Nov 3, 2020

Searching Online – Know Your Data Source

What to know some secrets about searching online for homes?  See the chart below


Online real estate search is exploding with options designed to grab the attention of an increasingly savvy public.  Unfortunately, online search sites do an extremely poor job explaining what they are actually showing and thus degrade public faith in the process.

It is unfortunate, unnecessary and helps no one.

The terms you need to know are as follows:

  • MLS
  • IDX
  • Aggregator

MLS stands for Multiple Listing Service and it is maintained by the local Board of Realtors.  It is the most accurate and complete database available.  Backing the point on accuracy, banks require appraisers to use MLS to search for comparable sales.  MLS cannot be displayed publicly, but it can be accessed by individual clients via what is called a ‘Client Portal’ which can only be set up by a licensed Realtor and member of the local MLS.

[ If you’d like us to set up a ‘client portal’ for you that gets you direct access to MLS, just click here. ]

IDX (Internet Data eXchange) is the feed from MLS of FOR SALE properties only.  When you look on an agent’s or brokerage’s site for homes, you are probably looking at an IDX feed.  Since it pulls from the MLS, the data is as accurate as MLS, other than it may lag by 24-48 hours.  If immediacy is not a need, then IDX is a pretty good way to search.

Aggregators such as Trulia and Zillow do not get direct feeds from MLS and rely on a combination of methods to secure their data.  Since they are not MLS, they have few rules about accuracy and thus have databases which contain information which is dated or otherwise less accurate.  They pull sales information from tax records (which update quarterly) so the most recent sales are likely  not going to be found.  Lastly, the results you see when you query an aggregator are largely influenced by advertising revenue so those who pay are displayed first.

Ultimately, each site has a purpose and the public needs to understand what they are attempting to accomplish when they search.  Using an incorrect tool for a job never leads to the best results.  Choose wisely.