Hassle-Free MLS on Your Site

The ability to showcase a range of listings on your Web site will give you a marketing and lead-generation advantage.

June 1, 2004

Dear Mr. Internet,
I want to show both my own listings and others from our MLS system on my Web site. What’s the best way of doing this with the least amount of hassle?—Kiki Schwartzbauer, Kay Ireland Inc., Edina, Minn.

Dear Kiki,
The ability to show a whole range of listings on your site will definitely give you a marketing and lead-generation advantage. However, before you can show other brokers’ listings on your Web site, you first have to know the guidelines created by the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS, as well as any specific rules on Internet Data Exchange (IDX) implementation developed to your local MLS.

Depending on the policies of your MLS, you may have the option of displaying other brokers’ listings using an IDX and a virtual office Web site (VOW). An IDX is designed to let you “advertise” others’ listing on your site. Typically, IDX listings will contain limited information (for example, the property’s address may not be included), and viewers can often remain anonymous. A VOW, on the other hand, requires that viewers register and provide background information before viewing listings.

The table below will give you an idea of the differences of how listings can be displayed on Web sites under VOW vs. IDX and their relative advantages and disadvantages. While both IDX and VOW will give you a much wider range of listings on your Web site, I believe that at least for now, IDX offers the best option because it’s more widely used, there are more vendors, and it is more user-friendly for Internet-empowered consumers.

Feature VOW IDX
Web site visitor requirements Visitors are typically required to "register" with full contact information prior to viewing listings. This is often a turn-off for the Internet-empowered consumer who values his or her privacy. In most cases, visitor registration is not required
Ability to modify displayed listings from other brokers Typically, the full contact information of the listing agent and his or her broker can not be altered or removed from the listing being displayed. Depending upon your particular MLS rules, you may be able to insert your contact information within each displayed listing giving the initial appearance that even other broker's listings are part of your inventory.
Automatic "new listing" notification for visitor property search criteria Most VOW vendors provide this service. Most IDX vendors provide this service, but search notification is limited only to the listings of participating brokers.

It’s also important to note that with both IDXs and VOWs, you won’t necessarily be displaying all listings in your area. Under NAR policy, individual brokers have the right to “opt out” of having their listings displayed on the IDX of another MLS participant. Under NAR’s policy for VOWs, brokerages also may prevent specific companies from displaying their listings. In general, third-party vendors for your MLS will be responsible for deleting those companies that choose not to participate in an IDX. Also, keep in mind that some MLSs restrict the display of other brokers’ listings to the managing broker’s site. In such cases, you’d need to get your broker’s permission to include listings on your personal site.

Let’s say that you have a green light all the way to use all the listings from your local MLS, and you’re ready to jump in with installing either VOW or IDX on your site. Where do you get started? The first step is to talk with your MLS and get a list of approved third-party vendors that can help you. Some MLSs may use small, local vendors, but many also offer the options of one or more national companies. Here are some vendors you might want to check out that implement IDX solutions for many MLSs around the country.

  • IDXdirect gives you the ability to put IDX listings on your own site through an automatic update. This service automatically sends e-mail alerts of new listings to your visitors who requested them and even lets visitors save their search criteria on your site. However, each of these capabilities is considered a different service and is priced separately. Price is $399.50 a year with no additional monthly fees if you pay for 12 months at a time.
  • GoHome complements its IDX and e-mail marketing offerings with options that let you assign a unique Web address to each listing. Another feature lets you track which advertising medium prompted a visitor to come to your Web site. The Classic version of this product has an activation fee of $99 and a monthly fee averaging $35 per month. The Professional version, which gives you your own domain name, has a $499 activation fee and monthly costs between $70 and $90.
  • immobel.com is unique because it allows your visitors to view your listings in 10 different languages (especially useful if you work with multicultural customers). The service charges $299 for set up and $399 a year for hosting the IDX part of your site.

In addition to comparing features and cost when shopping for an IDX provider, take extra care to speak to several current customers who have had the service for at least six months. This will tell you a great deal about the reliability and professionalism of the vendor. Also, if you're thinking of implementing a VOW on your site (if allowed), you will typically need to contact your MLS directly for that service.

The real estate industry has come a long ways from the days of the closely guarded “multiple listing book.” Today, dozens of sites offer prospects a chance to comparison-shop homes before they contact you. In fact, The 2003 NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers found that 65 percent of buyers used the Internet in their home search. The IDX and VOW are two powerful tools to help you give Internet-empowered consumers exactly what they want—free and easy access to available property information. And in so doing, you lay the foundation for a potentially profitable relationship.

Mr. Internet’s Tip of the Month

Ever wonder why your e-mail doesn’t always go through? It could be that your e-mail server (the special Internet address that your e-mail software uses to send mail) is on one or more spam blacklists.

Fortunately, there is a very cool (and free) tool that you can use to see if you are on anyone’s spam list in seconds. Just go to www.DNSstuff.com and put the IP address of your e-mail SMTP server into the top center field. (If you don’t know the IP address of your SMTP server, just ask your Internet service provider.) Then, just hit “Look Up.” www.DNSstuff.com will almost instantly check 150 spam lists and display your status. If any of the listings on the list are red, well, your server is on that blacklist and your e-mails are being caught in spam filters. (Getting off the list is another topic altogether!)

www.DNSstuff.com is a great way to check out any third-party Web-based e-mail systems, especially drip e-mail services, before you purchase them. Spammers love to use these service providers as a method of sending undetected spam. Unfortunately, the spammers’ activities affect everyone that uses the same service, at least until they get caught.

Michael Russer, a.k.a. Mr. Internet®, is CEO of Russer Communications. He is a leading speaker and author in the real estate industry and has been writing about Internet marketing and virtual outsourcing since the dawn of the commercial Internet.

Notice: The information on this page may not be current. The archive is a collection of content previously published on one or more NAR web properties. Archive pages are not updated and may no longer be accurate. Users must independently verify the accuracy and currency of the information found here. The National Association of REALTORS® disclaims all liability for any loss or injury resulting from the use of the information or data found on this page.