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Franchisor ERA Real Estate says it will roll out a new website in May that will allow visitors to ERA.com to search the complete set of Internet Data Exchange (IDX) listings in markets where its brokers operate, by serving up search results from brokers’ websites.

ERA.com will be powered by Homes.com, which has powered a similar website for franchisor Re/Max for about six years.

IDX listings are pools of shared data managed by multiple listing services (MLSs) in order to enable participating members to display each other’s listings.

In announcing the new ERA.com platform powered by Homes.com, ERA said it will offer "seamless search functionality" tied directly to MLS listings through the IDX feed, allowing users "to find all listings in a local market with a single click."

More than 90 percent of ERA brokers participate in IDX data-sharing agreements in their local markets, the company said.

"Our IDX Web solution maintains the integrity of listings by complying with local MLS display rules and funnels leads directly to our brokers’ listing agents," said Charlie Young, president and CEO of ERA Real Estate, in a statement.

Because MLSs restrict the display of IDX listings to member broker and agent websites, franchisors have been somewhat limited in their ability to offer consumers access to a complete set of listings from national websites.

Brokerages typically provide their own listings to their franchisor’s national website. But they aren’t allowed to provide a complete set of IDX listings for their market to franchisor websites, because franchisors are not MLS members.

The National Association of Realtors last year briefly allowed franchisors to display IDX listings in markets where they had affiliated brokerages, but rescinded a rule change allowing the practice after some brokers and brokerage networks objected.

The "search handler" solution employed by Homes.com to power Re/Max’s national website allows consumers to enter search criteria at remax.com, and view matching IDX listings provided by the Re/Max brokerage that is an MLS member in the market they are looking for homes in.

This search tool not only passes on the user’s search criteria to the local brokerage website, but if there is more than one brokerage affiliated with a franchise in a given market, it will route traffic to the appropriate brokerage according to the franchisor’s rules.

"If they (the franchisor) have five offices serving (one market), it will pick the next one in line, to equitably distribute traffic to offices," said Andy Woolley, vice president of Homes.com operator Dominion Enterprises’ Homes Media Solutions division.

Although this approach is sometimes described as a display of "framed" results, remax.com visitors are actually taken to a local brokerage website, Woolley said, and do not have to re-enter their search criteria.

Some franchisors display listings represented by affiliated brokers on their national website, and then offer a link to an affiliated broker’s website that can display a full set of IDX listings. Those sites require additional "clicks" by consumers.

This year, Realtor.com operator Move Inc. announced it will act as a clearinghouse for brokers to syndicate listings to franchisors through a "Real Estate Network" operated by Move subsidiary ListHub. Participating franchisors at launch were Century 21, Coldwell Banker, Realty Executives and Re/Max.

Re/Max has said it plans to display a combination of framed IDX listings data and information from the ListHub Real Estate Network at remax.com.


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