviewing the top real estate sites, firms show their success in many ways, typically highlighting their portfolio, track record, returns, number of investors, and years of experience.
Another challenging aspect of the site design is concisely describing your investment strategy and how it’s unique. After all, how many ways can you describe your value-add approach, off-market deal sourcing, and your local and product type expertise!
Here are a few creative ways firms highlight their investment strategy:
Your investment strategy likely isn’t novel, but your firm does possess competitive advantages and a specific focus. Make sure they’re clearly conveyed throughout the site.
It’s important to highlight your portfolio, showing new visitors all the great deals you’ve done. However, this page presents another set of challenges; do you show the entire portfolio or just select projects (maybe exclude that $2M deal you did in a tertiary market)? Do you sort the portfolio by property type, location, size, or acquisition date? Firm’s show their portfolio in a variety of ways, but the one constant is that should be simple and easy to navigate.
You’ve accomplished a lot and established a market and product type focus, use this page to highlight that.
A key to building a brand online is establishing the firm as a thought-leader and expert through content creation. Blog or resource page designs in particular are critical. If you have a page that’s tough to digest, people simply won’t read it.
While creating content may seem overwhelming, it can have incredible ROI. It’s similar to doing PR, it’s hard to measure the return, but you know you should be doing it. Overtime your traffic will grow and if you’re producing quality content directed towards your target audience, it will pay off big time.
It’s important, especially for real estate syndicators, to offer investors an online investor management platform to view their investments in real-time and access past K1’s, investor reporting, and legal documents. Spurred by the crowdfunding space, there are several white-label platforms offering this software as a service including CrowdStreet’s Sponsor Direct Platform and Investor Management Services.
Looking at the big picture, the goal should be to develop a professionally-designed site that conveys your brand, is user-friendly, and showcase the unique elements of the company in a concise fashion. If you’re struggling with the design, I recommend you look toward more innovative fields for inspiration.
Take Cues from Other Industries
While it’s great to have your pulse on what other real estate firms are doing, and it’s easy to mimic since you’re in the same space, it’s worth tracking what’s happening in more innovative fields. Here are a few non-real estate firms who can serve as inspiration:
Here are some of the tools and programs that can improve the website design process.
- Basecamp for project management.
- TrackDuck for leaving feedback on the live beta site.
- Crazy Egg for seeing how people use the site.
- Crayon for design inspiration.
If you need any help with your real estate company site design, don’t hesitate to reach out. I’d be happy to provide feedback or connect you with website design firms who can assist.