What is a Real Estate IDX, and how do I choose the right one?

real estate IDX
As you compare IDX options, it’s crucial to understand what features to look for and the benefits each one offers.

Why do I need an IDX?

Whether you’re a veteran realtor or new to the industry, one of the simplest and most effective ways to engage buyers is with a real estate IDX (Internet Data Exchange). But what is a real estate IDX? An IDX allows you to display your region’s most up-to-date, well-curated listings right on your website so buyers can easily browse them. And the right IDX will also help you expand your client base by improving your site’s SEO (search engine optimization; if you’re not familiar with SEO, don’t worry, we’ll cover it more further down).

Problem is, there are a lot of misconceptions about the different IDX solutions available today. They all share certain benefits, but some offer more advantages than others. This makes the task of choosing the best option more difficult than you might think. So in this article, you’re going to learn what features to look for and how to identify the IDX that will provide the greatest return on your investment.

What is an IDX?

A real estate IDX (Internet Data Exchange) is computer software that allows realtors to import listings from MLS databases. So any discussion of IDXs has to start with MLSs. An MLS (Multiple Listing Service) is a privately owned digital database of real estate listings within a particular geographic area. Agents participating in an MLS can upload listings into the database so other agents in the area can present them to their own buyers. If another agent’s buyer purchases the property, the listing agent will split the sale commission with the buying agent (3% each is pretty common). 

Some MLS organizations make their listings publicly available for free, but participating realtors often want to display the listings on their own websites. That’s where IDXs come in. They work by creating a connection to one or more MLS databases—these days, most IDXs run on RETS and RESO API data feeds. Once the connection is established, the listing data can be piped into the realtor’s website and displayed in a variety of ways.

How to choose an IDX

The most important element of a real estate IDX is its hosting method. This refers to where the listing data actually lives online. The hosting method of a given IDX will directly affect the benefits you gain from it, which can include:

  • Improved SEO
  • Customizable listing pages
  • Simple IDX setup and maintenance

Below, we’ve outlined the most common types of real estate IDX solutions and their hosting methods, as well as the benefits that each method offers.


Your website’s name is its primary domain, while a subdomain is a subsection of your primary domain. In your browser, the subdomain’s web address (the URL) will be a combination of your domain name and the IDX provider’s domain. If your domain’s URL is “i-sell-properties.com,” the subdomain’s URL might be “i-sell-properties.randomidx.com.” When you have a subdomain IDX, links to listings on your primary domain will open a new tab and navigate to a subdomain page.

Subdomains are easy to set up, and many providers will set them up for you. In theory, you can customize subdomain IDX pages to look the way you want, but it depends on the editing capabilities offered by the provider.

Subdomains don’t offer any SEO benefits. When it comes to SEO, fresh listings on your site count as “content” (like blog posts), which search engines like Google look for and use to rank your site’s activity and relevance. The fresher the content, the more relevant your site, and the higher your site will rank in online search results. With a subdomain IDX, though, the content lives on the subdomain, not your actual site. This means that your primary domain won’t get credit for the content, and you won’t see SEO improvements.

real estate IDX
Knowing how well your site ranks in search results is the first step in improving SEO. The second step is adopting strategic tools, like an IDX, that actually improve it.


An iFrame is an HTML element that lets you embed another site onto your site. The frame is a bit like a window on your webpage that “looks” into part of another site. In an IDX solution, this means showing listings and other MLS elements from another site on yours. This solution is the simplest solution to set up, since all you have to do is copy and paste a line of code into your website’s HTML editor. But since everything inside the frame (the listing information) is part of a different website, you can’t customize how the information appears, and your site won’t get SEO credit for the listings.

On-site hosting

There isn’t a proper term for this solution, but “on-site hosting” conveys the idea. With this approach, the MLS listings appear directly on your own site. When someone clicks on a listing on your site, the real estate IDX provider will auto-generate a new, custom webpage that exists under your primary domain. In other words, each listing’s page looks like it’s part of your site because it is part of your site.

This method is simple to set up and maintain, and providers typically offer a setup service as well. The listing pages are also highly customizable: since each page is part of your site, you can build them out the same way you can build out every other page.

Most importantly, on-site hosting gives you a significant SEO boost. When search engines check out the listing links on your site, they see that they lead to webpages under your primary domain and give you credit for the content. This allows you to not only engage current clients with your IDX, but also increase organic website traffic and create new clients.


Not all realtors use an IDX. Some agents like to have more control over the listings that their buyers see, so they prefer to work with them directly as they browse properties. But if you want to implement a real estate IDX on your website, your best bet is to find one that offers on-site hosting. You’ll see a higher return on your investment, and as your search engine rankings improve, you’ll attract more and more of your local buyers market.

Wovax offers a highly customizable IDX plugin with on-site hosting for WordPress websites. Interested in learning more? Get started here!

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