If you’re looking to create an agent website, you might have run into these types of real estate websites called IDX websites. So what are IDX websites?
In a nutshell, IDX (Internet Data Exchange), is the technology that allows MLS listing to be searchable on your website. So when you visit an agent or brokerage website with IDX integrated, you’ll usually see a prominent search function that allows site visitors to search all the listings from the local MLS. Here’s a screenshot of what a typical IDX real estate website might look like:
Now that we know what IDX websites are, we should honestly ask ourselves: “Do we need MLS search on our agent website?”.
In our opinion, IDX and MLS search functionality is really not relevant on agent and brokerage websites in 2020. In this article, we break down why we think IDX is unnecessary in 2020, by covering the following topics:
- History of IDX websites
- Do buyers really want to use your site to search home listings?
- Cost of IDX websites
- IDX and MLS searches is distracting for site visitors
If you’re looking to build a real estate website, check out our guide to building a real estate website in 2020.
History of IDX websites
About 10 – 15 years ago, the major real estate listings web portals, like Zillow, Redfin, Trulia, and Realtor.com, were just getting started. No consumers really knew about them, and it took awhile for their listings data to be considered reliable. Before these sites came into public awareness, there was really no way for the general public to search for real estate listings online. It’s almost hard to believe, but not long ago, home shoppers HAD to go through a real estate agent to look for property listings, since agents were the only people who had access to the local MLS.
Consumers definitely craved doing searches themselves. I even remember asking my brother-in-law, who was a real estate agent, to borrow his MLS login just so I can search listings for myself. So during this time, innovative brokerages thought, what if we provide free MLS search through our own website? By providing MLS search search on their website, they would get tons of traffic with people wanting to do free MLS searches. Whenever a site visitor would do a home search on their website, that brokerage would capture that new lead, and convert them into a customer.
This strategy made a ton of sense back in the day. That’s when the IDX standard was born. When software vendors and MLS’s started providing IDX functionality, MLS searches started showing up on almost every brokerage website…and even got cheap enough to appear on solo agent websites. Over time, MLS search became a commodity, everyone had it on their websites, and in our opinion, become not special.
Today, home shoppers have countless ways to search for homes online…which brings us to our next point.
Will home buyers really use your site to search for listings?
Now that we know some history of IDX websites, agents and brokerages HAVE to be honest with themselves. Will home shoppers really come to your website just to look for real estate listings? In our opinion, it’s highly unlikely.
Today, whether we like it or not, the major real estate portals, Zillow, Redfin, and Trulia dominate the market. Combined, these real estate portals get over 77 million unique visitors per month…and growing. These sites are household names. People are starting to use “zillow” as a verb, with statements like, “let’s zillow it to see how much that house is worth”. When a brand name starts to become a verb, you realize that people have adopted that service as the primary destination for that behavior…home searches.
Most agents and brokers are realizing that home shoppers won’t be doing MLS home searches on their website. It may have worked in years past, but not in 2020. Consumers want the best home shopping experience, and there’s just no way to compete with Zillow’s fantastic home search experience and their billions of dollars of budget.
If consumers are already searching for real estate on Zillow and Redfin, why would you pay to put IDX/MLS search on your website?
Cost of IDX website functionality
If you’re still on the fence on getting an IDX website, you’ll want to be aware of the added cost of IDX. A good way to look at the added cost is to see how much IDX vendors charge for their website plugins. Let’s assume you have a real estate agent or brokerage website built on WordPress. The only way to get IDX and MLS search functionality is by embedding some code into your WordPress website, or by installing a plugin into your WordPress admin. Whichever option you choose, you’ll have to sign up for a 3rd party IDX provider.
Here are 3 IDX website WordPress plugin providers available:
- IDX Broker (https://idxbroker.com/)
- iHomefinder (https://www.ihomefinder.com/)
- ShowcaseIDX (https://showcaseidx.com/).
If you look at their pricing pages, you find that adding IDX functionality to your website will cost you an extra $50 – $100 per month. This is on top of any WordPress hosting and development costs you normally already have. This also doesn’t take into account any development and setup cost you’ll encounter in integrating IDX into your website. For this, you might want to budget another $200 – $1000 in setup costs to get a developer to do this, in case you’re not comfortable with the technical setup.
By now, we’re hoping you see this having an IDX website with MLS search is probably not too appealing in 2020. Site visitors just won’t find it very useful, and you can save money by forgoing that technology. Along with this, IDX functionality usually takes up a lot of screen real estate on your website…which brings us to our next topic.
IDX and MLS search is distracting for visitors
We should all know by now, website visitors are super fickle. If they visit a website and are either annoyed or don’t find what they’re looking for right away, they immediately leave. They usually take the time to visit a website to accomplish 1 goal. And if your website makes it confusing or hard for them to achieve that goal, they simply click away and leave.
So when you’re designing your agent or broker website, you have to ask yourself, what’s the major 1 or 2 reasons why a visitor comes to my site? As we already established above, they are NOT there to do a property search. For that, they’re already using Zillow or Redfin…period. If you still have an IDX/MLS search on your site, the ONLY thing you’re doing is distracting users from another main goal they actually have. So what are they there for?
Well, for one, chances are site visitors are checking your site to learn more about you and your services as a real estate agent or broker. If that’s the visitor’s goal, then it makes no sense making your website feel like a real estate listing search engine. To help site visitors achieve their actual goal, you’d want your site to prioritize helping them learn about you. It should prominently feature information about you, link them to your 3rd party business profiles on Zillow, Google, and Yelp to read client reviews, showcase your expertise, showcase your team, and find your contact info. It’s pretty simple. Visitors to your site are mainly doing research about you, to make a decision whether or not to work with you.
The only listings we’d recommend showcasing are the listings you actively represent as the seller’s agent, and any past listings you helped sell. More than anything, this functions more like a portfolio of work, giving a perspective client an indication of of how active and experienced you are. A lot of times, for your existing network of connections, they’re also curious what properties you currently represent. Showcasing your current listings helps new and past leads get an idea of how active you currently are as an agent.
Hopefully, we helped answer some questions about how relevant IDX websites are in today’s landscape. In our opinion, we think IDX websites are dead in 2020.
If you don’t believe us, here’s a couple YouTube videos from other experts explaining the same thing.
If you already have an MLS search on your site, you might argue that you maybe get a couple leads a month. But you gotta ask how many leads are you potentially driving away who you don’t know about. Many potential clients may have already clicked away from your website, and are lost clients forever.