What Is IDX in Real Estate? A Guide for New Realtors
This article is part of a larger series on Real Estate Lead Generation and Marketing.
A real estate Internet Data Exchange (IDX) is a data software that connects an agent’s website to their local Multiple Listing Service (MLS) databases. The IDX allows agents to display MLS listings on their websites so visitors can search for available properties within a select area. These additional properties to view beyond your own exclusive listings will increase lead capture and traffic to your website.
Read our guide to learn the history of and what is IDX in real estate, along with benefits, costs, and providers you can use to optimize your website with IDX capabilities.
How IDX Works in Real Estate
The MLS database contains real estate properties uploaded by agents and brokers. They add them to the MLS, aiming to attract more potential clients to their listings. The IDX allows agents to display exclusive listings by other MLS participants.
The IDX real estate software connects the MLS to your website and displays the listing information when queried by a search from a website visitor. Depending on your IDX settings, the listings on your website are updated every few hours to pull in new data or remove listings.
Platforms like Placester help set up an IDX website for realtors while complying with MLS regulations. Agents can build their own site through premade templates or outsource the creation to the Placester team. The platform allows agents to connect multiple IDX feeds if agents are members of more than one MLS. The available integrations also help agents connect and create a real estate website with IDX and customer relationship manager (CRM) tools for increased lead generation.
History of Real Estate IDX
Before IDX was created, most real estate listings were offline. Prospective clients had to rely heavily on their real estate agents to get information and access to available listings. The Multiple Listing Service (MLS) did exist as an agent-facing database for listings, but the listings were not open to the public. Therefore, if agents wanted listings on their website, they would have to create their database and manually add and update the listings. This process became too time-consuming due to the constant change in availability.
In the early 2000s, technology started to change how consumers accessed information, and the real estate community began to create online identities through websites. These changes required the National Association of Realtors (NAR) to make policy changes and complete an application allowing real estate agents to serve their clients better. The main policy change was allowing MLS participants to advertise each other’s listing on their website, and the IDX was created.
Main Difference Between the IDX & MLS
The primary distinction between an MLS and an IDX is that the MLS is restricted to real estate agents and brokers. Agents and brokers publish and distribute listings and keep them up to date through their local MLS. Real estate professionals then download or print these listings and share them with clients.
IDX is software maintained on a website that allows agents to input listings from a local MLS or numerous MLSs quickly and automatically. As a result, IDX enables anybody to browse these listings and conduct a property search without the assistance of an agent or broker.
Rules & Regulations on Using IDX
Each MLS has policies governing the listing information shared through real estate IDX. Numerous rules and regulations have been tied to IDX over the years, many of which have been influenced by the NAR.
Here are a few examples of items that agents are prohibited from displaying on the MLS and IDX:
- Expired, withdrawn, pending, or sold listings.
- The type of listing agreement (e.g., the exclusive right to sell and exclusive agency).
- Seller’s and occupant’s name(s), phone number(s), and e-mail address(es).
- Confidential information fields intended for cooperating brokers rather than consumers, including compensation offered to other MLS participants, showing instructions, and property security information.
- If the listing is not exclusive to the agent, they can only use it for display purposes and not in their separate marketing campaigns.
- Real estate agents can only alter information on their listings to ensure that the exclusive agent correctly advertises the listing information.
- Real estate agents must refresh their listings at least every 12 hours on an automatic schedule to ensure listings are up to date.
For a thorough list of NAR’s IDX usage requirements, visit NAR’s IDX Policy Handbook.
Benefits of Using IDX for Your Real Estate Website
An IDX feed on your website creates a better experience for your clients and yourself. It allows agents and brokerages to fully market themselves online and provides prospective clients with an innovative search function to find properties. It reduces the need to keep your listings database, and you’ll have very few maintenance requirements to update them.
1. Capture Real Estate Leads
Real estate IDX solutions assist agents and brokerages in capturing more leads. When visitors see properties they like on your website, they can contact you to inquire and view the listings, even if they are not exclusive to you or your brokerage.
Agents can also design lead capture forms that prospective clients must fill out to see your listings. This will add clients to your database for future follow-up and conversion opportunities. Agents can automate the follow-up process by combining a CRM with automated email or text follow-up.
Client relationship management (CRM) systems like IXACT Contact can help with managing captured leads. It has automated email and newsletter marketing that is easy to set up with its prewritten monthly newsletter and hundreds of email templates. Agents can also add their own edits or send the content as-is to save time on nurturing captured leads.
Read our article on the best real estate CRM software to discover more options for tracking prospects, nurturing relationships with existing clients, and monitoring listings.
2. Up-to-date Listing Information
An IDX feed offers prospective clients updated and relevant information specific to listings in their search criteria. Since agents are expected to automatically update the feed within a short time, clients are encouraged to return to view the most updated listings.
Agents and brokerages will know who is looking for a home and potentially need agent representation. The automated feed requires minimal effort on the agent’s side to update the listings. Therefore, they can focus their time and effort on building deeper connections with leads.
HubSpot is an all-in-one sales and marketing platform to help agents better interact with captured leads through an agent’s IDX websites. The platform has an IDX integration to collect leads into one single database, then it helps deploy email marketing and tracking tools to see which contacts are most likely to engage.
3. Collect Visitor Information
Searches on your website reveal important information about your visitors, which you can use to your advantage. For instance, you can deploy marketing in the top neighborhoods where your website users are looking.
Also, IDX search capabilities make your website a resource for users to return to and share listings with others, which helps you increase website traffic. Agents can include a social sharing option, allowing people to share directly from your website on their social networks—expanding your brand’s reach.
Through platforms like Top Producer, real estate agents can obtain social media insights regarding their leads. It’s one of the few CRMs to gather social media information like their bio, interest, and photo for leads in your database, so agents can make more meaningful connections.
Read our Top Producer review to learn more about this real estate CRM software, its features, pricing, and customer reviews.
4. Visitor Engagement
The IDX engages website visitors and gives them a reason to linger on your site so you can collect lead information. Compared to rivals without the feed, having an IDX feed will give your clients an array of listings to search for. Visitors can narrow their searches to specific geographic regions and select the relevant pricing ranges. The dynamic neighborhood search options also allow prospective clients to search by the school district or favorite neighborhoods.
Additional functions like an interactive map help clients visualize their future homes within an area and see where exactly it’s located. The ability for clients to select and save favorite properties under their profile can increase engagement and give them another reason to return to your site. Agents can deploy market and housing reports specifically for the areas they’re saving to gain additional attention. Moreover, a direct call to action can help gather more lead information.
Challenges of IDX to Consider
Although the benefits outweigh the challenges of having an IDX listings feed, there are some things agents should be aware of when implementing the IDX into their website. The IDX provider you choose can create some limitations as to how reliable the data on your website is. You want to make sure you provide the best experience for prospective clients searching for homes on your site, so agents should combine the IDX with other tools to overcome the limitations.
Having the IDX feed will pull all information from the MLS into your website—agents are unable to cherry-pick which listings show up nor do they have the option to manually remove listings. For example, if there is a property on the feed that was entered incorrectly by the listing agent, there is no way for you to omit that from your site to reduce getting leads you can’t service. Additionally, if listings have sold but have not been removed from the feed, they will continue to show up on your client’s searches.
How to overcome this: Understanding your housing market can equip agents with the tools to know whether listings are incorrect or have sold. Agents can still take the useful information about the inquiry, such as neighborhood, price point, or layout, to continue the conversation with the lead and convert them to new listings that may have hit the market. This gives agents the opportunity to generate and convert the lead to other listings.
Agents should leverage real estate marketing strategies to attract visitors because having an IDX connection alone on your website will not draw prospective clients to your website. The IDX alone does not help with website search engine optimization (SEO).
How to overcome this: Platforms like Real Geeks can help you capture leads from your website through landing pages and increase engagement through email and text follow-up. The platform also tracks lead activity to help you see which leads are high-engaging to help you manage your time.
Access to the listing information can remove you from a part of the process if you don’t leverage other marketing tactics like automated follow-ups. Since the IDX will pull all listings from your MLS and you cannot limit the data to a target neighborhood, price point, or property type, agents will receive leads spanning across the entire region. The incoming leads are not parsed to show which incoming leads you should focus your time on.
How to overcome this: Implementing a CRM with your IDX website will keep your leads organized and allow agents to manage more than just their lead contacts. The LionDesk CRM helps agents identify high-quality leads through email tracking by identifying which prospective leads are interested and engaging with your content.
The platform also has unlimited contact tagging to manage lead types and active clients. It also has the ability to launch mass communication via phone, email, and text message, along with the capability to create and mail direct mailers to help market your exclusive listings. Check out our LionDesk review to see how this CRM can help streamline lead management.
While the IDX feed is beneficial in engaging and capturing leads, you must learn the process of lead conversion to turn the lead into a closed deal. When converting leads, the best approach for real estate agents is to implement a system to nurture leads and continuously convey their value as real estate agents. Keeping yourself top of mind will help clients become familiar with your services and increase their likelihood of reaching out or moving forward in the buying or selling process.
How to overcome this: The most effective way to nurture leads is to build connections and rapport in in-person, phone, digital, and direct mail communications. Creating scripts for internet leads will improve your conversion rates and build your client base. That way, you’ll not only be generating leads through your sphere of influence and marketing efforts, but also able to capitalize on the leads you are capturing.
Cost of IDX
Real estate professionals cannot just purchase IDX software. They would need to choose an IDX provider in conjunction with their website. The first and most expensive option is to build a website from scratch. You will have to obtain a website developer and designer to create a website on platforms like WordPress, and then have them implement an IDX plugin on your site to obtain the MLS information to display listings in real time.
We’ve identified a few IDX plugins and costs below:
Monthly Starting Price
$99 with $500 launch fee
$99 setup fee
The cost of the website developer and designer will be contingent on how intricate you want your website to be. To mitigate some of the website costs, agents can access website design services through platforms like Fiverr. Fiverr has a large selection of freelancers specializing in website design—starting at $5—to assist with various aspects of website creation, from design to development to user experience.
Real Estate IDX Providers
Another option for creating an IDX website is to choose a real estate website builder with a built-in IDX integration. These real estate websites with IDX are easy to launch, and most provide preset templates that require some drag and drop to create stunning, user-friendly website pages that are IDX-friendly.
The cost for IDX using a website builder is typically already built into their monthly or annual fees, so you don’t have to pay extra for a plugin or website developer. We’ve listed some IDX website providers with pricing below:
Affordable and easy-to-use website builder
For beginner agents who don't have access to a marketing team
Small teams requiring collaboration website tools
Agents who may want to collect fees and commissions through website
Monthly Starting Price
annual subscription required
Free; paid plans start at $13
Get inspired by checking out the best real estate agent websites and tips, and start creating an optimized real estate website today.
Agents should know what is IDX in real estate and must have an IDX feed on their website to help increase lead flow, eliminate the need to allocate resources to keep listings updated, and encourage lead generation through their website. Combining your IDX with a CRM maximizes all lead opportunities through your website. Select the best website provider with IDX functions to help you create an efficient and user-friendly website—empowering you to grow a successful real estate business.