It wasn't so long ago that when people were looking for a house to buy or rent, they started their search by reading the classifieds section of the newspaper, or they just visited an agent in their local area. The internet completely changed how properties are marketed and how people search for houses or properties for sale and rent.

Real estate agents have been quick to realize the importance of having their own, easy to use website. Not only can they reduce their advertising costs, but they can offer a variety of ways for displaying their properties with images, maps and virtual tours.

Most real estate agents aren't technical, so they usually have a web design firm take care of their website. Some web development firms specialize in developing real estate and websites and doing property website design. Fortunately there are a number of open source and commercial realter CMS (content management systems) that can help in getting a property website set up cheaply and quickly. Here is a guide to a few of the more popular solutions.

The industry stand open source realter CMS is Open Realty. Open realty has most of the features most real estate agents require, including multiple property types, multiple pictures and even virtual tours. They also have some commercial add-ons available, for example TransparentRETS allows you to import data from your MLS's RETS server. There are a number of free and commercial templates available for Open Realty.

Joomla is also used for property websites. Joomla is a popular open source content management system, but by itself it does not operate as a property CMS. You will need to install an additional component to make it work for real estates.

Hot property for Joomla by Mosets is one of the most widely used components. It runs on the latest version of Joomla. I have it installed on my New Zealand property website. What I like about Hot Property is that it is very logical component to set up and for people to use. It may lack the sophistication and features of other systems, but it works well enough for agents to list and display their properties.

The interface for adding pictures to listings could definitely be improved. Another drawback of Hot Property is that it isn't updated so often. There is a huge community of hot property users and developers however that can provide useful advice and solutions if you run into any problems.

The other popular property component for Joomla is EZ Realty by Raptor Services. I have used it once on one of my websites and the component has loads of features. One of the dislikes I had with the product is that it isn't so logical to set up and not so user-friendly for agents to set up and add properties. Support however is good and the product is updated regularly.

Another criticism of EZ Realty is that you cannot transfer the product to another server.

For people interested in both Joomla and Open Realty they might want to consider the bridge CMS Realty which connects these two great products.

When deciding on a realter CMS, you need to consider the features that are required by the agent as well as the user friendliness of the product for agents and property customer's.