Morgan Carey
Posted by Morgan Carey
| Real Estate Webmasters CEO
Updated on
Published in Products

What is IDX?

If you're in the real estate space, you've likely heard the term "IDX". And if you're on this blog right now, you probably even know about "IDX websites". But do you really understand what IDX is, or what it means for your site?

In this blog post, we're going to talk about what IDX is, why it exists, and how we use it to make awesome real estate websites.

Let's get started!

IDX is the abbreviated form of "Internet Data Exchange", and it's basically a set of rules and data feeds that enable Realtors to share MLS data on their website. Website vendors (like us!) use the IDX to display listings on a website, and real estate sites as we know them today simply couldn't exist without it.

Why the IDX was created

In the past, the only person who could access up-to-date property information was a Realtor, using the MLS. Consumers weren't able to search or view properties on their own, and it meant Realtors had to be in constant, ongoing contact with someone to keep them up to date on new or updated listings.

It was a lot of work for both parties, and this type of time-consuming process didn't make sense in the digital age. Consumers needed to be able to access listings on demand, on their own terms, using their personal computers. Out of that need, came a simple answer: IDX.

Bringing agents together with IDX

IDX is also referred to as "Broker Reciprocity", a term that reflects the cooperation needed for an IDX system to really be effective. IDX relies on agents agreeing to share their listing information with other agents and consumers on the internet.

MLS boards play a critical role here, and are essentially the gatekeepers of the IDX. When a real estate agent adds a new property to the MLS, that information is then added to the MLS board's IDX data feed (using complex programming we don't need to get into). It's this data feed that contains all the listings in an area, and it's what agents use on their websites.

Originally, each MLS board had its own IDX data feed, but we're beginning to see MLS boards group together to create larger feeds. This often occurs when MLS boards overlap in territory and want to benefit from all the listings in an area, without merging boards together.

By now, most MLS boards have opted into the IDX system, and have created a data feed that their agents all benefit from, ultimately making it easier for consumers to buy and sell property.

There are many components to IDX

IDX can be confusing to understand, because it's a blanket term that refers to the broker reciprocity agreement, as well as the policies, rules, and data feeds that are part of that agreement.

The IDX itself also has many components, most of which borrow the "IDX" prefix from time to time:

  • IDX agreement - the contract in which a Realtor or broker agree to place their listings in the IDX feed, in exchange for receiving that feed
  • IDX feed / IDX data feed- an ongoing stream of data which shares up-to-date listing info
  • IDX information - the information (or data) that's included in a feed
  • IDX listing - a listing that's part of the IDX agreement, and can be found in the data feed
  • IDX website - a website that uses IDX data to display real estate listings

But at the end of the day, we're ultimately talking about a collection of real estate listings mutually shared online by numerous agents.

What is IDX compliance?

When a real estate agent decides to share the IDX data on their own website, they have to notify the MLS board that controls the data. Each MLS board has its own set of rules and regulations for what listing information can be shared, and what display formats can be used.

This is to maintain integrity and ensure that members are using the data fairly. For example, it wouldn't seem fair if a competing agent removed your name from your listing and said it was theirs instead. Compliance rules protect agents from this type of foul play, allowing everyone to compete for business on an equal playing field.

Compliance rules vary greatly by MLS board. Some are strict, while others are lax, and rules often aren't consistent between two different boards. The consequences for breaking the rules also vary, but it's common for an MLS board to use fines or removal of the feed as their punitive actions.

How vendors work with IDX compliance rules

When a vendor like REW makes websites for real estate agents, we try to create a site that's going to work for as many MLS boards as we can, but it's just not possible to create a website that will work for every board, out of the box. As part of the website installation process, our IDX compliance team will review your MLS board's compliance rules, and instruct our programming and design team to make any adjustments needed to ensure the site is "compliant".

Before a website with IDX goes live, it is sometimes sent to the MLS board for "compliance review". If this review is required, the MLS board will go through the site, ensure everything follows their rules, and then get back to us with the green light to take the site live.

Sometimes an MLS board will tell us that we've misinterpreted one of the rules, and will ask us to make changes. In that case, we follow the MLS board's instructions, make the modifications, and then send the website back to the board for a second round of review.

This review and compliance process is what we call "IDX compliance."

IDX is everywhere

To sum things up, IDX has influenced every modern real estate site out there. If a website has multiple agents' listings on it, chances are they're using an IDX feed that's managed by their MLS board.

IDX has become so commonplace in 2017 that most people don't think twice about it. But it's there and it's doing what it was intended to do: showcase listings, and make it easier for buyers, sellers, and agents to complete real estate transactions.

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