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The Case FOR Not Having IDX on a Broker Site

Greg Fischer just launched a new website, FWLocal.com.

Yet one feature is surprisingly absent.

IDX.

It’s no secret most of “leads” from agent or broker websites are converted to contact information with IDX. So, is ditching IDX a risk? Sure it is.

I’m guessing Greg’s reasons are as follows:

  • Agents and brokers can’t compete on search against the Zillow’s and Trulia’s of the world, particularly with the growing cost of providing a killer search experience across mobile and tablets. Even if you spent the money for that amazing search, the cost to attracting buyers to use it rather than Z, T, and R is too expensive.
  • His clients are already using Zillow, Trulia, or Realtor.com to search for properties
  • His value proposition is about more than helping clients find a property. It’s about overseeing the entire transaction and making it a seamless experience from end to end.
  • He doesn’t want to work a traditional “lead funnel”
  • He’d rather speak to buyers when they are actually ready to speak to an agent. Not 6 or 9 months prior to that.

Greg can clarify in the comments, or write a post on this topic from a broker’s perspective.

There are two sides to every story. What do you think? Are we going to see a shift to agent/broker sites without IDX search?

About Drew Meyers

Founder of Geek Estate Blog / Geek Estate Labs. Zillow Alum. Travel addict & co-founder of Horizon. Social entrepreneurship & microfinance advocate. Fan of Red Hot Chili Peppers and Kiva.

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  • John Womeldorf

    I would love to hear how Greg’s site fares at pulling in home buyers. I can’t fathom not having an IDX feed since that is one of the number one things my website visitors are looking for. I understand the rationale and if you have enough local info folks will find you but they still want to look at homes for sale. Why on earth would you send them to your competitors to look at homes for sale ?

    • Hey John, thanks for checking out. I dont disagree, people on the internet like to look at homes. Beyond that, I am going to take a different approach in how I meet people in my area and looking to move to my area. I sincerely believe that online home shopping has reached a point of parody, and I’m laser-focused on building a web asset that will translate the value of our services on their own merit, rather than leverage property listing which can be found on hundreds of sites across the web. As far as having clients search properties on other websites, well – they already do, and there is nothing to fear if you’ve established a relationship on the front end of the home discovery process.

      • Yeah, that last “if” is the whole key. The only way I can see this working is if you have an established, committed relationship on the front end. By focusing on that, you will, of course, be missing out on a lot of potential buyers, but that might be fine. As long as you can generate enough business by the “organic” methods you mentioned above, you can be a successful niche player, rather than trying to be all things to all people.

        Our strategy kind of has one foot in your camp and another in the IDX camp. We use the heck out of IDX, but we don’t use forced registration. We’re not interested in “capturing” leads, we’re interested in working with people who reached out to us and specifically asked us to contact them. Yes, by using that philosophy, we’re missing out on a great number of potential “leads.” But we find that “captured” leads don’t convert as well (after all, they didn’t ask you to contact them!) they lead to agent fatigue, and a bias against internet leads.

        As for IDX that works on multiple devices and provides an excellent experience, I think Diverse Solutions offers that, especially with dsSearchAgent. Mobile users are directed to a mobile version, which admittedly is off of your domain, but you were willing to send buyers off-domain anyway. If you send them to even co-branded Zillow, they will still see competing agents next to those listings and will most likely schedule a showing with one of them. Even if you have a relationship with the buyer, they may just click “contact agent” on Zillow, either without thinking, or thinking they are getting someone at your firm. At least with the DS mobile, all the inquiries come to you.

        Anyway, good luck, and I’ll stay tuned to see how this works out!

        • Thanks for commenting Mike. To your first comments, I want to do a better job interfacing with customers on the front end because, as you know – the homebuying experience involves a chain of decisions and events, and search is only one part of it. Our industry spends so much time defending our value proposition, commission structures, and professional reputation – that I think we we could work a little harder to present our services in a more meaningful way than simply waiting for ‘schedule a showing’ forms to be filled out on the internet.

          I have to absolutely disagree with you in regards to Diverse Solutions providing an excellent experience across all devices. It has nothing to do with it going off domain, but has a lot to do with their product being a sub-par web-app, which is tough to navigate, buggy, and not even near the quality of stand alone property search apps available to the public.

          I’m ready to move us past the point of worrying about customers clicking ‘contact agent’ buttons. When we worry about that, then we’ve ultimately agreed that our services are interchangeable, and I’m not willing to hang my reputation and professional credibility on an entire industry, simply because they passed a licensing exam. We’re bringing more to the table.

          • I haven’t found DS mobile to be hard to navigate or buggy on my iPhone, but I do remember having issues on my old Android. I’ve read they’re considering making a downloadable app, so that might be better, but a fully-responsive solution would be ideal. I have seen some use a responsive WP theme coupled with dsIDXpress that worked well on mobile devices. Another IDX solution I like is HomeQuest.

  • AJ Gutierrez

    I am thinking of getting an IDX this year. I had one years ago and I didn’t get ONE from it. Do you think they are worth having? How effective are they for bringing in new leads?

    • If you have an IDX and are not driving traffic to your site – you’re not going to get any leads. They don’t generate business by themselves.

  • AJ Gutierrez

    Why would you assume that I didn’t try to drive traffic to my site? These were the days before social media and YouTube. It was all Adwords and I felt I was spending more money driving traffic than actually obtaining new leads.

    • The other variable is the quality of the IDX. Some older IDX systems were an absolutely atrocious user experience for buyers. I can’t count the times I’ve gone to agent sites, tried to search and couldn’t even figure out how to get the IDX to show me actual homes. Those types of IDX’s aren’t going to convert traffic to leads.

      • Drew, you bring up a great point. Execution makes a huge difference when it comes to listings search and presentations. Also, one major oversight of many IDX systems is that they don’t give brokers/agents the ability to publish original city/community information that can attract buyers from search engines and provide information to people a level up from properties.

        When I look at the volume of leads generated from long-tail search terms found in IDX data vs city/community type terms I’d have a hard time justifying not having listings on a site. Also, when I consider where someone searching for “homes for sale in ____” is in the buying process vs someone searching for a specific property by address or MLS number, I tend to think that the latter is the buyer closer to taking action.

        -Ed

        • Ed, I agree with everything you said, except the last sentence. I find that the bounce rates for specific property searches are sky-high. I surmise that many are curious neighbors or drive-bys that just want to know the price, but may not be serious buyers. In contrast, search times like “[neighborhood] homes for sale” are the stickiest terms of all, generating the most page views and longest time on site. At least that’s my experience.

  • AJ Gutierrez

    On a side note, it appears fwlocal is using a responsive WordPress theme. Do you know which theme he is using? It’s really clean and looks great on mobile.

    • Looks like Genesis framework, Minimum child theme.

  • Not sure about going without an idx, but his new site is top quality. Check out his video on the “i’d like to sell” page. Strong!

    • Yes, the production and the flow of that video is perfect. Great job, Greg.

    • Thanks Brad. We have a very long way to go, but are pretty proud with how its turned out so far. We made the video a few months ago and I’m happy to be able to use it on the web now.

  • Greg is a smart guy, so I think your last point is probably the focus. There is a small subset of home buyers whose web searching prioritizes the buyer’s agent over the home. If he can drive the right kind of traffic from agent/Realtor type keywords, he can attract that niche of loyal buyers who are seeking an agent’s advice before the home buying process starts.

    Of course, this goes directly against my view that IDX is vital to attract buyers who have had their first course of portal listings and are ready to get serious with the actual local MLS database on a broker site. But, there is more than one way to skin a cat.

    • Sam, a lot of my research this past year has indicated that most people see us as interchangeable service providers. Its my goal to change that notion and really focus on our deliverables to the client. I don’t kid myself into believing that customers want to read endless amounts of information about us, but I do think there is an opportunity to differentiate and demonstrate the broker/agent value proposition in a meaningful way that can drive business forward.

      Just want to note that this is ver 0.4 of this site. I’m happy with where we are, but I’ll be rolling out features as quickly as I can. For instance, we’re working on a custom post type so that we can display our own listings in a way that looks good across all devices.

      Also, when it comes to property search, I have full faith in the future of collaborative search products. As long as we continue to generate business and interest at the point of inquiry or thought into moving, we are going to be able to successfully manage the home search through products like Buyfolio or Dream Commerce which allow agents and homebuyers to mutually participate in the search and discovery process using direct MLS data. We are building our systems and processes for this reality, which will take shape in the coming weeks.

      • I knew this wasn’t a strategy coming from a point of weakness. It’s a bold attempt to change a consumer attitude in your market, or at least corner and grow a portion of the market. Good luck with it.

      • Freaking love your philosophy.. If I lived near you I’d sign up in a heartbeat… Obv I need to pay more attention to you this year. That’s what I have been working g hard on.. I’m trying to provide the best professional full concierge service possible

        • Thanks Dean. Good to hear from you and thanks for the encouragement.

  • Ben F

    The new site looks phenomenal Greg, though my outlook on the matter is this. The only thing you’re doing by not having an IDX is limiting the amount of potential leads you could be getting. You can still provide exactly what you’re striving to change in the RE industry AND still have an IDX there for visitors at minimal cost. You’re a smart dude and I love what you do, but this simply limits the amount of inquiries you may be able to receive, which means less deals. Just my point of view, but I do respect yours as well.

    • Thanks Ben, I totally understand where you are coming from, and I don’t disagree with you at all. IDX certainly generates inquiries from home shoppers. However, our organic business development is overwhelming at this point, and we’re focused on serving the unique communities and demographics we already have the pleasure of interfacing with, and maintaining the highest level of endorsement possible from those past clients and organizations who continue to recommend our services. Optimizing our ability to serve the greatest percentage of people inbound to these programs and organizations that we have a relationship with is our clear #1 focus for 2013 and to help/close as many leases and sales as possible.

      In this second year, we are already beginning to transact sales with people we helped move into rentals in years prior. They never had a second thought of who to work with when it came time to buy. We want to rinse, repeat, and expand that same process as the company grows.

      Though extremely confident in our buyer and renter strategies, what I will admittedly struggle with this year is getting a sufficient inventory of listings for the company.

      • Ben F

        Very nice, thanks for the details! Hey, if you don’t need online biz, then it’s all really a moot point isn’t it. Glad to hear business is good, and keep it up man.

        • Thanks Ben. Trust me, we want/need as much business as we can handle. But the truth is, we want to design the inbound interest in a way that benefits both us and the customer. Right now, I dont think the traditional model does much for either.

  • “His value proposition is about more than helping clients find a property. It’s about overseeing the entire transaction and making it a seamless experience from end to end.”

    And THAT is key. A website can display properties. It takes a living, breathing professional to oversee the (overly) complicated real estate transaction. None-the-less, many people visiting real estate websites want to see listings. A good IDX solution is remarkably inexpensive for what it can deliver. It seems prudent to provide your visitors with what they want.

    Not providing an on-site home search goes against everything I’ve experienced and learned in the 8ish years I’ve run an agent/brokerage site.

    But Greg is a confident guy, and he should be — he’s crazy smart and not afraid to experiment. This is going to be interesting to watch. While it goes against almost everything I’ve learned in running my sites, I’m all for trying new things. That’s how we all learn.

    • Thanks Jay. I’m curious if you can recommend a ‘good idx solution’ that renders well across all devices and provides an excellent experience to the user? Because I know I can’t (and I’ve seen all of them) – and this is just one of the factors I considered in choosing not to license one for this site.

      Also, I agree with you that people visiting real estate websites want to see listings. Our ‘search’ page is a work in progress but I fully intend to show visitors where to look at properties on the web and how to communicate their preferences with us…it just wont be on our domain. We are going to encourage a collaborative search experience and plan on leveraging tools like Buyfolio, RDC app, and even co-branded Zillow desktop searches to get information about properties that our potential clients are interested in. We have already experienced some success in doing this using bookmarklets and web clippers and managing in Evernote. Buyfolio (or a substitute product) is going to fill this process with the right experience for our clients, one in which we won’t have to hack the solution. I think property search gets a new DNA by the end of the year.

      I am fully aware that I am potentially turning down short term business gains by not using IDX on the site. But I’ll admit, I have a slight philosophical objection to allowing customers to select our services solely on the fact that our site has licensed an IDX feed and can display MLS listings. Additionally, I believe that being contacted at the point of intent just isn’t good enough. Our value proposition extends far before the search and far after the closing and I intend to build a web asset that communicates that idea. Again, I dont disagree – showing properties certainly generates inquiries, and might even generate a few closings. No disputing that.

      Thanks for the vote of confidence, it means a lot coming from you.

  • In terms of my own site, I’m finding the creation of leads (quality leads) has less and less to do with IDX info, and more to do with community knowledge.

    More of my efforts are going to internal pages that speak to problems/issues/concerns of real estate seekers as opposed to pushing listings all day.

  • Interesting…

  • I thinking having a killer IDX search is worth the money invested. If you can get your IDX page to rank well with Google and get the potential client to register on your site you will increase your number of clients drastically.

  • Granted use an IDX so your potential buyers and sellers can search on your site, however if your a small real estate agent Its so pointless to even compete with zillow, truila etc…don’t swim into the blood where all the sharks are. Use other effective tools like video to reach out to your clients. If you close one deal a year from just from a video, is that good enough?

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