Real estate listings are necessary for agents, brokers, and buyers. But how are listings compiled, shared, and viewed? Find out about the MLS and IDX here.
Listings are king in the land of real estate. Agents upload and manage them while buyers peruse them. But where do listings come from, where do they live, and how are they uploaded? Can the public view all of them, or are there some listings only agents can see? This is where an MLS and IDX come into play.
What Is an MLS?
An MLS, or Multiple Listing Service, is a way for real estate agents and brokers to upload, manage, and share local listings. Each MLS contains listings from a particular area, be it a city or region. Agents and brokers pull from the pool and share relevant listings with their clients. Each listing includes everything the agent (and client) needs to know about a property, including images, descriptions, and any special features.
Who Can Access an MLS?
While members can access every MLS, some MLS’s also have a public-facing portal where buyers can search for available listings. These portals are similar to Zillow, Redfin, or Realtor.com but have one significant difference: MLS’s have the most accurate and up-to-date data. This is because agents and brokers are required to keep their properties’ listing information current.
A Brief History of the MLS
First invented in the late 19th century, the MLS still serves a similar function today as it did at its origin.
In the late 1800s, local real estate brokers had the practice of gathering regularly to share the properties they were trying to sell. The brokers struck a deal with each other: if one broker were to help another sell one of his properties, the original broker would compensate him. This agreement turned into the Multiple Listing Service.
Today, an MLS still allows agents to share listings and help each other sell properties. However, rather than accessing the properties through paper or word of mouth, today’s agents and brokers must log in to a database. These databases are hosted on software, such as IDX.
What is an IDX?
An IDX, or Internet Data Exchange, is software that lets buyers search for their area’s MLS properties. IDX is a revolutionary concept because it opened up a whole new world for buyers. Before IDX, buyers had to rely on their real estate agent or broker to view listings in their area. With IDX, the general public can perform their property searches on a website featuring information uploaded to an MLS.
IDX is not a website itself. Instead, it is software that allows anyone to share the MLS data on a 3rd party website. This way, agents and buyers alike can view the most up-to-date local listings at any time.
The Challenges of IDX
While IDX is helpful and groundbreaking for buyers, not all real estate agents/brokers feel the same way. Some agents and brokers would prefer to be the sole source of listings for their clients. This would allow agents and brokers to weed out less-suitable properties and present only the best options. The challenge with this perspective is that a client loses out on a chance to choose from a larger pool of properties.
On the other hand, some agents and brokers rely on IDX to drive traffic to listings on their websites. They believe that IDX when incorporated on their websites, will help their business by aiding in generating and retaining leads. The challenge with this perspective is that IDX alone will not boost traffic, leads, or sales. In addition to a website with IDX capabilities, real estate professionals need:
• A quality website with a positive user experience
• A well-rounded digital marketing plan that includes one or more of the following strategies: SEO, PPC, and social media marketing
The Benefits of IDX
If you are an agent or broker with a quality website, the fact that you can display listings from your local MLS databases is an exciting one. After all, the IDX:
• A fast and virtually effortless way to populate listings
• Allows agents to display more listings on their websites
• Help an agent’s listings to gain more exposure
• Present a valuable opportunity to post more quality content
• Draws more traffic to the website
• Increases the website’s authoritativeness
• Helps buyers find their dream property
• Helps an agent grow their client base and boost sales
If you are a member of the general public and are embarking on a property buying adventure, the IDX system benefits you greatly.
Because MLS is a closed, members-only system pertaining only to agents and brokers, you cannot browse any of these local listings. In turn, your available options seem to be much less and are restricted to your agent’s choosing. But, thanks to the Internet Data Exchange, you can see the same listings your agent or broker does.
IDX Rules for Professionals to Consider
The IDX system does feature a variety of policies that real estate professionals must consider. These rules coincide with uploading listings and sharing properties from the IDX on their personal/business website.
One of these rules is that a real estate agent or broker cannot upload a listing to the IDX without the property owner’s permission.
The Difference Between MLS and IDX
In summary, the difference between an MLS and IDX is this:
• MLS is typically reserved for its members: real estate agents and brokers. Agents and brokers upload and share listings and keep these listings up-to-date. Real estate professionals then download or print these listings and share them with their clients.
• IDX is software hosted on a website that allows agents to populate listings from a local MLS or multiple MLS’s in no time. In turn, IDX allows anyone to view these listings and perform a property search without an agent or broker’s help.
Understanding the different approaches to online property information is critical for setting your team up for success. Helping your clients find the home of their dreams is the most important goal—MLS feeds and IDX can help you achieve that.