May 3, 2018

by Sean Hess, Owner, Broker, Author


Following is an excerpt from my forthcoming book, “How To Buy A House: Pre-Owned and Foreclosures”.

There Is No Freaking End to Real Estate Websites

Go to Google and punch in “[the name of your city] homes for sale.” There is just no freaking end to the number of websites that will pop up. There are spammer sites, scraper sties, aggregator sites, agent sites, and company sites that will appear on a basic search. So where do you look? And where can you trust the data?

It’s tricky, but trust me, it’s still better and faster than driving around.

Realtors have this thing called the “Multiple Listing Service,” which you might know as the “MLS.”

A Multiple Listing Service is basically a cooperative. All of the Realtors in a given location put their listings on the MLS for their area. This allows you, the buyer, one-stop shopping. You can go to a Realtor, see all of the houses that you want to see (regardless of who has them listed), and make an offer on the one you want.

These days you can see nearly every home for sale on a given MLS via a web browser or app (more on apps later).

Every MLS system has what is called an “IDX feed.” You don’t need to know what IDX means except that it’s the same data the Realtors see—just packaged differently. My local IDX doesn’t contain all the nuances that I see, for example, but it will contain nearly every item you need when starting a basic search for a home. is probably the largest of the IDX-fed sites. Many individual Realtors and real estate companies have websites with IDX feeds enabled. Even Zillow is an IDX-fed site.

Look for buttons that say “Search for Homes,” “Start Your Home Search,” “Start Searching,” “Buyers,” or maybe just an icon with a picture of a home in a magnifying glass.

You’ll know you’re seeing a real MLS feed if the list you see has a bunch of different real estate companies in the fine print. For example, under one picture it says “Courtesy XYZ Realty” and under another it says “Courtesy Flim Flam Realty,” and so on. Sometimes it might just say “XYZ Realty” or “Flim Flam Realty.” XYZ and Flim Flam are the companies that actually have the property listed, but any Realtor can show you those homes (you do not have to go to the listing company). That’s the beauty of the MLS system: One-stop shopping.

Best of all, these IDX feeds are a way for you and a Realtor to collaborate, enabling you to give them some direction on what you want to see if they aren’t quite finding what you want.

There are a lot of companies that package these IDX feeds for Realtors, so they can have a different look and feel depending on which website you visit. But they should all have the same data.

The downside is that you will have to wade through a lot of crap before you find those great sites. There are a lot of bogus sites out there and there is a lot of bad information.

About the Author

Sean Hess is the owner and broker of SA Realty in St. Augustine, Florida, and the author of the Virtual Real Estate Agent series of e-books. Currently an MBA candidate at the University of Utah, David Eccles School of Business, he delivers opinions here on business and real estate.

As one of his past customers wrote, “Sean Hess is a true professional. His client’s needs are primary.”

Contact Sean:

904-386-8327 (cell)