It has truly been an honor to receive the award for Best Visual Design for our website from Leading Real Estate Companies of the World®, which was selected out of 550 real estate companies worldwide. This has been a work in progress for many years as we strive to be the go-to real estate source for the Washington, DC area consumer.
AveryHess, Realtors® has gone through four iterations of our website since it was created in 1997. The ultimate goal has always been to provide consumers with not just a portal to view homes for sale, but to showcase how AveryHess could bring in added value as the local real estate expert.
Early real estate sites tended to be static repositories of information, allowing the consumer to “get to know” the services and expertise of the brokerage company, much like a corporate brochure. By 2006, as online searches began in earnest, we built out a website focused on home search functionality as the primary tool. As a trendsetter in the industry we were the first company in the United States to include a home search by Metrorail and VRE (Virginia Rail Express) to make it easier for public transportation consumers to search for homes near their commuting routes.
In 2009 we redesigned our website with a focus on lifestyle. With a robust search experience, incorporating a wealth of data such as schools, commuting times, places of worship, shopping, parks and places of interest our “MyLife Home Search™” was the ultimate tool in learning about the amenities near each home. Another update in 2012 solidified our presence as a go-to source for Washington, DC area consumers.
In 2015 we began a complete company rebrand in preparation for our 25 year anniversary in 2017. To coincide with this rebrand and to continue to build upon past efforts in keeping up and innovating in the online world, we adapted a UX design approach as an integral part of our process. This included extensive research phases, wireframing, user analysis, and extensive user testing, both internally with our agents and externally nationwide to improve both content and site navigation. Most importantly, we set out to upgrade the site by making it responsive. Making the site mobile-friendly was a big step in the site’s evolution, giving it a more user-friendly experience and providing the momentum to help propel our business forward into an era in which online content is predominately viewed via mobile phone by consumers.
By 2016, with the help of Blue Fusion Creative & Marketing, our new brand identity was in place. That year, our analysis of consumer needs and desires lead us to provide more than just a robust search experience, we set out to create a feeling of warmth and instill trust. While we continued to enhance our home search with more advanced functions, we also wanted the consumer to see us as an advisor, consultant and an informative source for their needs as a buyer or seller. We help them interpret data and detailed the process of buying, selling and renting a home to help inform and work through the myriad complexities of the real estate transaction. We want consumers to view us as the local market experts within the communities we live and work. Now with a more sophisticated design and feel, including a video montage that greets each user and video testimonials produced by the creative team at Origin Story Creative Communications, I feel like we have achieved that feeling of trust and, as a result, have arrived at the best and most visually stunning website we’ve ever had.
While we have already seen a 140 percent increase in unique organic search results so far this year, we are not content to sit back. We have continued to add new and exciting features such as creating an “Explore Neighborhoods” section with school ratings, market data, local attractions, and content written by our agents. We’ve also added a home valuation tool we’ve dubbed the “Hesstimate” and included an enhanced search tool called “Fit My Budget” that allows users to search by their desired approximate monthly mortgage payment. The “Fit My Budget” tool doesn’t just calculate the principle and interest like most websites. We also factor in average insurance, taxes, a 30-year fixed rate mortgage, the current average interest rate, and a 10% down payment.
We’ve also made it easier for consumers to find an agent to help them with their specific needs by allowing them to search our agents by, language spoken, specialty, number of testimonials, and geographic area served.
This new site is a tremendous success and we will continue to innovate as we stay on top of the needs and concerns voiced by the next wave of home buyers, sellers, and renters in the years to come.
- Scott Avery