Looking for insight on how MLS, IDX, etc. works in the US

2 Replies

Greetings all. First post here. :)

I'm part of a web development group that creates next-generation web applications. We are based in the UK and have nearly completed a cutting edge real estate web application.

I'm not trying to advertise or push our software here, but rather trying to get a better understanding of how things work here in the states regarding the MLS system, IDX, etc. None of which exists in the UK.

The power of our software lies in the way it allows estate agents to put up listings and how potential buyers can search and filter that data. *Very* detailed information about each property can be submitted by the estate agency and searched/filtered by potential buyers.

After all, it would seem that a consumer can browse online to purchase something like a dvd player and access every technical specification for any unit they come across. Shouldn't that be the case when it comes to buying a property worth 10,000 times as much?

Unfortunately, it seems the current MLS and portal systems in use only allow very basic information to be submitted by the realtor and searched by the potential buyers.

Now obviously, an estate agency's own website would benefit from the power of our application - allowing very detailed searchable data, but our current concern is that with the US MLS system being in widespread use, would all of this exta detailed property data simply be filtered out when run through a MLS or portal? And how does it get to the MLS? From what I can tell it's like everyone updates their local site with everyone elses data?

What data does a typical MLS use? Is there a capacity for custom fields of some sort?

To those of you who are realtors. Do you simply upload your listings to a portal? And do you also run your own site software as well - and if so, is the property data listed on your own site much more detailed than that on the MLS/portals?

So I suppose I could really use some insight on how all of this fits together in the states. That is, the relationship between realtors, service providers, MLS, portals, etc. and what exactly happens to the property data when it's shared in such a manner.

Thank you kindly for your time and any insight you may be able to offer. :)


Well, this isn't what you're looking for, but I think the reason the MLS works so well has nothing to do with how sophisticated the database is or how many search fields it has. It works because all the Realtors use it. If I were trying to make a comparable program to use elsewhere I would spend a LOT less time worrying about the code and a lot more figuring out how you're going to get people to use it.

Look at craigslist, for example. It's one of the most simplistic, low-featured database sites out there. But, as more and more people use it, its useful grows and entices more people to use it. In some places it's wildly popular. It has a single search field and allows no boolean operators.


Very good question. The MLS system is the US is not one system it is a number of different MLS systems. Each local Association of Realtors have their own MLS system

The IDX system is a group of Companies that have agreed to advertise each other's listings from the MLS database.

The database structure and fields are dictated by the MLS system employed by the Realtor association. Some of these systems are more up to date and some are antiquated.

Your program would work well as a private IDX system that could be integrated with a new or existing website. A perfect example of this is www.iHomefinder.com. These private IDX systems have agreements with each of the MLS systems to use their data to resell to the Realtors for their websites.

Listings are uploaded to the MLS system their association subscribes to and if the property is close to a boundary the real estate company will have to re-enter the listing in a second system.

I agree with TN-Apprentice, the secret to these systems is the agents are basically forced to use a particular system because it is controlled by their association.

Hope this helps.