The WordPress Hosting Strategy that Works for Real Estate Agents TODAY

Real estate agents are using WP Engine managed WordPress hosting to increase real estate website speed and convert more leads.

After seeing the results from Boston Condo Guy and Stuart St James migrating their WordPress-based real estate websites to WP Engine, we moved Entry Only New England as well.

Immediately upon migrating the Boston Condo Guy real estate website to WP Engine, page load times decreased from 5.2 seconds to 2.3 seconds, a 56% reduction!

Here’s a view of the website speed test on Boston Condo Guy before switching real estate website hosting providers.

Real Estate WordPress Hosting - Before WP Engine

Here’s the same website speed test conducted immediately following the migration to WP Engine, and not making any additional changes to the site.

Real Estate WordPress Hosting - After WP Engine

What Every Real Estate Agent Needs to Know About Hosting Their WordPress Website

More than 20% of the entire web runs on top of WordPress.

No doubt if you’re a real estate broker or agent, your web presence runs on top of WordPress too.

WP Engine has arguably the fastest WordPress servers on the planet. As Google makes website speed and page load times more critical ranking factors for their search results pages, real estate brokers and agents can easily get ahead of the curve by taking advantage of super fast WordPress hosting.

With Google telling me that high performance web sites lead to higher visitor engagement, retention, and conversions, I couldn’t argue with taking intentional steps to put Entry Only New England on the WP Engine platform.

WordPress Hosting Providers for Boston Real Estate Websites

If you’re using a low cost hosting provider that doesn’t specialize in highly optimized WordPress-based websites for real estate, you’re doing yourself and your clients a disservice.

WP Engine can easily scale alongside you as your business grows, it comes with automated daily backup so there’s one less thing to worry about, there’s a website staging environment included, and highly reliable WordPress security comes standard with any hosting plan.

Exclusive “Staging” Feature at WP Engine

One of the fundamental differences between WP Engine and other managed WordPress hosting providers, and frankly, something that sets them apart as a leader in the space, is offering a staging environment with each account at no additional charge.

Essentially, a staging site is an independent clone of your live production site. Rather than making changes to your production site, you can make changes to a safe staging site, and then easily migrate changes made in staging back out to production in a few clicks.

Each WordPress install at WP Engine can have its own staging site, you can create a staging site with one click, and promote changes made to a staging site out to production with a few clicks.

The support experience at WP Engine has been solid.

I love the live chat feature, and overall, support is miles better at WP Engine than a low cost hosting provider that can oftentimes struggle to get back to you in a timely manner should you need help – WP Engine support is real time and email support is extremely timely.

WP Engine WordPress Hosting for Real Estate - Free Trial

New South End Condo Development

I’ve had the opportunity to tour 83 West Brookline Street in the South End several times now, and long story short, the condos in one of the South End’s latest rowhouse renovation projects are coming together very nicely.  A photo tour of several of the units can be found below.  The developer will take these condos to market in approximately two weeks.

The penthouse kitchen at 83 West Brookline Street features granite counter tops, lots of natural light, stainless steel appliances and gorgeous white cabinets that complete the space.

83 West Brookline Street Penthouse Kitchen

The view from the living room of the South End penthouse unit boasts the iconic Prudential Center tower.

83 West Brookline Street Penthouse View

3 of 6 skylights in the cathedral ceiling flood the penthouse unit with natural light.

83 West Brookline Street Natural Light

The bathroom finishes at 83 West Brookline Street include subway tiles, wood framed mirrors, and trendy vanities.

83 West Brookline Street Bathroom

A view of the kitchen in the 1 bedroom unit at 83 West Brookline, complete with a washer/dryer combination unit – a must have in the South End.

South End Condo One Bedroom

The garden and parlor level duplex, which is a 2 bedroom 2 bathroom condo, features a bright and open kitchen complete with prep island.

83 West Brookline Street South End Duplex

What You Must Know Before Hiring a Long Distance Boston Moving Company

A Boston Real Estate Observer reader recently submitted an article to us chronicling their cross country move from Boston, specifically, the long distance moving company selection process in sorting through the best moving companies.  Here’s their informative account.

After opting for the U-Haul experience a few years ago to get to Boston, I really didn’t want to have anything to do with personally moving my belongings out of a 600+ square foot downtown Boston condo and a small self storage unit to another state approximately 2,000 miles across the country.

I knew well before I moved out of Boston I was going to hire a long distance moving company to lift the burden off of me.  To that end, I tried to do as much due diligence on the moving process as possible to avoid moving scams, pay a reasonable price, and ultimately have peace of mind.

From my standpoint, there were a few options on the table, some of which were more work for me, while others involved little to no effort.

I checked out PODS, got quotes from 2 “less reputable” moving companies over the phone, and got in person quotes from 3 “more reputable” full-service movers.

PODS Boston Moving Service

If you’re familiar with the PODS concept, it’s pretty cool.

However, it’s pretty expensive for what you get.

To the tune of approximately $4,000 for the setup I was considering, and you do all the packing and placing of items into the PODS yourself.

Once the PODS is dropped in front of your home, you load it up and then they pick it up, store it for up to a month for you at your destination (where it is accessible to you), and drop it off in front of your new home for you to unload it (on your own).

If you’re reading between the lines here, that’s still a lot of work, especially for someone like me who lived in an old brownstone with tight stairs, four flights up!

I knew it would be a lot of work going up and down stairs on my own, easier going down than up, but still an arduous process.

During the PODS quote process, they try and lock you into making a reservation (that you can cancel later with no obligation if done by a certain date), which I did do just to have a safety net, but given the circumstances and the pricing of my other options, PODS quickly got taken off the list.

PODS Boston Moving Service

“Less Reputable” Boston Moving Companies

The two moving companies, one Boston-based and another New York City-based, I spoke with over the phone who did not come out to my place to do an in-home estimate provided me very attractive quotes from a price perspective, somewhere in the $2,000 to $2,500 range.

The pricing obviously sounds good, but when I started doing more research, BBB, message boards, and some of the government websites, you’re advised to run away if a firm doesn’t come out to your place to actually see what they are going to move.

Therefore, these “less reputable” options were essentially scratched off my list, even though at first glance the price was right.

While a low price tag is a really attractive option, just think about some of the implicit realities that accompany a phone-only estimate.  At its core, how much you pay for moving is based on both the amount of stuff you move and the distance it ravels.  The inventory of items that is collected by the moving company over the phone is invariably going to be incomplete, which essentially voids that low estimate you were given and leaves you exposed to additional and unexpected charges, or worse yet, not enough room on the truck for your shipment on the big moving day!

Additionally, moving companies who provide phone-only estimates, in most cases, aren’t familiar with the area and don’t really know what they are getting themselves into – for instance, it was a little fishy when one of the moving companies suggested that they shouldn’t have any problem getting an 18-wheeler down my street to pick up my belongings when I know for a fact there’s little to no possibility of that size truck making it down my tight Boston street.

“More Reputable” Boston Moving Companies

The three moving companies that actually came out to my condo were North American, Allied, and Eagle Van Lines (smaller, and local to Boston, but with cross country moving capabilities).  All of these companies came out to my condo, provided quite thorough in home estimates, and can give you different prices for different levels of packing (self pack, partial pack, or they pack everything for you with a full pack).

How much does it cost to hire Boston movers? Full pack quotes were approximately $4,000, $4,100, and $3,700 respectively.

The major difference between them for me was that Eagle Van Lines (with the lowest full pack quote) would store my stuff for up to a month in their warehouse at no charge.  Based on my move itinerary, I really needed that extra storage time.  North American and Allied, the bigger firms, would only provide additional storage time for a hefty extra charge.

That said, I chose Eagle Van Lines.

They picked us up early one month, and we ended up taking delivery approximately one month later.  I wanted Eagle Van Lines to store our stuff for a while because we made a couple of stops before actually getting to our destination, and once there, I had some renovations done on my new home and wasn’t sure exactly when I wanted my goods to arrive.

Theoretically, if I was ready for them, Eagle Van Lines could have delivered within 7-10 days of picking me up.  Basically, you give them your “first available date”, and then per their contract, they have to deliver within 7-10 days of that.  Given my situation, I obviously needed the flexibility and so I stayed close, via phone, to the cross country shipping manager to keep my finger on the pulse of the location of my stuff and its actual arrival date.

While I was a little skeptical going with Eagle Van Lines, they checked out on the BBB very well, they had some complaints but not too many, they had all their licenses, etc.  Admittedly, there were some questionable things, like why did they change their name some time back?  Outside of the storage situation, which was important to me, it was a relative wash among the reputable moving companies that provided me an in-home estimate.

At the end of the day, I just had to trust that Eagle Van Lines was going to step up and do what they said they would do.

With that, I negotiated a change in the percentage deposit that I gave Eagle Van Lines, moving the balance in my favor – I didn’t want a moving company, regardless of who they are, to have 50% or more of my money up front with no real incentive to actually make the delivery.  With no significant issues, my stuff arrived, including a working plasma TV.  Admittedly, Eagle Van Lines broke several dishes and cracked a snowboard of mine, and my email inquiries to them regarding how to “reconcile” the damages have gone unanswered – I’m not sure if I’m going to make phone calls and actually push the situation or not yet.

Boston Moving Tips

If I had to provide tips to someone else on the cross country moving process, the first thing I would suggest is to start the endeavor early.  Have at least 3 firms come out to your condo, seeing if you can eventually play them off one another if there are any significant differences (admittedly, you don’t want there to be huge differences because that would mean that they don’t know what they’re doing and how to estimate properly).  If they are bunched up like they were for me, perhaps there’s one thing that separates them (the storage for me), or just a feeling you get after you do your own research.

Boston Moving Companies

Is City Truly Wise to Vornado's Roth Deliberately Stalling Filene’s?

It’s a small world, and you never know who is listening.  Steven Roth, the chairman of Vornado Realty Trust found this out first hand after experiencing a backlash from Boston Mayor Thomas Menino following comments made by Roth while at a business school in New York City that indirectly tipped his hand about Vornado’s planned course of action with the Filene’s Basement One Franklin Tower site, which is currently a large hole in the ground amongst tarp wrapped buildings.

Earlier in March, Roth, billionaire Vornado chairman and primary owner and co-developer of the Filene’s Basement site at Downtown Crossing, told a Columbia University audience that in the mid-’90s he purposely let the former Alexander’s department store construction site on Lexington Avenue in Manhattan sit vacant and become increasingly blighted for more than three years, despite complaints from city officials, in a grand plan to force the city’s hand to provide public money for site development.

“The more governments would want this redeveloped, the more help they would give us when the time came,” Roth is purported to have said. Mayor Menino and the City of Boston feel that the Filene’s site, which represents an anchor space in Boston’s Midtown Downtown Crossing neighborhood, is too important to sit vacant and blighted, and to be used as a bargaining chip. Menino is threatening Vornado’s Roth with a hardball eminent domain play that may force Roth’s hand or clear the way for a new developer’s entrance.

Filene's Basement Redevelopment at One Franklin

Steven Roth, Chairman, Vornado Realty Trust

Filene’s One Franklin Tower History

Vornado Realty Trust acquired the Filene’s Basement building in Downtown Crossing in July 2006 for $100 million after Federated Department Stores closed it. Filene’s Basement remained in operation at the site on a sublease until fall 2007, when the store was closed to make way for the $700 million mixed-use redevelopment of the site into a 38-story tower, including 1.2 million square feet encompassing office, condo, and hotel space. Filene’s Basement had expected to open a new store twice its previous size there (along with Target and Zara), in spring 2009 upon the project’s projected delivery. Vornado made its first Boston real estate acquisition in September 2005 with the $96 million purchase of the Boston Design Center in South Boston from the Davis Cos. The Filene’s Basement building purchase placed Vornado as landlord and co-developer with Gale International Realty.

On June 15, 2009, Syms Corp, in a joint venture with Vornado, won a second Filene’s Basement bankruptcy auction (the first involved Men’s Wearhouse rescinding their bid) at $62.4 million. On June 17th, a bankruptcy judge approved the sale, which included leases for 23 Filene’s Basement stores, its trade name, inventory and distribution center. This move gave Vornado a more overall strategic hold on Filene’s direction and holdings, however, the Filene’s Basement Downtown Crossing sublease was excluded from the Syms-Vornado joint acquisition, instead, Vornado took over control of the entire lease. Vornado entered into such a lease back for additional protection against $500,000 a month penalties that would be in place until the redevelopment project saw completion.

Filene's Basement Boston

Filene's Basement Boston

Steven Roth Upsets Boston Mayor Menino

On Wednesday, March 3, 2010, Steven Roth, chairman of Vornado Realty Trust, was the keynote speaker at a two-hour Columbia University Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation lecture called ‘The Real Estate CEO, Steven Roth’. During the lecture, the (New York City) Bloomberg LP tower at Lexington Avenue and 59th Street on the former Alexander’s department store site was discussed. It was purported that Roth spared little detail in explaining that, as site owner and developer, he had almost no basis in the (Bloomberg LP tower) land during the mid 1990s, and it was in his best interest to purposefully allow the building to become an increasing blight, to which the government would need to lend a helping hand in the form of subsidies and the like to spur redevelopment.

Less than a week after Roth’s Columbia appearance and comments, Boston Mayor Thomas Menino, onto Roth’s scent about the possible use of the same technique with the Filene’s Basement building, fired a letter to Roth, in which he called Roth’s alleged remarks “simply outrageous.” In Menino’s letter, he went on to say, “admitting that you embraced a deliberate policy of long-term blight, at a major commercial location in New York City, exhibits a callous disregard for the well-being of the city and its people. Blight kills jobs by destroying an area’s appeal to businesses and customers. It destroys a neighborhood’s residential appeal. It drives property values down, and it promotes crime. The notion that you would purposefully cause this to occur – not due to financing difficulties or other problems beyond your control, but as an intentional cynical ploy to extract concessions from the public sector – is inexcusable.”

Menino Threatens Vornado’s Roth with Eminent Domain

Responding to what he called a “consistent policy of indifference” and saying he won’t let the site “lay dormant,” Menino continued in his letter to Roth, “I am directing the Boston Redevelopment Authority to examine eminent domain options for the One Franklin Street site. I will also ask that the Authority re-evaluate the approvals it has already given this project. This development is too important to Downtown Crossing and to the entire city of Boston to be used as a bargaining chip to improve your bottom line.”

Eminent domain refers to the power possessed by the state over all property within the state, specifically its power to appropriate property for a public use.

Vornado has arguably spent millions of dollars, and almost 4 years trying to redevelop the Filene’s Basement site at Downtown Crossing into the One Franklin Tower development, and today, the site sits abandoned, a large excavated hole surrounded by the remaining site structures wrapped in white tarp and fencing with pictures of what should be to come.

Perhaps Steven Roth knew that Boston would be listening when he spoke at Columbia earlier this month. Perhaps it was a calculated decision to speak out in such a way, either as a mechanism to disengage from the property entirely, or, make an understated point to the City of Boston that he will need more explicit help if the project is to be completed. It could be argued that Roth would be happy to walk away from the Filene’s site via eminent domain, a police power that the state can execute on, but would involve Massachusetts “justly compensating” Vornado for the land.

Filene's Basement Redevelopment at One Franklin

Filene's Basement Redevelopment at One Franklin

Filene's Basement Redevelopment at One Franklin

One Franklin Tower Boston March 2010

One Franklin Tower Boston August 2008