If you’re just starting out your career in real estate, you may have an advantage over agents who started years ago. We are now living in a time when anyone with a smartphone, laptop, tablet or PC can quickly access listing information with a couple of taps or clicks.
As crazy as it sounds, this is a new reality and it’s all been made possible thanks to the Internet Data Exchange (IDX).
The Internet Data Exchange is the umbrella term covering the software, standards and specific policies governing how listing information is displayed on individual websites. What is so significant about this is that IDX enables brokers and agents who belong to a multiple listing service (MLS) to pull real estate listings right off the MLS and fully integrate them into their own separate websites.
Why was IDX developed? How can it boost your real estate career? How much would it cost you to fully integrate MLS listings into your own website using IDX?
Everything you need to know as a real estate agent about IDX is explained below, including how it started, its evolution, and its features. We also explain how agents just starting out in real estate can get IDX all set up on their individual websites.
IDX had its beginnings in the early 2000s as the Internet was still in its infancy. This was when real estate brokers and agents could see the value of publicly promoting their listings online. At about the same time, MLSs were seeking a way for members to access their listings online to better promote them, pull in leads and close more escrows.
In the past, there had been ways for the MLS and agents to share listings but at a very steep price. This made it impossible for most agents and brokers to take advantage of it. Only those with deep pockets could do this, so those attempts ultimately failed.
With the passage of time, standards for listing information, combined with the advancements made in web technology have lowered the costs all the way around. This helps not only agents and brokers, but software developers and MLS providers that serve the industry as well. In a matter of a few years, the cost of building and maintaining a real estate website went from many thousands of dollars, which was prohibitive for many, to only a few dollars a month.
Today, it’s so easy for agents to feature their listing on their own websites with IDX and it’s just as easy for their target audiences to discover listings that perfectly fit their needs using search functions and filters.
Rules & Regulations
The rules and regulations for using IDX have changed numerous times over the years, often at the behest of the National Association of Realtors (NAR).
Each MLS is a separate entity, so you would need to find out from your MLS what their policies are for using IDX to integrate their listing data into your website. The last thing you want is to create a problem with your MLS by inadvertently misusing IDX data.
Prohibited uses may include the following:
- Posting a listing after the seller has told their agent that their home is not to be listed in IDX
- Not keeping the IDX listings posted on your website updated
- Giving information on IDX listings to third parties who are not participants of the IDX exchange
- Changing information (e.g. square footage, features, amenities) in an IDX listing to make the property more appealing
- Featuring listings on your website that the listing broker and/or the MLS have not given you permission to display
Being a successful real estate agent isn’t just getting referrals and closing escrows, you also have to follow the rules. It’s up to you to know and understand the rules governing IDX participants before you start integrating MLS listings into your website.
How IDX Can Enhance Your Business
An IDX real estate website is one that posts listings legitimately obtained from an MLS by utilizing an Internet Data Exchange. An IDX website typically belongs to a real estate agent who wants to maximize their online reach to gain more leads.
The real estate industry started using the Internet in the mid-1990s to expand their reach and the result has been a complete transformation. In fact, the Internet has transformed many industries. Amazon may be one of the best examples of how the Internet has impacted business, especially in how people shop. The Internet has had a similar effect on the real estate industry because before long people were suddenly shopping for homes online.
The real estate industry is somewhat different than other industries in how it’s structured and in many of its procedures. First, the industry is fairly regionalized. Homebuyers already know which county or city they want to live in and that’s where they’re going to look. Secondly, the industry’s currency is basically property listings, and these belong to the brokers that sign them, so they have control.
This decentralized business model essentially diffuses market power among thousands of brokerage houses across the nation. This fact made it challenging for agents seeking ways to conduct business online in the 90s. In setting up their websites they wondered why homebuyers would search there if it only displayed their brokerage’s listings. How would a bookstore with only 15 books attract customers?
While IDX does have some fairly strict rules, it does offer agents some incredible advantages. In the end, it provides a win/win for all parties using it: real estate agents, brokers and consumers.
Brokers and agents can display listings on their websites of the most relevant and appealing properties within their markets to attract more prospects. Homebuyers can see the latest listings hitting the market and feel confident about the accuracy of the information.
Consumers now expect to see a range of property listings when they go to an agent’s website. The National Association of Realtors says that 44% of homebuyers go online to search property listings as the first step in the process. Therefore, agents that do not use IDX to incorporate MLS listings into their website are at a distinct disadvantage compared to all the other agents who do.
In addressing this issue, the National Association of Realtors developed policies to enhance cooperation among brokers and agents while increasing sales. Agents who use IDX are given limited authorization to feature their own listings plus those that belong to all other IDX participants.
Broker reciprocity comes in because if you’re an IDX participant with authorization to feature listings belonging to others on your website, you have to reciprocate and allow your listings to be displayed on their websites as well.
This policy has been working quite well since IDX was initially approved in 2000. Since then the pools of property listings available online has been continually growing. In fact, some IDX websites have 50,000 or more listings, making them property search engines in their own right.
Is an IDX Website Essentially a Home Shopping Website?
Homebuyers can certainly search for homes listed for sale on every IDX website, but that doesn’t mean that every website displaying listing is an IDX site. As the Internet has grown, other similar websites have emerged, which means IDX is not the only one creating real estate shopping websites.
For example, Zillow and similar websites get some listings through IDX, but also accept submissions directly from brokers and individual Realtors.
Other real estate websites like Homes.com, often contract with third-party syndicators that have paid for the right to redistribute MLS listings.
The truth is that the majority of giant real estate websites use a variety of means to obtain listings because it would too much of a burden to sign separate IDX contracts with every single MLS in the country as they number 700+.
Despite this, IDX websites are still extremely popular. It allows brokers and agents a way to easily promote their own listings by providing a one-stop shopping experience for buyers looking for homes listed in their area, which helps them pull in in more leads.