A Guide to Real Estate IDX Services
We hope this guide helps in understanding important IDX features and choosing the best IDX service for your needs. Having to switch IDX services can be disruptive, time consuming, and costly, so comparing IDX features carefully is recommended. If you're not sure what features and options you need, please feel free to contact us and one of our product specialists will be happy to help you.
Visit our What is IDX? page for details about what IDX is, how it works, and other related information.
Most MLS® Systems can provide a direct feed of IDX data to broker members. However, converting a raw IDX data feed into an attractive property search and display feature on your website costs tens of thousands of dollars in custom software development fees. Some MLS® Systems also provide frameable IDX pages that agents and brokers may insert into their sites. Typically, though, these frameable pages feature poor design and usability, and lack lead capture. Thus, real estate professionals looking to build a professional web presence turn to IDX vendors who offer hosted IDX products that are attractive, customizable, and support integrated lead capture, among many other capabilities.
Some IDX vendors will advertise IDX service for a given MLS® System but they have not established vendor licensing or service with the MLS® System. This can introduce delays for a new client, so prospective clients should confirm with the IDX vendor that service is ready for use when they sign up. If IDX service is not advertised for a desired MLS® System, ask the IDX vendor what their policy is for adding new service and how long it takes.
If an IDX service will be integrated into an existing website, it's a good idea to use a trial account (if offered) to test the IDX features on the website. This can sometimes reveal issues with the website which are best known before making a purchase decision.
A trial account can also be very helpful in learning how features work and how easy a service is to use. If an IDX service will be integrated into an existing website, trial accounts will also demonstrate how well the IDX features integrate with the rest of the website.
There can be big differences in search options, search performance (speed), how properties are displayed, and the listing details provided. All property search options and property details should be explored and tested, which will require access to a trial account or a website of a client using the service.
Not all search options available internally within an MLS® System are available in IDX products. There are two possible explanations for this:
- The MLS® System does not include the required data in their IDX data feed.
- The IDX vendor has chosen to not include the search option. In this case, ask the IDX vendor if additional search options can be added.
One of the most important aspects of an IDX service is how it looks. Consumers make judgments about websites very quickly and will leave a site if it does not look and feel professional. Pay attention to how clean and attractive the IDX content is, and how inviting it feels. If the IDX service is being integrated into an existing website, web developers should look carefully at what styling options are available to provide a seamless integration with the site design.
There should be plenty of opportunities for site visitors to provide their information throughout their property search experience, without getting in the way. Find out what visitor registration features exist for lead capture, and how much control is provided over these features.
If lead capture features are included, look closely at the options provided for managing leads.
- What information is stored with a lead and how easy it is to access?
- Does it track and report the property viewing and search activity of each lead?
- What kind of reporting is provided related to leads?
- What are the options for notification emails when a new lead registers?
Real estate professionals working with a separate system for managing leads (sometimes referred to as a CRM) should also find out if the IDX service can automatically forward new leads to their existing lead management system.
More than half of online property searches take place on a mobile device. Make sure the IDX service provides a seamless experience for different mobile devices. It's best to not require mobile users to have to download anything. When they visit your site, they should not encounter any interruptions in their search process. Finally, your SEO will benefit if mobile devices are not redirected to a separate mobile site. Look for a fully responsive design that does not redirect mobile devices to a separate mobile website.
Social media is an important marketing channel for real estate professionals and IDX is permitted on social media by most MLS® Systems. Find out what social media features are included and what they do exactly. Ideally, property search and featured listings display (display of one's own listings) should be provided directly on a Facebook business page.
How long has the vendor been providing IDX services? Vendors with more experience have proven they offer valuable services and are well positioned to continue meeting the changing demands of the market.
Participants in an association can contact their MLS® System to find out if there are any known service issues with the IDX vendors they are considering.
Find out what methods of technical support are offered (email and/or phone) and ask how long it usually takes to get a response.
If the price seems too good to be true, it might be. Some service providers entice new clients with very low rates, only to charge upgrade fees at a later time when they add new features or enhancements. Find out how long the service has been available at the advertised rate and ask if new features and enhancements are included in their advertised price. Vendors should be asked if a term contract is required (whereby clients are locked-in to payments for any period of time) or if clients can terminate their service at any time without further payment obligations.