Confused about IDX? Possible reasons why…

Services for Real Estate Pros with Crye-Leike, Realtors

Just for fun, I googled "What is IDX" and I was quite shocked by the conflicting responses. No wonder so many people are confused with the term. These are real quotes I found searching online.

confusing directionsBehind Door Number 1 - It's some fancy web site: "State-of-the-art property location system that works with any website".

That was the first definition that popped up on my screen ...uhnnnnn...(buzzer sound) sorry, not the right answer. Surprisingly, that answer is actually from a provider of IDX solutions. They seem to be giving themselves kudos for building this state of the art location system. Hmmm, sounds like a glorified map.

Behind Door Number 2 - It's some new programming language:  "IDX is the process that converts the MLS listing database to a database that can be integrated within any website."

burrrrzzzz...(buzzer sound) sorry, not the right answer. Many answers use the term IDX in a confusing way. The term is used by web site providers (of sites for real estate agents) to say something like an "IDX powered site". This is a little confusing. They are trying to say that your property search on the site will contain these shared listings (IDX, reciprocity listings) or that they have a system in place to get this listing data etc but they end up use the term IDX in such a way that you think that IDX is some programming language or something like that. This is a prime example of such a poor definition. IDX is not a programming language.

Behind Door Number 3 - A great sales pitch:  "IDX is a Multiple Listing Service (MLS) agreement between different real estate agents to better advertise available homes for sale."

uhnnnnn...(buzzer sound) sorry, not the right answer. They are talking about benefits of advertising and an agreement between agents....sounds like a definition cooked up by someone selling something. Distinction - not every real estate agent makes this agreement - brokers (company level) agree to opt in or opt out.

Behind Door Number 4 - Too simplified and a little misleading:  "IDX offers every visitor to your site access to all local listings."

euuuurrrrrrrrrr...(buzzer sound) sorry, not the right answer. Well IDX does have to do with searching property online, but visitors of your web site do not have access to ALL local listings. It only includes listings of other companies that also participate in IDX. There are some that choose not to participate and of course FSBO's are not included.

Behind Door Number 5 - Real Time Confusion:  "IDX provides your clients with real-time MLS property data."

Real-time data searches hmmmm... interesting. Majority of boards implement IDX through a nightly data feed on an FTP site. Generally this means there is a day delay from when an update is made in the MLS to when it is available to update on web site using IDX. Some boards offer RETS servers which typically allow more frequent data updates and real time data access. But IDX is not synonymous with real-time MLS property data. (Most boards have a rule that say data must be updated at a minimum of at least once every 72 hours or once every 7 days etc. Yep, that's more recent than say the big old books printed and bound with MLS listings for the month.)

smileyMaybe I'm too harsh with my buzzer sounds. I'm sure these people/companies all mean well. They honestly want to get your marketing dollar invested in their program. :) They are not real estate experts. They are technology provider experts. They are trying to explain a real estate standard along with a technology solution. They try to simplify it and instead it just gets confused. But I think everyone in real estate needs to take the time to understand what it is, what it means, how it works etc.

I actually started out writing a blog about "What is IDX?" and I started off on such a tangent with the above stuff, that I just had to make this a separate post - all on its own. So if you know what IDX is, hope you enjoyed the list above; if you don't know what IDX is, read about IDX here; and if you think you understood it and now may be confused about what IDX is go here to learn about IDX.

Has other information like this lead you into IDX confusion?

Comments (8)

Circumlocation Netheads
Circumlocation, Inc. - Albuquerque, NM
Wish all boards offered the RETS option!!
Jul 09, 2007 04:26 PM

Great post, Angie.

In light of the pending USA v. NAR lawsuit relating, in part, to the NAR's proposed Internet Listing Display policy, perhaps you could explain in a future post what is meant by "Virtual Office Website", and what the similarities/differences are between VOW and IDX.


Jul 10, 2007 08:30 AM
S. Leanne Paynter ☼ Broward County, FL
United Realty Group, Inc. - Davie, FL
Davie, Plantation, Cooper City & Weston Specialist
Thanks for this... it was fun to read.  I only wish it were real-time data.  Sometimes I think it takes them a few days to update!
Jul 10, 2007 01:51 PM
Tracy Thrower Conyers
Silicon Beach Properties • KW - Venice, CA
buy. sell. lease. residential in silicon beach.
Loosely defined, IDX is about bringing databases to websites and the concept is not unique to real estate.  Access to the database can be as real-time as an MLS wants it to be, but there are other considerations that argue against real-time access by thousands of consumers at once.  Your Door No. 2 company is not so far off and the Door No. 5 company might be right on, depending on what they're offering.  I think you're being too hard on the vendors.  =-)
Jul 10, 2007 03:51 PM
S. Leanne Paynter ☼ Broward County, FL
United Realty Group, Inc. - Davie, FL
Davie, Plantation, Cooper City & Weston Specialist

Our area uses MLXchange - a web-based MLS system and all members recently had to switch over to the MLX professional version (for no additional fees) which includes your own customizable website that is directly integrated with the MLS.  Couldn't ask for more!

Jul 10, 2007 10:08 PM
Tracy Thrower Conyers
Silicon Beach Properties • KW - Venice, CA
buy. sell. lease. residential in silicon beach.
Leanne, I daresay that there is much more you can ask for, starting with an IDX solution that doesn't display the listing office's name and logo prominently on the thumbnail page of the search results.  Search yours, for instance, on in Miami and look at those nice big logos from your competitors.  It's not a stretch to imagine that you're losing leads because your visitor just clicked off to go find the listing office for more information.  Private IDX vendors usually have at least a half dozen ways their product is better than the free MLS solution and they don't charge much for a much better product.
Jul 11, 2007 07:28 AM
Angie Vandenbergh
Crye-Leike, Realtors - Memphis, TN
A Crye-Leike Blogger

Hi Tracy, Thanks for sharing your thoughts with me. You are right - I am probably being too hard on vendors.

Your comments really got me thinking though and so I wanted to explain a little further about why I pulled out these items.

Your statements about the door no 2 company being not so far off kind and about Internet Data Exchange not being unique to real estate seem to tie in together a little. You could use the term lightly and say Internet Data Exchange applies to any web site with a database. But IDX is not being used like that. If I have a database and a web site it doesn't mean I have IDX.

I view IDX as a policy, an initiative and a set of rules. An IDX web site is one that uses those policies and rules to display more information. IDX is not a technology say like Java or XML, etc. When I say that IDX is a real estate industry term, that is what I'm getting at.

To illustrate a little further let's say I want to hire an IT programmer to build a web site and a database and go get this IDX data. Maybe I would hire a dabase administrator, or a java developer, or a .net person or an php guy/gal, etc., you're not going to hire an IDX developer. Now maybe you happen to get a person with experience working in real estate and knowledgeable about what IDX is and maybe that's all someone does so they call themselves an IDX developer because they work with real estate sites all day..... but if you take a technology person skilled in "bringing data to the web" and ask them to implement an IDX web site and they have no knowledge of real estate - they are not going to know what you are talking about.

So with that in mind about company no 2... "IDX is the process that converts the MLS listing database to a database that can be integrated within any website." I would say IDX is the policy that allows the data from the MLS to be converted to any other web site.  And again... I am being hard and this is semantics, but I cannot go write a script in IDX or write a series of scripts in IDX and go get data and convert it.

These distinctions are why I think there is confusion with some agents about what IDX is. Many tend to see it as something complicated...some technology application. When really it is a set of policies that other real estate agents created and/or they may have even voted for in their own boards. And then technology providers (or some savvy agents) get the data, create web sites and put those policies into action.

On your comment on my other idx blog you say "By the way, IDX is not a real estate industry term.  It translates loosely to "bringing databases to websites" and the term is used alot in the healthcare industry (check out, for instance)."

You pulled at my curiousity strings and I had to go investigate, because I do not have very much knowledge about technology specific to healthcare - but from what I found through your link above, on wikipedia and through various online articles... is that IDX is the name of a company that was bought by GE Healthcare and IDX, the company, provided several types of technology products/solutions in the healthcare field.

>>>"Door No. 5 company might be right on, depending on what they're offering."

You are absolutely correct. I did not investigate what MLS the company provided solutions for. It would certainly be possible for a company to offer a real-time solution, depending on what the board had available. And of course a solution powered directly from the MLS, like Leanne mentions through mlxchnge would also be real-time (or so I would assume). Out of 30 or so mls's that we participate in, only 1, that I am aware of offers that. All the others have a delay time of some sort.


Jul 11, 2007 07:35 AM
Angie Vandenbergh
Crye-Leike, Realtors - Memphis, TN
A Crye-Leike Blogger
Michael, I will keep that in mind for a future post - the difference between IDX and VOW.
Jul 11, 2007 07:37 AM
Tracy Thrower Conyers
Silicon Beach Properties • KW - Venice, CA
buy. sell. lease. residential in silicon beach.

I'm going to go out on a limb here, but my gut says that you might do your readers a great service by calling the policy "Broker Reciprocity" instead of "IDX."  There is also the term floating around out there of "Internet Data Display" or "IDD" that is specific to the real estate industry (as far as I know).  I haven't dived into the exact meaning of IDD, but the term IDX does literally relate to bringing databases to websites and it is technology.  I completely hear what you're saying about the term's lay meaning to realtors and how it is being tossed around the industry, but I think you're blurring distinctions, not clarifying them, by your use of "IDX."

Regarding IDX developers, you generally don't need one.  Developers have already produced off-the-shelf real estate applications that any website developer can integrate into a real estate website.  IDX developers are out there for custom jobs, but the average agent or small to medium-sized company doesn't need one.

Jul 11, 2007 07:56 AM