What is IDX software and does your realtor website need it?
This post will cover the need and reason for creating the IDX system and how it works. We'll also look at the costs of the integrations involved with IDX websites for realtors. IDX is a powerful tool, offering plenty of benefits for your real estate business, but does that mean it's a good fit for your site?
15 December 2020 · 10 min read
Are you a realtor thinking about starting a website? Maybe you’re moving out on your own as an independent or updating your existing site? Have you heard about IDX? Chances are colleagues told you this tool is a must-have feature for your website design.
The Internet Data Exchange (IDX) is a plugin software tool covering best practices, policies, and standards for displaying the information in real estate listings on websites. For brokers and agents, the IDX integrates with the multiple listing service (MLS). The software tool allows members to pull MLS listings on to their website.
It’s an effective way of increasing your inventory, giving your prospects more selection of active listings when home shopping.
However, is it worth including IDX in your site design?
This post will cover the need and reason for creating the IDX system and how it works. We’ll also look at the costs of the integrations involved with IDX websites for realtors. IDX is a powerful tool, offering plenty of benefits for your real estate business, but does that mean it’s a good fit for your site?
Let’s look at the origin, development, and features of IDX and if your website needs it.
What Is the History of IDX?
The IDX software launched as internet adoption spread in the early 2000s. The Multiple Listings Service (MLS) found the platform intriguing, as it offered agents and agencies a better method of accessing and promoting listings to attract new clients and close deals.
At the beginning of the digital age, real estate agents were among the few industries recognizing the value of promoting their services online. The new tech allowed prospects to enter property search terms to find listings in their area.
Creating a website with comprehensive listings soon became the gold standard of marketing for the real estate industry.
Before IDX, there were ways for agents to acquire MLS listings through similar sharing platforms. However, these services’ cost put them out of the hands of most agents and independent realty websites.
Only those with the deepest marketing budgets could afford this service, creating an unlevel playing field, especially for startups and new independents. Towards 2006, and the height of the housing boom, tech solutions started getting cheaper, and real estate agents were making a fortune.
The costs of building and maintaining a functional website dropped from thousands of dollars to a few hundred. As a result, most real estate businesses could afford to improve site design and add IDX to its site offering. Today, it’s a popular add-on plugin in most top realtor and real estate website designs.
How Does IDX Work for Your Real Estate Business?
As a real estate professional or agency, you’re probably looking for any edge to bring you more business. The IDX software is a handy tool for adding more inventory to your site, bringing more choice for your prospects. More choice means more eyeballs to your site and a better chance of finding a property that interests your prospective client.
The IDX creates a connection between the MLS and your website. It imports listings directly from the MLS, updating them every few hours to ensure you have the most current deals for your clients.
It’s important to note that the IDX is only suitable for use on independent realtor sites. Web platforms like Trulia and Zillow don’t work with IDX listings. Instead, they receive information from sources like brokerage syndications.
It’s for this reason that the listings on these web-platforms are sometimes out-of-date. Studies on Trulia and Zillow listings show that as many as 36% of all listings on these sites are no longer available. It’s also important to note approximately 20% of all active listings in the MLS were absent.
Portal sites have different functionality to realtor websites. Zillow and Trulia specialize in providing agents with leads who sponsor individual listings. With IDX, you get prospects from all listings on your website.
After adding the MLS listings to your site, visitors can look at pictures and read relevant property descriptions.
What are the Industry Rules for Using the IDX System?
There are several rules for using the IDX platform. The National Association of Realtors (NAR) spearheads the creation of regulations surrounding its use. When integrating IDX to your site design, consult with your local MLS for information on any policies specific to using IDX in your region. Usage policies differ depending on the location and organization controlling the local MLS.
IDX seems like a great tool for drumming up more business through your site. However, it’s important to note that there are several ways you can get into trouble for using IDX inappropriately.
Some activities that land you with legal problems are the following.
- Posting listings if the seller explicitly requests that their home must not go on the IDX.
- Delayed updating of IDX listings on your website.
- Providing information on IDX listings to third parties not using the IDX service.
- Changing listing information such as property features and dimensions to mislead prospects.
- Displaying listings on sites unapproved for use by the listing broker or MLS.
Agents and realtors must abide by the rules and regulations when using the IDX. Sure, we all want to generate more leads and close more deals. However, stop and ask yourself if it’s worth throwing your business ethics in the trash can, along with your reputation.
Do I Need an IDX for My Real Estate Website?
By now, integrating an IDX into your real estate web design sounds great – but do you need it? The reality is that hosting IDX listings on your site is great for your prospects, giving them more variety when searching for a home.
However, unless you’re running a site with a high ranking in search, a prospect will rarely find IDX listings in Google search results. Therefore, expecting a flood of traffic to your site because you include IDX listings is not going to happen.
To bring more traffic to your site, you need a comprehensive SEO and content strategy. Sure, that strategy can include IDX, but it’s not the IDX itself that draws eyeballs to your offering. The point is that you can’t rely on the IDX as a marketing tool for lead generation; it’s more of a site design function.
However, if you have a marketing plan and SEO strategy in place, the IDX search, and the featured listings provide a powerful tool to boost your agent website in 2021.
It’s probably not the best choice for real estate startups looking to bootstrap their business. The IDX’s subscription costs are considerable, and you’ll need to decide if it’s worth adding it to your marketing budget.
For most startups, focusing on user-friendly website design, lead capture forms, and SEO is the better use of your capital during the early days of building and marketing your site.
Does IDX Give My Site an SEO Advantage?
Many startups make the mistake of thinking that implementing IDX on their site improves SEO (Search engine Optimization). The reality is that thousands of real estate sites use this service, and implementing it on your site doesn’t give your site any special characteristics in the search bots’ eyes.
There are dozens of authority sites using IDX, and competing with them is challenging. If you want your IDX to bring your site an SEO advantage, you need a customized solution.
A web design team can alter the template design of your IDX, giving it a unique look to the search bots, making them recommend it above other sites. However, building and executing a custom solution will dramatically add to the costs of your website design.
For startups, you need to optimize your site design and your budget. Spending hundreds or thousands on a custom IDX solution and subscription is probably not the best use of your marketing dollars. It’s a better choice to put the money to use in other tech integrations, like a CRM solution.
Implementing IDX is Challenging
The IDX software tools integrate to your website as a plugin tool. These plugins might not work in every city across the United States, and different areas might use other data feeds, meaning your site might not have access to the full features of the IDX software.
It’s also important to note that realtors operating across several boards must ensure they support the same auto-listing feed across all platforms and locations. This strategy is tricky and challenging to manage for most realtors.
Is It Worth Including IDX on My Real Estate Website?
So, is it worth including an IDX feed on your website? It’s expensive and offers your site next to know SEO or marketing value. So, why are all the leading sites using IDX?
The reality is that all the top leaders are copying what the others are doing. IDX is a common design element and function of the leading sites, so the competition feels they need to include it on their platform.
However, IDX is not a necessity. You can get away without including it in your site design until you have the budget to accommodate its expense.
Building a Fantastic User-Experience Costs Money
When bootstrapping a real estate startup, you need to save as much money as possible with your site design and then use those funds in your SEO and marketing campaigns. SEO and marketing are where you’ll get the best results for your business and your budget.
IDX works well for established firms with large marketing budgets. They often have access to a team of developers that manage the site and make necessary changes. If you’re intending on running your site yourself, then IDX is not for you.
The only way to compete with big realtors offering IDX is with a customized solution that costs serious money. Since startups don’t have that capital, you’ll probably end up going with a generic template that doesn’t do much to promote your site or your business online.
How Can I Get an Affordable Real Estate Website?
As a startup, you need to keep track of your budget with an eagle-eye. Every dollar you spend on-site design matters, leaving you with less to promote your business.
Pricing your site design is a shock for most startups. Hiring a professional design form could cost you over $8,000 for the build, with ongoing maintenance costs that add to your company overhead. Some of the best realtor sites have designs and features like map search that take total design costs to $50,0000 or more.
If you’re starting, you need an attractive, functional, and fast site optimized for search. Sure, you could do it using a web-builder platform like WIX, but do you have the time? If you want to integrate custom features into your site, do you have the coding experience to make the changes?
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The B12 design team is your best option for creating functional, beautifully designed real estate websites. The AI-powered platform supports real website developers that collaborate with you on your project.
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Give B12 a try for your website development. Let the power of this AI tech drive your real estate business in 2021.