Joomla isn’t for Real Estate

Let’s get something clear here. Joomla is not the right platform for building real estate websites.

For our readers who aren’t familiar with the system, Joomla is an open source content management platform. It was built to make building a generic website easier. It was not built for real estate offices or agents.

If you’re going to build a real estate website, you need to use something that was designed for the real estate industry.  At Boston Logic, we’ve developed the ONE System Real Estate Website Platform, but I’m not going to write about that today. Before we invested the thousands of hours that we’ve put into building this system, we did use Joomla to build some sites. So, I’m speaking (writing) from experience here. Let me tell you about some of what we learned:joomla-logo

  1. Joomla is not built to integrate with an MLS. This is critical. Your real estate website should be built with an integrated MLS search. The search should not be on another website or in an iFrame. You should be building on a platform that has the search, search results, and property details pages right on your site. In addition the interactive user tools should be part of the site and so should your lead management system. Obviously, joomla doesn’t have a real estate lead management system for you to leverage.
  2. Joomla’s content management system is overcomplicated for real estate. When you design software, you start with requirements. Joomla was built to do a lot of things. Most of these things, real estate agents and offices will never ever do. Advanced content management requires a lot of user access levels and controls. Realtors require a simple and easy to use interface for managing their content. Joomla, we found, confused our clients more than it enabled them.
  3. magnifying glassJoomla is relatively laborious to style. Our team has worked with Joomla plenty of times. It’s still a bear to make the pages all look good. If you think you’re saving money, think again.
  4. Customization is harder. When you get down to it, working with open source systems can get you a lot of functionality for no money. That said, going beyond what the system includes and/or what the plugins you find can do is a challenge. So, if Joomla will do 80% of what you want for your real estate website and then you think it’ll be easy or cheap to hire a developer or web development shop to take you the rest of the way home, think again. Customizing Joomla gets expensive quickly. As a point of reference the last Joomla site that we worked on required about $75,000 in work to get to what the client wanted.
  5. Joomla is hard to turn into an effective real estate website. Great real estate websites have lots of features that are not part of the Joomla platform. I’ve already mentioned the MLS search above. Agent profiles linked to their listings. Pages on developments and/or buildings with available listings right on the pages. Live Chat. Lead distribution and management. Featured property pages. Maps. And many of the other features that make for a great real estate website are missing.

Here’s the all important conclusion. Joomla should not be used for real estate websites. It’s unlikely that the cost benefit will outweigh the poor end product that you’re going to see.

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11 Responses to “Joomla isn’t for Real Estate”

  • Joe LeBlanc says:


    I’m a professional Joomla extension developer with 5 years of experience. I’ve worked on projects from as small as a simple module to as large as integrating with legacy systems at Federal agencies. I’ve never charged anything close to $75,000 for a project. Next time you get quoted that high, give me a call and I’d be happy to bid on your project.

    Also, I’ve worked with professional designers who do not find Joomla laborious to style at all. If you start with a clean XHTML template, adding the Joomla pieces is a breeze. I’d be happy to put you in touch with professional designers as well.

  • Erik says:

    I disagree with your article in so many ways, I wouldn’t even know where to begin. I have yet to build a joomla site costing more than 7.500USD. Yes, seven thousand five hundred. I understand why you want to “promote” your own solution though. If you have spent so many thousand hours on it. :-)

  • Brian says:

    You’re kidding, right? Joomla! is an extensible open-source framework that allows developers to easily add applications, many of which are open-source and free. That includes chat, maps, mortgage calculators etc. It is “built to integrate an MLS” or any other sql database. That’s precisely what a CMS does.

    What’s so hard to style about a standard xml/css page? There are thousands of templates available, many free.

    Customizing Joomla! took you to $75K? Be honest here. Were you writing a custom application? My team and turn around 4 to 5 large sites each month, with extensive customizations. That’s included an online dating site, a video distributor, a manufacturer with 5,000 products, and more. Wish we were getting paid $75,0000 for customizations. Send me your overflow?

  • david says:

    Wow, this post seems to have rustled up with Joomla community. We received a lot of comments. Most of them were self promotional. So, we’re not going to post them. The ones that were polite and professional, we’re happy to respond to.

    Joe – Having worked with Joomla over the years. the reality is that if you want to build a site that looks professional, and the modules you install don’t do exactly what you want when they’re deployed, then the labor and price goes up considerably.

    Erik – We don’t quote sites less than $10k. There’s no way your doing quality custom design and development for $7,500.

    Thanks for all of your comments.

  • david says:


    No, we’re not kidding. Custom branding and design and implementing and customizing a dozen or so modules gets expensive quickly.

    I agree with everyone who says that Joomla is great for deploying a site using a free template and if you use the free modules that are out there and they work exactly as you need them to, then you can save some money. Our experience shows that this is almost never the case. Our clients rarely want exactly what the modules do out of the box.

    Also, if you’re going to start working with most MLSs. You’re going to need to spend quite a bit of time integrating with each. We work with dozens of them. They’re all somewhat different. To say Joomla is “Build to integrate with MLS” is like saying “Joomla can work with an API.”

  • Ron Goodman says:

    I am not a developer or vendor in the real estate website market. I am first and foremost a real estate broker/owner, who just happens to have a strong (legacy mainframe) IT / programming background and am also comfortable with current web technologies.

    I agree that Joomla is probably not the best or easiest solution for most real estate agents, as it can be complex to set up and maintain, at least at first. But if the right MLS integration capabilities can be found, for your particular market, it should not be dismissed out of hand either.

    Having recently built and deployed my own real estate website with Joomla, I have to agree that the issue of MLS/IDX/RETS integration definitely is and always has been the major problem. However, instead of writing Joomla off totally, you should know that there are some new MLS integration solutions being developed and deployed. I have found, working with and on multiple platforms and CMS systems over the past 5 years, that the MLS/IDX/RETS component really needs to include strong and tightly integrated agent and lead management components, and that functionality probably should not be separated from the core MLS/IDX piece when discussing this topic.

    So, if you can find, or have developed for you, a strong MLS/IDX/RETS component, with good lead and agent management functionality already built in, you can have a good and well performing real estate website on a Joomla CMS platform, with all of the functionality that you list as critical. Mine currently generates 8-10 lead registrations per day, after being in production for right at 6 weeks now, all from organic search hits, no PPC traffic.

    The issue of template selection and customization is less of a problem than it used to be. Joomla templates that are Real Estate and SEO friendly are out there. You just need to do some research and testing to find them, and be creative in adapting them to your own style preferences. I evaluated and tested over a dozen templates, all but one being paid but inexpensive “template club” selections, found three that I could do the job, and picked the one I am currently using as the best one for my site.

    Regarding map searches: My new Joomla site doesn’t yet have an integrated interactive map search, but will soon. However, Google Analytics stats for the site I had before, which did include an integrated Google map search, shows that users very rarely used it, preferring instead to use an advanced search form with more textual criteria to define their search. This user preference was also discussed at the recent Inman Connect conference in San Francisco, and owner and developer of the website being discussed by that panel decided to eliminate the map search completely, electing instead to offer users only a “Map this Property” feature for specific properties and search results.

  • Did I hear right that someone was quoting a web site portal for $10k. That seems a bit pricey unless you are a broker. An individual agent would be better off using a solution where they don’t need to get anything custom at all. Perhaps I don’t understand the problem, but it seems to me that you would do some kind of IDX solution and write a small wedge piece that connects the MLS to the web site?

  • Shandi says:

    It’s hard to take someone seriously who claims they’ve done $75,000 Joomla sites whose own site is an obvious Artisteer template for WordPress.

  • Ray says:

    “Erik – We don’t quote sites less than $10k. There’s no way your doing quality custom design and development for $7,500.”

    What nonsense. We handle website projects too, for small jobs we charge less and for big jobs we charge more.

    If you don’t quote for less than $10k, good on you. But what does a < $7.5k price tag have to do with quality of delivery. Depends on the requirement, doesn’t it?!

    I came to your site since we’re looking for a SEO friendly real estate solution. But now I’m reluctant to buy from you. Think before you type.

  • david says:

    Update: This post is still getting eyeballs and taking names.

    Custom website development isn’t cheap. If someone tells you it is, take a hard look at what you’re paying for. Also, take a look at what’s out there.

    If you compare Joomla to a real estate website platform, you’re going to notice all sorts of features that are missing!

    Your website needs to be the foundation of your marketing campaign. It also must include features and functionality that help you serve your clients. A real estate website isn’t just a property search, a blog, some content pages and a few forms. The tools behind that site need to strengthen your ability to close deals. Joomla doesn’t do this.

    On pricing:

    Ray, I knew what I was typing. We’ve been doing this for years. Custom design and development doesn’t happen for LESS THAN $10,500. You’re right, it does depend on the reqs, but it only gets more expensive.

    If you want to pull one of the designs off of the shelf and you don’t need any customization, check out our Sequoia subsidiary:

  • Johnux says:

    This article is a bit on the extreme side and the comments aren’t helping. I also do web design/development and I’ve done plenty of jobs for under $7k. I’m not saying it’s unrealistic to charge more in many scenarios, I’ve dealt with clients where I’ve quoted out significantly more than this but something based on Joomla for $75K? My whole reason for even replying to this is actually to point out one thing…

    “If you compare Joomla to a real estate website platform, you’re going to notice all sorts of features that are missing!”

    And if that specific Real Estate platform doesn’t do what you want, you have to hire a programmer to modify software that purposely wasn’t designed to be modified.

    I’m a stern believer that a solid Open-Source platform is usually the best place to start on any project, especially if extensions for your main purpose exist and work well. You will have space for growth and will likely have more programmers to choose from if you need something specific integrated.

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