What IS IDX and How Does It Affect Your Real Estate Business?

What IS IDX and How Does It Affect Your Real Estate Business?

Every Tuesday, here at the American Trust Escrow blog, we post Technology Tips designed to help you, the REALTOR®, grow your business, keep up to date on the latest technologies, and move you forward into the new era of real estate.


Realtors often ask about IDX, the method and rules that allows for Realtors and brokerages to display the MLS inventory on their websites.  It’s one of the more complex terms in real estate technology and probably one of the least understood.  Why?  First, to most Realtors, the terminology is foreign and vague.  Then each MLS has their own IDX rules that can range from archaic to progressive.  Finally, there are hundreds of choices for IDX vendors whose offerings vary as wildly as their prices.  These variables make it a complex and confusing topic.

However, giving  potential clients access to IDX listing search on your website is an absolute must for any modern brokerage or agent.  So, wading through the waters of the process is a necessity.  This post is designed to make it easier to understand.

What does IDX mean?

IDX stands for Internet Data Exchange.  It’s the rules and procedures that allow real estate brokers and agents to display listings from other companies on their website.  Most IDX rules require the broker or agent displaying the listing on their site to display the name of the listing brokerage with the listing.

A key point to remember is that IDX and the underlying rules only apply to brokerages and agent websites.  For example, Zillow does not fall under IDX rules since Zillow is not a brokerage.  Therefore, on non-brokerage and non-agent sites, such as Zillow, only the listing agent would be able to advertise their property (vs. all listings appearing on Zillow as part of an IDX feed if they were a brokerage).

Vendor Selection:

As an agent, there are options on how to present listings on your site, and there are a variety of vendors who offer different IDX solutions.  The different options yield different benefits.  If you listen to real estate search engine consultants speak, you’ll hear terms like Drop-in vs. Built-in.

Drop-In vs. Built-in IDX:

A drop-in IDX solution means that the code to run the search and display any of the listings actually occurs on a different website.  In other words, the code does not live on your site.  The benefits of a drop-in IDX solution include that they are readily available, generally affordable, easy to implement, and can display listing data in a way that is appealing and easy for the consumer to use.  However, this solution offers no search engine optimization benefit for your site.  However, for many agents, drop-in IDX solutions can be suitable solutions to displaying listings for the benefits listed above (and search engine benefits can be gained from other web strategies – blogging, for example).  Examples of a drop-in IDX providers are Diverse Solutions and iHomeFinder.

With Built-In IDX, all the listings display right on the agent or brokerage website.  This means that if a search engine finds the page, it will see all the listings and potentially make them searchable.  The more pages that a search engine finds on your site, the easier it is for potential clients to find you on the web.   Very few practical options currently exist for agents right now in regards to built-in IDX (the current leading option is a custom coded website built by a vendor which requires a coder with a specific skill set, and a large sum of money on your part).  However, if you have a WordPress based blog or website, Listing Press is a new option to consider and more options are in the works.

Map Based Search:

An important question to ask a potential IDX vendor is whether they offer map-based search.  Up until recently most vendors offered IDX search that was based upon the user making selections such as 3 beds, 2 baths, $500,000-$600,000 and a list of options would display.  Now that list can be used in correlation with a map.  So when a potential client sees their options they can also get a good idea of where the home is located, how close it is to parks, schools, the freeway, etc.

Lead Capture System:

The most important item to look at when considering an IDX vendor is their lead capture system.  What’s the point of running a website and paying money to have all the listings on there if you don’t get clients from it?  A good lead capture system will allow a potential client to request information or schedule a showing on every listing.   Also check to see if the vendor offers the ability for users to save listings, receive listing email alerts, and track what has been viewed.


IDX pricing can run from $20 / month to more than $100 depending on which solution you choose. Also, make sure to ask your MLS if they charge any fees for gaining access to the IDX data.

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