A quick IDX history: Back in the 20th Century, before the Internet was a dominant force, MLS listings were printed up in big books and distributed by hand. Often the information would be obsolete the moment it was printed before ever reaching the agent.
In the 80s and 90s, many MLS boards started adopting a computer based system that agents could login to via modem and download to their Commodore-like computer system running MS-DOS with a big lunky monochrome monitor on top. Definitely better and more up-to-date than the previous printed version.Back in these pre-Millennium days, your MLS was run as a non-profit entity to service your needs. You “owned” your listing and your MLS was a benevolent service organization that never intended to make a profit off of you.
Back in these pre-Millennium days, your MLS was run as a non-profit entity to service your needs. You “owned” your listing and your MLS was a bene-volent service organization that never intended to make a profit off of you.
Fast forward to 1999. After five years of having to login to a super slow dial-up modem to view the internet, a new normal swept across the country making the Internet more usable for everyone. This was the widespread roll-out of the cable-modem which instantly drove the dial-up modem into the dust. Cable Internet access allowed for easy and quick viewing of anything on the World Wide Web, including all things real estate.
Also in 1999 was the roll-out of a new paradigm called I.D.X., which stands for “Internet Data Exchange.” IDX was created to share a sub-set of the MLS data online so that Brokers and Agents could now display this information on their websites for clients to research themselves instead of having to be the constant go-between for clients looking for the right property.
Since searching for home listings became a hot commodity, suddenly non-profit MLS boards found themselves making side deals with Yahoo, MSN, and a large number of other websites who began posting home listings.
To help even the playing field, 3rd Party IDX Providers started popping up to handle the raw data and turn it into a graphically appealing interface for real estate agents to put on their own websites that prospective home buyers could easily use.
Even if the MLS had a “free” IDX portal to search the MLS, it did not allow for branding the pages for the Agent, and usually required that the user click away from the agent site to the MLS provider’s site, thus cutting short the “time on site” that the search engines would track how popular your site was.
Even if your MLS offers a free or cut-rate cheap solution for IDX, in most cases this solution will not help your website get more search engine traction, which is why it is so cheap or free with your membership.
There is a reason that 3rd Party IDX Providers exist and why they cost more. It is because they deliver far more value than the freebie IDX searches that are really only meant for starter agents to use.
Just the ability to offer advanced virtual mapping for any community on any page you wish is worth that alone if not just for the “stickiness” it adds to your website keeping users on your site longer.
The difference in cost between a good effective IDX and a lackluster ineffective IDX is less than $50-60 per month on average. Since your “office” where everyone is going to see you and judge you is online, why would you sacrifice giving your prospects the best just to save a miniscule amount as that? There are some places where it just doesn’t pay to be cheap, and IDX is definitely one of them.