When I'm asked, "What is IDX?" I get an odd glimmer in my eye. For me, it's a mix of memories of the past and technology that I know will be useful well into the future. Let me tell you a little bit about what life was like the day IDX came to my office.
The year is 2002, and tech-savvy Realtors are running around my broker's office "beaming" their business cards to each other with the newest in handheld computer technology: the Palm Pilot. Plenty of other real estate agents are still looking up listing information in thick books while talking to clients on their brick-sized Motorola mobile phones. Easy listening is playing on the overhead speakers, and not one of us understands just how much one small technology is about to change how we generate leads.
That was the day we were told about an emerging technology called Internet Data Exchange (IDX). Although agents already had access to computerized listings through specialized software provided by our multi-list service (MLS), if we wanted to have listings on our individual websites, we had to create and maintain our own databases (which was a lot of work for agents who churned listings). So, being able to suddenly show website visitors absolutely everything in the MLS through our own sites was kind of a big deal.
Of course, that was then, in a long-ago time before social media (even before Tom gifted us MySpace). Today, we all have access to so much information that it's remarkable we even bother getting excited about anything anymore. But, to me, IDX is still a really awesome tool that can help make you the hero of your potential client's or tenant's real estate story.
What is IDX?
First and foremost, it's important to understand what IDX actually is -- and what it isn't. IDX is a means of providing MLS-level data to your website visitors. It's not a tool you can do a lot with outside of that, but you'd be surprised just how much that one seemingly small thing can do to boost your reputation with the people who are most likely to become clients or tenants.
Sure, websites like Trulia, Zillow, and Redfin provide information to their visitors, but what they're giving is more likely to be taken from public databases and generated from best guesses rather than having any ties to the actual depth of information that's contained within the MLS.
For example, Trulia may show listings it believes to be active, but because it's not linked to the MLS directly, those best guesses often turn out to be properties that are now under contract, leased, or sold. When the market is moving fast, Trulia's best guesses are often far too slow to keep up with the pace of real estate.
So, rather than directing clients to potentially outdated information on these aggregator sites, an IDX feed on your own site allows you to provide an up-to-date look at the MLS's database. Although it lacks the complete listing information an agent would get, as many line items on an IDX listing are not publicly available, listings in your IDX data feed are updated as the listings in your MLS's database are, making it the best source of news possible for real estate shoppers.
Who can take advantage of IDX?
IDX access will vary, depending on the IDX policy of your local MLS. Many, if not most, will require users to be members of the MLS in question (which may, in turn, require you to be a member of the local Board of Realtors). The whole point is information interconnectivity, so if you're not listing your properties on the MLS system, you really aren't participating in the data ecosystem. In other words, you have to have listings that you're willing to share on IDX in order to access participants' listings.
Does this mean investors can't use IDX? Of course not. If an investor is a member of the local MLS and allows their listings to be displayed by other participants in IDX, they're free to take advantage of IDX for their own marketing purposes. Most multi-list systems display the contact information of the listing entity for each property, making it a great way to extend your reach across the websites of other agents who are also participating in IDX.