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What is IDX? How is it different from MLS?

IDX stands for Internet Data Exchange, a search facility whereby users like Realtors and their clients (i.e. third-party people wanting to buy property) can search for approved MLS (Multiple Listing Service) properties in a given area. On the other hand, the MLS system is a set of associations who operate in a particular area (e.g. New Jersey) and who regularly update a common property database with newly-listed estates. This MLS database is then made available to all the associations forming part of that particular MLS group.

These associations in turn, generally make the database available to various brokers and realtors who enter the association.
The difference between IDX and MLS lies in presentation. When searching, MLS offers everybody a standardised output with names, telephones and contact details of whoever registered a given property into the database. This information is not in a realtor’s interest to be shown to clients searching MLS, but s/he would prefer if say instead, his/her contact details came up with every listing, or rather — if the original contact information was omitted from the search display. This is exactly what IDX can do.
Therefore IDX allows for direct access to the MLS database flat-files (files with ALL the property listings and details), thus allowing for direct manipulation of what is being shown when a search is carried out. Therefore IDX can omit or include certain fields, and present the information in a friendly, colourful manner, with extra features like map location and much more.