The $100 Sandbox

I often hear other Real Estate Agents talk about how difficult it is to set up a WordPress website. Their troubles are some variation of the following:

  • They already have a WordPress website except they’re using instead of (the self-hosted version – this is what you want to be using for your business).
  • They don’t know what hosting is, let alone how to get a hosting account and install WordPress.
  • They’ve installed WordPress, but it looks boring. They don’t know how to make it look pretty.
  • They’re afraid to make changes to their WordPress website for fear of losing something or breaking something.

All very real and very valid challenges. But here’s the solution…

The $100 Sandbox:

For less than $100, you can set up your own sandbox – a testing environment for playing with WordPress. To see what works and what doesn’t. Make changes, break stuff, practice learning new code, etc.

Here’s what you do…

Go to and purchase a hosting account. You can purchase a hosting account for less than $100 per year (that’s cheap). During the sign-up process, they’ll ask you if you need a domain or if you already have a domain name that you want to use. It doesn’t matter what domain name you pick at this point, you’re simply setting up a site for testing purposes. A playground of sorts. For example, I use to test new themes, and test new theme changes before implementing them here on [].

Once you’ve purchased your hosting account, scroll down to where it says “Software/Services” in the control panel. There, you’ll see a WordPress icon – click on it, and you’ll be able to do a one-click install to set up WordPress on your new hosting account.

Now you can:

  • Learn WordPress by clicking through the dashboard to see what’s what.
  • Practice writing a post or creating a landing page.
  • Practice changing the color scheme of your website by editing the CSS.
  • Implement changes in your new sandbox before deploying those changes on your live site. This way, if something doesn’t work out the way you intended it too, you’re not breaking stuff on your primary domain.

Your sandbox is literally your playground for learning, testing, and tweaking new stuff on WordPress. All without worrying that you’re going to break stuff (that’s sorta the point here). Pretty cool, right?

WordPress Resources:

Here are some excellent (free) resources to help you get started with WordPress…

  • WPBeginner – this website is full of great resources to help you get started with WordPress.
  • Getting Started with WordPress – this one is straight from the WordPress codex and has tutorials for both beginners and intermediates.
  • Introduction to Blogging – this is a great resource if you’re still having some trouble wrapping your head around how the WordPress CMS (content management system) works.
  • The Genesis Guide for Absolute Beginners – this is an excellent, comprehensive resource if you’re using the Genesis Framework on your WordPress website.
  • More Genesis Tutorials – if you want to learn more about the Genesis Framework and child themes, you’ll learn most of what you need to know here. This covers everything from the Genesis basics like understanding Child Themes to in-post SEO settings, lay-out settings,  and much more.
  • Don’t Fear the Internet – this website has some excellent video tutorials on understanding basic HTML and CSS. This series of video tutorials are great whether you’re a beginner or intermediate. Watch, take notes, practice in your new sandbox environment and get wicked good at understanding HTML and CSS.

There’s more than enough content there to help you get started. The rest is really up to you to get your hands dirty. Set up your sandbox, test new stuff, break stuff and get movin’ on building your real estate website!

[PHOTO CREDIT: Jon L. Clark]

Get Email Updates.

Join over 2,000 real estate professionals who get smart online marketing advice delivered straight to their inbox every week.

When you register you'll get a collection of some of my best blog posts talking content strategy & lead generation for real estate in a neatly designed PDF.



  1. Anonymous says

    Good introduction to the basics of WordPress. Is it even necessary for agents to set up their own WordPress site as opposed to using a hosted WordPress blog when starting out?

    • says

      I’d say it depends. If an agent wants to start “blogging” I always tell them to go to and email me after their first 10 posts. But there are agents who are serious about wanting to learn WP and for those I think this is a great idea.

      • Bob Wilson says

        Why would you advise anyone in real estate to start on unless you thought they would give it up quickly?

        There is not a single good reason for anyone in the RE biz to start on the WP hosted version. You lose any links, you cant use IDX, etc. 

        There is no depends. Its foolish to do that.

    • says

      I’d argue “yes, absolutely!” One of the primary reasons consumers are visiting a real estate website is to search for homes. So you need an IDX solution. 

      Most IDX solutions are added as a plugin, or via script code. The hosted version of WordPress doesn’t allow for either, so you’re already losing there. 

  2. says

    Though it requires a little more technical prowess than just clicking buttons on a web hosting page, almost any Windows or Mac computer can run their own “LAMP” stack (Linux, Apache, MySQL, PHP) and can install unlimited WordPress “test sites” on their own computer. It’s free, but does require at least some light tech-skills in setting up the system. Much easier to test & play locally rather than worrying about registering a domain and buying a hosting service. 

    XAMPP is a great solution for Windows:

    MAMP is a great solution for OSX (Macintosh):

    • says

      Hey Dave, it’s certainly a simplistic view of how to set up a site and tinker with WordPress. For those who lack the technical skill-set to do much on their own, I don’t think it’s a bad start. 

      Still, love your suggestions! I’m familiar with MAMP (for Mac), not familiar with XAMPP for Windows – so thanks for the tip!

      • says

        Oh, definitely the “hosted” solution is easier and probably less nerve-wracking than installing WordPress and a bunch of other tools on a desktop or laptop.

        Another neat solution (by a local WP developer here in SoCal) is a product called Desktop Server:

        It’s purpose-built for WordPress, so it may be just what your readers are looking for to do WP testing & playgrounds. 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>