The real losers in the IDX debate are the listing agents that have worked hard on creating a book of business over the months or years. They have generated the reputation and cultivated the relationships that lead to generating listings from a particular city, town or neighborhood. The listing agents have taken the photos, written the copy and collected all of the information required to add to the listing to make the listing compelling to any potential buyers. This is done for a number of reasons.
These motivators will differ in priority depending on the agent, but it is safe to say that an agent that has a listing will welcome any direct inquiry about their listings from a potential buyer. This maximizing of the available commission is why most agents are trained to show their own listings before showing listings of other agents or other brokers.
This is where the problem with IDX services are most apparent in the fact that most sites that use IDX feeds offer several different agents alongside of the listings in the area. Sites such as Zillow and Trulia offer as many as ten agents in any zip code, generally in a rotation. This squeezes the listing agent out of representing their own listing and leads the buyer to contact a different agent other than the listing agent. Listing brokers and agents argue that this directing of the buyer leads to uninformed agents representing their listings but this is only true if in fact the buyers agent presents the listing as the best option. Many times the agent contacted can and does direct the home buyer to their own listings even when the buyer originally contacted them regarding a different property.
This is why the general home buying public can also get the short end of the deal regarding IDX feeds. As stated above it is a common real estate practice for agents to direct buyers to their own listings and this practice has been taught for decades so it probably won’t change any time soon. If a home buyer is mainly interested in achieving the best negotiated price they are advised to use a buyer broker. Likewise, it has long been believed that if a buyer is more interested receiving the most accurate information about a particular house they should contact the listing agent. The home buyer not being made aware of the difference between listing and selling brokers is where confusion creates conflict.
This can be wa-ay too confusing and bordering on overwhelming if I’m a buyer. I’d rather just have an agent contact me and establish a relationship. I can tell her what kind of house I’m looking for and start from there.
That is the point the brokers fighting the IDX are saying and apparently they are right as far as you are concerned. The rub comes when you are a buyer and want to look at homes without the perceived pressure of a sales person coaxing you into doing something that you may not be ready for. For that buyer the IDX is better than poking around the internet one site at a time. Each site having separate listings. Some sites having 500 homes for sale online while other sites have five. Both sites required the buyer to learn the navigational path of the site yet both sites offer different experiences regarding the number of homes they offer. I try to ask what is best for the buyer and then work it backwards.