What is IDX?
When you see a website that displays listings, chances are they are using an IDX feed to get listings on the website. IDX stands for Internet Data Exchange and is how the MLS shares listing data among its members. Since it is all about sharing listings, IDX is also sometimes known as “Broker Reciprocity.”
IDX enables all active listings in the MLS to be shared between MLS members and displayed on the websites of MLS participants (agents and brokers). IDX was created to make sure all MLS members have equal information to all MLS listings. Each MLS has policies in place for their IDX feed designed to make sure no one user has any unfair advantage and that all listings are available to the participants.
While the IDX feeds are designed to give all MLS members equal access to listings information, not all IDX websites are created equal. The website functionality of an IDX feed can make all the difference between having a website that generates business and one that doesn’t.
History of IDX
IDX makes it easy for the public to access a large number of homes for sale, but this was not always the case. Previously the process of selling and buying a home looked more like this:
- Home seller hires an agent to sell their home
- Agent adds the home to the MLS database
- Home buyer hires an agent to find a homes
- Agent searches the MLS for a match
As only MLS members could access the database, buyers sometimes had a difficult time finding their ideal property. IDX was created to solve this problem. With the formation of new rules and policies, real estate agents and brokers could display parts of the MLS database on their website using IDX.
Following the creation of IDX policies, MLSs began to offer basic IDX search products as a benefit to their members and property searching soon became a vital part of any real estate website.
IDX Data Feeds and Vendors
Over time, agents wanted more than the basic search products their MLS offered, so a new raw IDX data feed option was created. Raw data feeds allow agents and brokers to download all available IDX listings in a simple format (similar to an Excel spreadsheet) that could be used with custom home search applications.
IDX data feeds provided agents the freedom to create their own custom home search solutions, but most agents lacked the programming know-how and turned to software developers for help implementing the feeds. As more real estate agents sought out these advanced IDX solutions, new companies that specialized in IDX sites and other search products became known as IDX vendors. These vendors make it easy to add an IDX solution that’s tailored for a specific real estate market, a certain type of buyer, or even a particular business goal.
With the help of IDX vendor
products, today you can find IDX in use all over the web. From older-styled search forms to search
pages with interactive maps and even mobile IDX apps, it’s now easier than ever
to add IDX to a website. Most websites
displaying MLS data on their site today use an IDX vendor.
Benefits of IDX
· Dynamic Content – Creates a draw for new prospects to visit the brokers web site.
· Local Service – The consumer may feel more comfortable using a property search tool that is offered by a local brokerage vs. using a national portal such as realtor.com or homeadvisor.com.
· Retention – Creates an incentive for the consumer to come back to the site.
· Branding – Most IDX / Broker Reciprocity solutions are “branded”, keeping the broker identity and message in front of the consumer at all times.
· Stickyness – IDX / Broker Reciprocity is automatically updated with the local MLS data, usually on a daily basis. This creates a dynamic resource and consumers will want to keep coming back to see what’s new.
· Lead Generation – Consumers will go to a brokers web site that promotes access to the entire MLS database, once they’re on your site, you can use capturing tools to gather the leads.
· Better Educated – Never before has this type of information been available to consumers without interacting with a real estate professional. Consumers come more prepared and better educated about the market with more realistic expectations. This makes the home buying process more efficient when they begin working with a real estate professional.
Why should you be interested in IDX?
- Empowers you to deal with the real estate customer of the future.
- Helps you establish a relationship early in the buying/selling cycle and maintain that relationship throughout the transaction. In short, it generates leads!
- Enables the smaller agencies to provide comparable services to the larger agencies.
- Allows you to display more information about the listing than any of the national portal sites.
- Creates “stickier” web sites since you now have more data and information to offer.
- Makes you more innovative.
- By providing listings on-line, your clients become more educated with the market which means you spend less time researching the market for each client and more time prospecting and servicing existing clients.
Problems of IDX
There are a few flaws with IDX real estate websites that could prove less than advantageous in efforts to attract online customers.
Since most web users find what they are looking for through major search engines like Google, Yahoo and Bing, it is essential to perform well in search engine queries. Your web site should rank highly on search engine result pages (SERPs). One downfall of many IDX Services is that the websites are not search engine-friendly.
For example, many IDX websites display information in iframes. An iframe is an embedded structure on a webpage that displays content from another page. Search engines tend to ignore content found in iframes. Another downfall of some IDX services is that the pages are non-customizable. You must use the format and page appearance that the IDX provider offers. You cannot change the way the website works or the way it looks to suit your own needs.
IDX and Listings
Let’s say you already have a Local Real Estate Website with IDX, how can you get listings with your site?
- Sellers are Buyers! – The average seller needs to buy a new home. Most people move locally which means that they will most likely search for properties before they put their home on the market. Benefit to you, you get to not only represent them on the sale of a property but also on the purchase of a new property.
- Sellers Use Google – This is basic. If you want to know something what do you do? You Google it. Sellers do the same thing. They Google what homes are selling for in their market so they can get a sense of what the going rate is for a home like theirs. They also want to get an idea of who the players are in the local real estate scene.
- Sellers Want a Marketer – As a Realtor you think your job is helping people buy and sell real estate. The reality is that in order to succeed in the real estate business, you need to be a real estate marketer. When you show up for that listing appointment and show the sellers how you will market their home not only on the major portals like Zillow & Trulia like every other agent & broker does but also on your very own website that is nicely designed and provides buyers with all the local information, you will get a better chance of getting the listing.
- Sellers Want a Realtor that’s Connected – Your website is one of the major tools in your arsenal. Social media is also a tool. But to be successful on social media, you need to provide useful information which comes from where? Your website. Blog often about Real Estate in your local market and share that blog post on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google+. Build a following and you will be that connected Realtor.
- Sellers Want a Realtor with a Big List – Email is still one of the best ways to stay in touch with people. With tools like Mailchimp that provides a free email service that helps you setup email campaigns, email should be a big part of your game. So build that email list and show your sellers that you will be emailing their property to your BIG LIST of Realtors and Buyers.
- Sellers Want a Pro – Do you have a Business Card? If the answer is no, then get one! If the answer is yes then what’s on it? Does it just say the name of your company or does it provide more information on how people can reach you? Obviously your card should provide some basic elements. Would you ever have a Business Card that says Yellow Pages? Then why only depend on a third party search portal that features thousands of your competitors? Show sellers that you are a pro by having a Local real estate website with IDX.
- Sellers Want to be VIPS – When you have your own website, you can provide buyers with information they need but you can also prominently feature your listings and give sellers the Red Carpet Treatment.
- Sellers Want Proof – It’s easy to say that you are the best. Sellers want to see the proof. Websites can have analytics built into them so you can show the sellers how many people are visiting your website daily, weekly and monthly. Your website should have some key features, social sharing built in, email sign up forms and search engine optimized. Show them the analytics, your connections and how people will find you online. The proof will set you apart from the competition.
- Sellers Want the Brand – Real Estate is a highly competitive field. You might have joined the big agency in your area, but that big agency has a lot of agents. Get branded with your own domain name, slogan and persona. You want to be remembered and searchable. Everything you do on and offline should have your brand name baked into it. Name your website after your brand.
- Sellers Want to Sell! – This is obvious. They want to sell their home. The fastest way to do that is by generating a ton of buyer leads. The most cost effective way is with your own website. The more sellers you Satisfy, the better your brand becomes.
What do Effective IDX Websites Have?
An IDX website is a must for lead generation, but to get those leads you will need features that will make your IDX website into a business generator. Make sure your IDX website has:
1. Easy Navigation/Search – Make sure that website visitors are able to find the listings they want. Your IDX website should have simple search filters to help users get to the listings that meet their criteria. If your site doesn’t make it easy for visitors to find what they want, they will leave and find the listings elsewhere.
2. Lead Capture – The goal of the IDX website is generating leads, so you better make sure your IDX website has an optimized lead capture system. Some best practices for lead capture include:
- Prompt the visitor to register. Don’t just wait for them to choose to register.
- Make the registration page as simple as possible. The more information you ask for and the harder you make it for a visitor to fill out the form, the lower the conversion rate and fewer leads you have to work with.
- Use a two-step form. If you want to ask for more information, request an email and name first and then add a second step to ask for further information.
- Include a meaningful call to action. Don’t just tell them to give you their contact information; make sure they get something out of it and let them know the advantages of registering, such as complete access to listings, ability to save favorites, etc.
3. Automated Listing Alerts – Automated listings alerts from your IDX website that are relevant to the listings visitors have been looking at are a great way to make sure they come back to your site, helping convert visitors from leads to clients.
4. An Integrated CRM – Having an integrated CRM (Customer Relationship Management) allows you to keep track of what your leads are doing on your website as well as your communications with them. This will help you better prioritize your leads and keep in contact with them when they are ready to transact.
So there you have it. A website with IDX is great for buyer leads, great for sellers and ultimately great for you and your business!