You might have heard about the benefits of integrating MLS property listing data via IDX on your real estate website or using a ready-made real estate website with IDX integration.

And IDX, or Internet Data Exchange, can be your secret sauce that spices up your real estate website with a wide array of property listings from your local Multiple Listing Service (MLS). 

But IDX isn’t just about turning your website into a property wonderland.

It’s also about helping you stand out in the crowd, creating a personalized, engaging, and interactive experience for your visitors.

It’s like being a dynamic party host, captivating your guests with great conversations (read: property listings) and ensuring they have the best time (read: user experience).

So today’s article will cover…

  • Seven benefits of IDX for your real estate business
  • IDX in real estate: past vs. present
  • 30 NAR’s IDX rules and policies
  • How to get IDX for real estate
  • How much does it cost with an overview of 12 providers
  • Whether you can IDX for real estate for free


7 Benefits of IDX for Your Real Estate Business 

Maybe you ask yourself, why bother with IDX in the first place. That’s why I collected seven benefits to consider.


1) Access to a Bigger Inventory

IDX gives you access to a whole universe of listings, not just your own. 

It’s like going from a solo performance to a full orchestra, increasing your offerings, and making your website a one-stop shop for property seekers, hence potential buyers.


2) Increased Visibility

By displaying IDX listings, your real estate website becomes a hub for real estate search, attracting more visitors. 

More visitors mean more visibility for your brand and listings. This is also important because today, consumers expect to be able to search and find property listings on agents’ and brokerage’s real estate websites.

Almost half (41%) of all buyers search online for properties when starting their journey (source).


3) Enhanced User Experience

Searching for properties without IDX can feel like searching for a needle in a haystack. 

But with IDX, you offer advanced search options, detailed property information, and high-quality photos. 

IDX can transform your website from a static billboard or basic “digital business card” into an interactive property portal.


4) Lead Generation

Think of IDX as your ever-ready real estate lead generator. It works 24/7 and can collect contact information from potential buyers interested in your listings. 

With IDX, every property listing becomes an opportunity to connect with potential clients. 

Therefore, it is essential to get it right with your property listing description and craft good sales copy.


5) SEO Value

IDX can help improve your SEO rankings by providing fresh, regular content to your website – the listings. 

And the more content you have, the more search engines have to crawl and index, leading to potentially higher rankings.


6) Brand Trust & Credibility

By offering comprehensive real estate listings, you provide value to visitors and position your brand as reliable and professional. 


7) Competitive Advantage

In the cut-throat real estate market, IDX is the ace up your sleeve. 

It can give you an edge by allowing you to offer something your competitors might not have (yet) – a vast array of listings and a superior property search experience.



IDX in Real Estate: Past vs. Present 

When I talk about IDX, I mean Internet Data Exchange. 

As a real estate professional, the system allows you to show MLS property listings on your websites.

Let’s hop in our virtual time machine and return to the late ’90s. 

We are back at Dial-up Internet, Britney Spears on the radio, and the beginnings of the modern real estate industry. 

Back then, if you wanted to look up property listings, you had to go through a real estate agent – no two ways. 

Then, IDX appeared on the scene.

The National Association of Realtors (NAR) introduced IDX in the early 2000s to level the playing field. 

It was like opening a magic door, where real estate brokers could publicly share MLS listings on their websites. 

The idea was simple: share more information, get more traffic, and increase sales. 

However, IDX had its share of growing pains, like every overnight success. 

The early IDX websites weren’t exactly speeding demons. The system was clunky and slow, but it was the start of something big.

Fast forward to today. 

IDX has evolved from its modest beginnings into a real estate marketing powerhouse. 

Thanks to improvements in technology and high-speed internet, IDX is now faster and more efficient than ever. 

We see live data feeds, interactive map searches, and advanced filtering options. 

Do you know those neat slideshows of homes you see on some real estate websites? That’s IDX working its magic.

But remember, IDX isn’t just a “set it and forget it” tool. 

To make the most of it, you’ve got to leverage local SEO best practices

Without proper optimization, your listings might as well be on page 10 of Google. And let’s be honest, who goes to page 10?

Today’s IDX is about more than just displaying property listings; it’s about creating an engaging, user-friendly experience that generates real estate leads

Think of high-resolution photos, detailed property information, virtual tours, and intuitive search filters. 

The more user-friendly and engaging your IDX site is, the longer potential buyers will stick around. This depends on how well you manage to integrate it.

So IDX has gone from a slow, hard-to-use system to a high-speed, user-friendly lead-generating machine. 

It has opened the door for real estate professionals to reach a wider audience and give them access to real-time, accurate MLS data. 

But remember, IDX is only as powerful as the SEO strategies supporting it. 

It’s no longer about just having listings on your website. 

It’s about how those listings are presented and optimized for users and search engines.  


30 NAR’s IDX Real Estate Rules and Policies

The National Association of Realtors issued 30 rules regarding the usage of IDX, which you can look up here

These policies can be divided into three categories:

  • Policies applicable to participants’ IDX websites and displays
  • Policies applicable to multiple listing services
  • Additional local issues/options


1) Policies Applicable to Participants’ IDX Websites

  • Participants must notify the MLS of their intent to display IDX info. They must allow MLS direct access for compliance monitoring. 
  • IDX-provided listings can only be used for IDX display. However, this doesn’t prevent the indexing of IDX listings by recognized search engines.
  • Listings or addresses of sellers who don’t want their property displayed online should not be accessible via IDX.
  • Participants can choose their IDX listings based on objective criteria like location, list price, property type, cooperative compensation, listing type, or service level.
  • Participants must refresh all MLS downloads and displays automatically fed by those downloads at least every three days.
  • Unless otherwise stated in the policy or MLS’s rules, an IDX display or participant cannot distribute or make any portion of the MLS database available to any other person or entity.
  • When displaying listing content, the brokerage firm’s name must be visible. However, minimal information displays (e.g., thumbnails, tweets) are exempt from this, provided they link to a display with all required disclosures.
  • Suppose an IDX display allows third-party comments, reviews, or automated market value estimates. In that case, these features must be disabled or discontinued for a seller’s listing if requested by the seller.
  • Participants must have a way (e.g., email, phone) to receive comments about the accuracy of added data relating to a specific property. When asked by the listing broker or agent, they must correct or remove any false data or information about a specific property. However, they aren’t obliged to remove or correct data or information that reflects good faith opinion, advice, or professional judgment.


2) Policies Applicable to Multiple Listing Services

  • Display of expired, withdrawn, pending, or sold listings is forbidden.
  • Confidential information fields for brokers, not consumers, must not be displayed.
  • Display of the type of listing agreement is prohibited.
  • Display of the seller’s and occupant’s personal contact information is prohibited.
  • Any displayed listing must clearly identify the listing firm.
  • Listing agents’ identities must be displayed.
  • Displayed information should not be altered, though it can be supplemented if the source is identified.
  • Displays of other participants’ listings must indicate the information source.
  • Listings obtained from other sources must clearly show the source.
  • IDX displays must state the information is for personal, non-commercial use only.
  • MLS limits the amount of data/listings that consumers may access or download.
  • Only participants in the same MLS can display other participants’ listings.
  • All MLS data displays must include a notice stating that the data is reliable but not guaranteed.
  • Minimal information displays are exempt from these disclosures if they link to a full display with all required disclosures.


3) Additional Local Issues/Options

  • MLS participatory rights for IDX display might be limited to REALTOR® participants, where non-member brokers or firms can participate.
  • MLSs can limit IDX display rights to participants licensed as real estate brokers.
  • MLSs can opt to restrict IDX display rights to participants engaged in real estate brokerage.
  • MLSs may allow non-principal brokers and sales licensees affiliated with participants to use IDX information, subject to affiliated participants’ consent, state law, regulations, and MLS rules.
  • MLSs can’t prohibit participants from displaying other brokers’ listings obtained from other sources. Still, they can require separate searches for IDX-obtained listings.
  • MLSs may charge participants for the costs of adding or enhancing download capacity relative to actual incurred costs.
  • MLSs can ban participant-controlled advertising (including co-branding) on pages with IDX-provided listings. If allowed, deceptive or misleading advertising (including co-branding) can be banned. Co-branding is presumed non-deceptive if the participant’s logo and contact information is larger than any third party’s.


How to Get IDX for Real Estate?

As you may know, IDX (Internet Data Exchange) helps your real estate websites automatically get property listing data from multiple listing service databases and then display this data on your individual real estate website.

By the way, I also covered this topic already in thisthis, and this article.

In web development terms, the IDX application parses data from the respective application programming interface of the property listing site into your real estate website. 

Implementing this functionality on your real estate website will save you a lot of time since you won’t have to manually update any property changes that happen on multiple listing service databases. 

You have two options to get IDX functionality on your real estate website. 

You have it developed from scratch for your website, which is likely the most expensive and, at the same time, not the brightest and most recommended option. 

Why is it not the brightest and most recommended option?

Because there are already many different providers on the market that offer software solutions that you can implement on your real estate website.

Having it developed from scratch only makes sense if no provider supports the specific MLS you need to use for your real estate listings.

But very often, even then, a development from scratch won’t be the best idea because some already existing software might be able to get adapted to your individual needs via the respective application programming interface.

The second option is using web-based software solutions from already existing providers. 


How Much Does Real Estate IDX Cost? An Overview of 12 Providers

While researching this article, I quickly realized that there are two routes to most IDX software providers for your real estate website and, thus, the potential costs involved.

The first one I covered in my article is how to easily integrate MLS into a WordPress-based real estate website.

This can be done using plugins, basically code snippets extending the basic functionality of a WordPress-based (real estate) website.

The second route involves IDX software providers that offer out-of-the-box or ready-made real estate websites, including IDX functionality.

For both routes, I recommend being weary of solutions that use Iframes to integrate IDX. 


Until recently, integrating external data of a foreign website via Iframes on your website negatively impacted search engine optimization since Google couldn’t crawl this area of your website.

This has changed, and this practice doesn’t have any bad impact anymore.

But you should remember that the content loaded in an Iframe on your website is still considered content belonging to another. 

So, it won’t have a positive SEO effect either. 

As a side note, I wanted to mention this, so you will not prioritize IDX solutions with Iframes.

But as I can observe more and more, many providers are picking up on that and improving the internal working of their software, and more and more refrain from using Iframes.



How Much Does Real Estate IDX Cost via WordPress Plugins

Below, you will find a short table where you will find the prices of the IDX solutions via Plugins should you have a WordPress-powered real estate website. 

Plugin NameMonthly CostOne-Time Cost/ Setup Fee
DSIDXPress (Diverse Solutions)$49.95 - $74.95$99.95
iHomeFinder$49.95 - $129.95$99
Ultimate IDX$49$0
IMPress for IDX Broker$50-$100$100
WPL Pro by Realtyna$0$199
Showcase IDX Real Estate Search$59.95 - $99.95$0
Wovax IDX$42$0

As a whole, you pay a one-time setup fee of between $100 and $200 and monthly costs of between $50 to $200 depending on how many agents and/or websites you will use the respective IDX WordPress plugin. 

How Much Does Real Estate IDX Cost with Out-of-the-Box Real Estate Website Solutions?

The out-of-the-box real estate website solutions, including MLS integration via IDX, usually have many other features.

You usually pay more monthly than with an existing WordPress-based website and an additional IDX plugin.

Some providers, such as iHomeFinder and MLSImport, offer both solutions: out-of-the-box real estate websites with IDX integrations and WordPress plugins.

The more I think about providers offering both routes, the more I think it’s likely to be beneficial to prefer these.


You could first try it with one of their IDX real estate website packages, and later down the road, you could change to your own WordPress-based real estate website and keep using their software to integrate your MLS via their IDX WordPress plugins

This might be more beneficial since the change would be smoother, and you would already know how things are working with the respective provider.

Below is a table with the three providers I identified that offer real estate websites with IDX integration.

Provider NameMonthly CostOne-Time Cost/ Setup Fee

As you can see in the table, you will have a monthly cost of between $60 and $200, depending on your needs. Setup fees can range between $0 and $200.


Can You Get Real Estate IDX for Free?

After discussing the pricing of the different IDX plugins and real estate website providers, you might wonder if you could get the IDX functionality for free.

The answer is, unfortunately, “no” regarding ready-made or out-of-the-box IDX real estate websites.

And in the case of WordPress plugins, the answer is a conditional “yes” or a “yes, but.”

Why a conditional “yes”?

During my research, I found outdated lists of supposedly free IDX plugins for WordPress or free IDX websites.

I estimate that about 99% of today’s providers will offer these products for free with quite a limited functionality.

In other words, when this happens, it’s a freemium model in most cases.

The only “free” one I found (also freemium) offers IDX integration for up to 5 listings that shouldn’t have more than five photos, each called ClickSold.

The WordPress Plugins that I found that truly were free in the past are now either outdated or discontinued.

Unless you know how to code and have some time to develop your own IDX integration, you will not find a truly free solution to integrate IDX on your website or get an IDX website for free.

In other words, you will always somehow pay something in monetary form or time for implementing IDX on your real estate website.


This article has been reviewed by our editorial team. It has been approved for publication in accordance with our editorial policy.

Tobias Schnellbacher