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In the digital age, real estate professionals have a host of marketing tools available to them. These include custom websites, lead generation tools, customer relationship management (CRMs) and more. However, are these tools worth the cost?
Whether you’re a new agent or you simply haven’t made the leap to IDX yet, read on to find out what they do, the benefits and how to choose.
Traditional home search
Before defining an IDX and explaining what it does, let’s take a step back and explain the homebuying process before the digital age:
- A customer hires an agent to list their property
- The agent takes photos and uploads the listing to the multiple listing service (MLS)
- A buyer’s agent searches the MLS for a handful of homes their buyer might like
- The buyers don’t have access to the MLS, so they’re relying on the agent’s expertise and interpretation of their needs
- The agent takes them through many homes to narrow down their wants and needs
- Buyers finally find their dream home, many showings later
Digital home search
2019 has brought swift change, with technology at the forefront of the historically stagnant real estate trends. While the MLS is still an integral part of the listing process, it’s slowly evolving.
In today’s world, here’s how the process works:
- A customer hires an agent to list their property
- The agent enters the property into the MLS and the information is published to their own website
- Buyers house hunt electronically and find a home that matches their wants and needs
- Agent shows them the home, they like it, and they complete the transaction
As you can see in the latter example, much time is saved for both the agent and the client. A good portion of the house hunting process is simply weeding out undesirable properties and features, so doing this from the comfort of one’s own home saves time for everyone.
What are IDX websites?
An IDX (Internet Data Exchange) is a web-based platform that allows agents to show property listings on their websites. The IDX sources information from the MLS and publishes it in another spot. Often called a “feed,” syndicated data makes otherwise private information publicly available.
Within the past few years, companies recognized the potential of this data and responded by creating products that custom-tailor it to agents and brokers.
While each product varies by company, most share similar features. These include:
- Syncing with the MLS to make listing information public, including pictures, features, specifications and property descriptions.
- The ability to customize a landing page. These range from simple virtual tours to custom property valuations.
- CRM (customer relationship management) programs that automate the follow-up process.
- Social media integration buttons that allow prospects to easily visit your social media pages with the click of a button.
- Prompts to enter an email address. Often, this is required to unlock the listings. The CRM then follows up with each prospect.
Benefits of IDX websites
Syndicating property listings to your own website has many benefits. First, it allows your clients to see what properties are available. This benefits you because instead of showing them different houses to find their ideal house, you can direct them to your website.
Using this tool, the prospects can pre-qualify certain houses and see what is available. Then, they can narrow their search by a number of filters. Ultimately, the goal is to save you both time and money along the way.
Next, an IDX website allows you to connect with prospects searching for homes without representation. In today’s digital landscape, many buyers are turning to online resources before ever contacting an agent. If they happen to search your site, they might find something they like. You’ll have their information and will already know what they’ve looked for.
Another benefit is the CRM feature that many products offer. Traditionally, agents follow up with a lead in their spare time, which we know is typically limited. If you are too late, a prospect might feel unimportant and move onto the next agent. With automated follow-ups, prospects hear from you automatically.
Additionally, many products are designed to streamline the entire sales transaction. This includes automating first contact, providing updates and scheduling tasks to remind you of key deadlines. While these systems will never replace your hard work, they certainly help ease the burden of the mundane tasks to help you work smarter, not harder.
How to choose an IDX provider
If you search “real estate IDX” or “real estate CRM,” you will see many product offerings from various companies. Naturally, this can be overwhelming. For those with little technology experience, you might be wondering how to pick the best product without paying for features you don’t need.
Fortunately, following a few key steps will help you pick the right product for you. These include:
- Determine your intentions: Before beginning your search, think about the problem you wish to solve. Do you want to simply automate follow up, or do you want to generate leads in addition to automating follow up? Products range from simple to complex, and often you can pick a product that does exactly what you need, and nothing else.
- Set a budget: Generally speaking, complex products come with expensive price tags. If you’re on a tight budget, scale back features to include only what you need. Some companies offer a base platform that only includes the IDX website and allows you to add a la carte features as you see fit.
- Consult your colleagues: Perhaps the best way to find your IDX solution is to talk to someone who has one. Many agents are using these services, so chances are you can open your Rolodex and quiz a current user on the pros and cons of their current product. After all, happy customers are the best salespeople, as they have seen first-hand the value their product brings them.
As time goes on, the move to digital searches will continue to increase, and having an IDX website to connect with prospects searching online will help you stay competitive. With a host of products to choose from, it’s now easier than ever to stay ahead of this dynamic real estate landscape.
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Andrew Helling is the founder and editor at REthority in Omaha, Nebraska. Connect with him on LinkedIn.