By Peyman Aleagha
RISMEDIA, May 26, 2009-IDX, or Internet Data Exchange, is an agreed-upon display of listings of brokers who opt in to the agreement. They can then display their listings and those of all member brokers on their site for search. The fields that are displayed are also agreed upon in advance, and a site can display only the fields that are allowed. So, that’s what it is, a property search display of all members’ listings – but how can we “doll it up” to make it better for our site visitor?
First, don’t decide before you put yourself into the shoes of your site visitor, a buyer or seller of real estate. Though we generally think first of buyers searching for homes, land or commercial listings, prospective sellers also search to see what’s on the market in their area and compare those listings to their home. But, let’s think here about a buyer who is hoping to locate the perfect home in your area. What are their requirements and desires?
-Find a home in their price range
-Locate homes with their most desired features
-See where homes are located in neighborhoods
-Identify nearby services, schools, shopping, etc.
-Calculate mortgage payments
-Learn about neighborhoods
Once we’ve built a comprehensive list, we should be looking at our IDX data display and search routines to see how we can make it all happen the way they want it to. Searches should be fast, and yield the results they actually want. Too few field criteria entry fields and they’ll get long lists to scroll through and try to identify the best candidates. We should be giving them the ability to search the way they want, and to get the best home matches.
Price Range. A good IDX page will allow searching by price range in small enough increments to narrow down the results to precisely what they want. Large $100,000 increments give them too many homes outside their affordability range, so be sure to offer smaller break points to allow them to zero in on homes they can afford.
Beds & Baths. These are two of the most popular yardsticks by which a home is measured for a family. They will have very definite minimum requirements, and your IDX search should allow them to enter a minimum number for bedrooms and baths they require. Don’t forget half baths as well.
Size or Square Footage. Though square footage does indicate size, it isn’t very helpful without the bed and bath requirement above, as floor plans vary a lot. However, many real estate searchers want to compare square footage of homes to quickly see the potential value in larger sizes at lower prices. This one works better if your IDX allows it to be combined with the other criteria. That way, a 2,200 square foot home with 2 bedrooms can take second place to a 2,100 sq ft home with 3 bedrooms if the number of bedrooms is important to the searcher.
Neighborhood Location or School District. Whether your buyer is trying to get closer to their new job or get the best schools for their children, they will definitely like a site with this search capability on their IDX page. Choosing more than one in a search is also a plus, as they usually have multiple favorites for area.
Multiple Criteria Searches. The more that you can allow for your site visitor to use several, or even all of the above criteria in the same search, the tighter their results become. If they want to enter price range, bedroom and bath numbers, and several neighborhoods, then they should be able to do so to get the very best prospective homes in the results.
Sorting. The best IDX search results displays allow the searcher to sort by their most important criteria in the order they want. If it’s price range, “low-to-high” or the opposite are the choices. Square footage or bedrooms are other popular sort choices. Give the searcher as many options as possible to sort the results the way they want, and they’ll return over and over to your site.
Mapping. The best IDX pages give the searcher the ability to view the homes on a map. This is the best way for them to orient the home and neighborhood to their job location, schools and shopping. Zooming in and out is also an important feature, as it allows them to get a better picture of the larger area.
Widgets. Finally, give your site visitors widgets to help them with mortgage rates, payment tables, saving listings, setting up alerts and more.
The site with all of these features will be the site of choice for the searcher. Decide when and where you want to require registration as well. You could require it for all searching, or for enhanced services like saving searches and getting alerts.
Peyman Aleagha is the founder and President of RealtySoft.com. RealtySoft provides real estate professionals with affordable Real Estate Website Design (http://www.realtysoft.com), Real Estate Print Marketing and Free IDX (http://www.realtysoft.com/freeidx.php) and MLS Search solutions.
For more information, visit www.realtysoft.com.
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