What Is IDX (Internet Data Exchange)?

what is idx (internet data exchange)

IDX stands for Internet Data Exchange. IDX is the technology; that, in the most basic of explanations, powers the home search functionality on your real estate website by providing the technology and access to your the databases of MLS’s in which you subscribe.

The purpose of having IDX on your website is providing your visitors a great user experience and lead capture.

The choice of your IDX provider can have a huge impact on how much of your traffic converts into leads.

Internet Data Exchange, or IDX, is a term coined by the real estate industry that describes the exchange of real estate listing data between brokerages. IDX is driven by the flow of commissions between “cooperating brokers,” and the MLSs are the centralized databases where property data is shared.

Stu Hill – Lead Real Estate Marketing Consultatant @CHEM.digital

Internet Data Exchange (“IDX”), also referred to as “Broker Reciprocity,” is the next stage in the evolution of MLS as the primary means of enhancing cooperation between REALTORS® to facilitate the purchase and sale of real property. IDX gives MLS Participants the ability to authorize limited electronic display of their listings by other Participants. Under IDX, brokers exchange consent to display each other’s listings on participants’ websites and using applications for mobile devices that participants control.

Technically, IDX is the requirement for members of an MLS to share the data on their listings equally with other members of the MLS. However, it’s more complicated than that. Simply accessing the data is one thing, but someone has to build applications that can use that data.

In 2010, there were 1,400 location boards with their own MLS practices. There are still more than 600 MLSs today in the United States alone. While the Real Estate Standards Organization has been a huge help in the real estate market, most of these MLSs still use differing server protocols, access requirements, rate limits, standards, etc. to access the data. It’s costly to access and normalize this data, with it commonly accepted that Zillow spent $25 million simply ingesting MLS and other data, and that is before building search tools.

How you should think about IDX?

IDX is how consumers perform their home search on your website. It includes access to the MLS data on your website and all of the modern home search capabilities that they require to find their next home. Often consumers will first go to Google or another search engine and search for something like: image image Condos in downtown Dallas Chicago waterfront condos image image Single-family homes near Liberty high school Homes for sale in Charlotte With Google’s shift to “user intent”, the search results for each of these searches could render very different results based on what the search engine already knows about the person. This is why it’s important to look at search engine optimization. Many outdated IDXs use iFrames and subdomains which make it near impossible to rank a website on search engines. Modern IDX plugins will give you pictures, videos, neighborhood info, market information, allow visitors to save their search, and will never use iFrames or subdomains. Your website should be the hub of all of your marketing, and a modern IDX will power the real estate components of that marketing technology stack.

Here are the steps of the lead generation process:

IDX Websites

Best IDX Plugins and Home Search

What is the best IDX?
Showcase IDX is the highest rated IDX plugin and home search from our study.

We tested 20,000 real estate agent websites and worked with more than 125,000 consumers in what was the largest test of IDX, home search, and real estate portals ever done.

We were most concerned with one question “would qualified leads use the home search from an individual agent?”. Next, we wanted to know where a consumer went when they left an agent’s website.

Zillow made approximately $1 BILLION from advertising services (i.e. that’s the value of consumer
value). That is the value of your client’s contact and budget info. As an agent, it’s hard to have a business and grow today if your clients are using a large portal like Zillow that will provide their contact information to a competing agent, unless you have a buyers agreement in place 100% of the time.

what is the best idx

As a successful Realtor website must retain clients, generates leads, and increases engagement with clients, we next looked at how each IDX and home search provider impacted the ability of the agent to rank for search terms relevant to the niche they serve.

Here are a summary results agents need to know when deciding on the IDX to power their website:

what is the best idx

Showcase IDX stood out above any other IDX plugin overall, significantly outperforming in terms of client retention on agent websites and the ability to rank in Google, especially from an ROI standpoint.

All-in-One platforms kVcore and Real Geeks scored 2nd and 3rd overall but at a much higher annual price than owning your own website.

IDX Broker vs iHomefinder vs Showcase IDX vs Others

Some agents generate leads from ads, others from organic traffic, others from local events, and countless other ways. A successful real estate website will be a site and home search your clients actually use and will help you be found on search engines by clients in your target niche.

To better understand the benefits, costs, and risks associated with investing in an IDX or home search, The Made in America Movement analyzed 25,000+ real estate agent websites, interviewed multiple customers from each vendor, and spoke directly to dozens of consumers about their preferences.

Key Findings on IDX and Agent Websites

Our research shows a substantial difference in how the choice of IDX impacts client retention, the impact of the IDX on search engine rankings, and the long-term lower costs of successful real estate marketing tools once set up properly.

IDX Choice Matters:
This research also reinforced the value of 1) real estate agents that have their own
website compared to 2) the agents without a website, a simple agent featured page on their broker’s
site, or a subdomain with their name from their broker.

Value of real estate websites:
Client retention is the percentage of qualified leads that are sent to an agent’s website that  leave and go to a competitor’s website or a large portal. Every website and category has a normal “ ” (percentage of visitors that leave). Normalizing for these typical bounce rates showed a significant difference in consumer willingness to use a given home search on individual agent websites. Imagine sending your past clients to Zillow, or spending $5k in advertising this month for 60% of those potential clients to leave and go to Zillow? The best IDX in our study had a client retention 15.9x that of the worst IDX.

Client Retention is the #1 Most Important Success Factor:
Client retention is the percentage of qualified leads that are sent to an agent’s website that leave and go to a competitor’s website or a large portal. Every website and category has a normal “ ” (percentage of visitors that leave). Normalizing for these typical bounce rates showed a significant difference in consumer willingness to use a given home search on individual agent websites. Imagine sending your past clients to Zillow, or spending $5k in advertising this month for 60% of those potential clients to leave and go to Zillow? The best IDX in our study had a client retention 15.9x that of the worst IDX.

Search Engine Optimization Matters:
Many agents simply need a website with a home search their clients will use (i.e. client retention) and do not need to generate leads from Google and Bing. The all-in-one platforms typically rank well for SEO because of how they are built. For agents that need an IDX website and are using an IDX plugin, we found that many agents have been hurt by website developers that use an IDX that utilize subdomains or iFrames because the developer is simply accustomed to using one of the outdated IDXs, rather than one of the newer modern options.

Showcase IDX

Showcase IDX is the best IDX software across both plugins and all-in-one platforms, including map search, a great mobile polygon search, lead routing, 9 lead generation CTAs (call-to-action), and more features. It does not use iFrames or subdomains and works in a way that makes it easy to rank community pages on Google, if you put in the work. Showcase IDX retains 8.5x more clients than IDX Broker and 4x more clients than the typical iHomeFinder website, in our study. They do not have coverage of every MLS though. If you’re one of the 1M+ agents that they cover, you have access to the best performing IDX home search. If not, sign up to be notified as they expand into your area.


FlexMLS is offered by many MLSs to their member agents and often chosen because it’s “included”. They offer a framed IDX and WordPress plugin, both are better than several other IDX plugins in terms of retention. The ease of use and cost makes it a good solution for agents putting up a quick website while they get started with more modern marketing workflows and tools. We also like that they have a team of employee-owners.


Founded in 1997, now owned by FRONTSTEPS, offers a good looking, user-friendly home search. The search looks good, however, it relies heavily on iFrames which is why it works on Wix and Squarespace. iHomeFinder saw a signficant loss of qualified leads (76.3% of qualified leads went to Zillow or a competitor’s website) compared to other solutions in our tests. The plugin is easy to install for individual agents, which makes it a good choice for an agent on Wix or Squarespace.They also have some of the best MLS coverage. Web developers should note that the company began offering websites as a product offering recently, which puts them in competition when many of their partners.

Diverse Solutions

Diverse Solutions was an incredible product 5+ years ago, and a top tier product in terms of SEO back then. It still maintains a moderate number customers but has fallen behind the market leader. The company was acquired by Zillow in 2011. In 2015, Zillow sold Market Leader to Constellation Software and then Diverse Solutions to Constellation in 2016.

IDX Broker

IDX Broker is the most used IDX plugin in the US, and has been the go-to for many marketing agencies for years since they released a newer version they call IDX Broker Platinum. It operates well out of the box but many designers are increasingly using it as a backup option where better IDX plugins do not have MLS coverage. If comparing to other vendors, make sure to add up all of the options and make sure you are comparing apples to apples (e.g. setup fees, polygon tool, are their fees for using multiple MLSs, etc). Similar to iHomeFinder, some website developers may not feel comfortable working with them as they acquired real estate website agency and theme developer Agent Evolution in 2014.


Realtyna has made a place through unique marketing and pricing. The solution does outperform many competitors in terms of SEO capabilities, while still falling well behind SEO king Showcase IDX. Realtyna has attempted to coin the term “organic IDX”, but the reality is having indexable content that performs well in Google is available from almost every all-in-one platform and some other IDXs. They push their one-time payment of $199 as cheaper than other IDXs, which charge monthly. The reality is that your total cost for 1 – 5 years of your IDX may be much higher when you “add-on” additional features (e.g. $950 for MLS add-on, $550 for advanced portal search, $350 for CRM, $350 for Zapier integration, $350 for neighborhoods and community pages, etc). Overall, the solution is respectable, but make sure you are comparing the true cost with other options.

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