Suggestions for the structure of a membership real estate site

I do a lot of work with themes for wordpress and I have a couple of spectacular niche domain names that I've been sitting on for years.

I want to build a membership site where the agents can sign up for an annual membership, have access to a private forum/mini social network where they can communicate, etc. Once they are members, they can add listings, though not as much detail will be necessary as a traditional site.

Anyway, what I'm getting at is that I'm trying to figure out the best way to run this, e.g. what plugins to use, whether to use buddypress or mu, what good membership plugins there are, any mapping plugins that can aggregate the listings, etc.

I'm pretty new to WPMUdev and I'm curious how others would approach this. I am pretty committed to using WP because I adore it and I'm very comfortable working with it, but I don't have much experience with buddypress or mu.

  • Norm
    • Flash Drive

    So I'm just thinking aloud here...

    I think multi-site with buddypress? Give each agent their own blog/site that they can market individually as well as the ability to add listings.

    Again, pardon my naivete with the multi-site, but if I were to do it this way, is there a way for tiered memberships? Like the agents getting their own blogs but allow the public to sign up only to get updates/comment on the blogs?

  • Arun Basil Lal
    • New Recruit

    Hello Norm,

    Welcome to WPMU Dev! Hope you have enjoyed the experience so far.

    Well, there are many ways you could pull this off, and I guess there is nothing called an ideal solution. I have been a fan of WordPress and other related products and has been working with them since 2008, so let me see what I can contribute to your project.

    First thing, its a Portal where Real Estate agents would want to come and sign-up with. So using WordPress Multisite is a great idea because agents would want to have their own portals at some point. And you could offer that as a service to them, you know, have a set of real estate friendly themes ready and sell it as a package where a real-estate agent could easily set-up his website. And you can offer "setting things up and some basic customization" as another service.

    Here is a plugin that could come handy in this regard, Domain Mapping: https://premium.wpmudev.org/project/domain-mapping
    With this plugin, each real estate agent can have his own domain and still the backend would be your multi-site install. So that is great!

    You will have to decide between forums and social network. Or you could offer both. For forums you could use: http://bbpress.org/ (again another WP child product).

    When it comes to Social Network, BuddyPress is the package you need. And we have tons of themes and plugins to make the most of it. Agents can communicate and message each other and stay updated on activities in the network.

    One plugin you might want when it comes to networking is the Chat plugin here: https://premium.wpmudev.org/project/wordpress-chat-plugin it works with Multisite and BP, so that is great!

    Again, you mentioned about the portal being a paid service, what you need here is our Membership Plugin: https://premium.wpmudev.org/project/membership
    Everything from access levels, to payment gateways is handled here :slight_smile:

    Like the agents getting their own blogs but allow the public to sign up only to get updates/comment on the blogs?

    You could install the newsletter plugin in the network. https://premium.wpmudev.org/project/e-newsletter
    With this plugin, an agent can send newsletters to all subscribed users. For updates and comments, offering feeds (for both updates and comments) and even email subscription to these feeds (using feedburner.com) would work!

    I hope I have contributed something into your project. In the case of projects this big, planning is everything because at some point (esp when paid users start coming in) it will become very hard to roll back.

    Here is a thing, if you get the plan right, we have the stuffs that you would need to execute and of course the support!

    Good luck Norm!
    Arun Basil Lal

  • ThePath
    • The Bug Hunter

    Hi Norm,

    The key to a successful membership sites is of course offering a tool, content, help or networking opportunities thus giving value for their membership. So obviously the sales part is important but if the agents sign up and dont ind the site all that useful then they wont renew.

    Anyway Arun has given you some good links there. I would agree that Multisite and Buddypress would be a great starting block for you.

    If you are interested in offering agents their own blog/site to use as their own platform for whatever then you might want to look at Pro Sites: https://premium.wpmudev.org/project/pro-sites

    With pro sites you could offer members premium themes to help them achieve whatever they want to do wether its listing things to sell etc.

    Like the agents getting their own blogs but allow the public to sign up only to get updates/comment on the blogs?

    So people wouldnt actually be allowed to sign up to the agents blog/site? Seems like youd be cutting back on the agents functionality but I guess you could achieve this with some clever themeing or perhaps a plugin Im not aware of. You can of course allow users to sign up on agents blog and then automatically register them for the main site.

    For me you have to plan what the site is going to offer that users/agents will want. What are you selling, where is your market? These are the key questions. Do you have competition, what can you do that betters them? These are important too.

    Once you can map out what you are selling and what you want the users/agents to be able to do then you can find the themes and plugins that will help you achieve it.

    Let us know your thoughts, I know you might be reluctant to share exactly what your idea entails for fear of it being stolen but to be honest I could give you far more help and ideas if I knew more about the project but I understand the reluctance.

    Anyway I hope we have helped you and Im sure you will be excited about the plugins here at WPMU DEV.

  • Norm
    • Flash Drive

    I've been making my living off of building sites like this since 1996, though I've never done anything like this with WP. I do have a solid business plan as well as a network of sites to drive traffic from, and I have a tremendous amount of experience within my niche market.

    I'm not comfortable giving out all of the details here. Suffice it to say, I do have a viable plan, and I'm not some newbie reinventing the wheel, nor expecting to launch a site that will be the next Facebook. :slight_smile:

    Basically I was wondering what the underlying structure should be.

    If I give each agent their own blog on the profile, would I need multi-site to do this or is it something that can be done with BP? Or is it something that can be done with the core of WP? I've only used WP as a single-user system before.

    My question about users commenting on each blog stems from my curiosity about the way membership is handled. I know I can set up multiple types of users. But can I create a separate interface for each? For example, a private sign-up form for agents which would lead to a payment gateway, etc., and a separate one for users who will only be signing up to comment on the individual blogs, and get updates from each agent?

  • Arun Basil Lal
    • New Recruit

    Hello Norm,

    The choice between Multisite and single WP would depend on whether you want each agent to have a custom portal for themselves. You could take two routes here.

    First > One WP installation. Each Agent has an account. He posts an update (like a blog post). The latest posts (from all agents) will come on your home page. An agent will have his own author page, you can customize this page a bit, and add some profile information about the agent as well, but still it would be following the general layout of your entire site. All the posts from that particular agent would be shown in there. But very limited flexibility, as in, if an agent decide he want to have his own gallery where he want to show off the properties he has for sale, its going to be a bit hard, am not saying impossible, but hard.

    Second > WP multisite installation. One main site and agents have their own portals. Each portal has its own theme. The main site shows updates from all the individual portals. In this case, agent can have infinite customizations.

    This is again possible with BuddyPress. They will have thier own profile page, and they can have an individual blog and everything, but, for a project like this I would go for for WordPress Multisite rather than BP. If it was a portal for a school or a batch I would go for BP. The reason? Well, BP is more like a social networking thing. See, you would rather show of your DOMAIN.com to a client rather than your facebook page, rt? But that is me.

    One more thing, WordPress Mutisite has more Plugins and themes than BuddyPress at the moment, but most of our plugins works with BP as well. I know that makes your decision harder, but I hope I have helped you make an informed one :slight_smile:

    What do you think?

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