Unfortunately, most clients don’t know the difference between IDX, MLS and RETS and use them interchangeably in conversation (if they’re even aware of the terms at all). Let me break see if I can break down the definitions as I understand them.
- MLS is a set of services that lets brokerages in a defined share and disseminate property information
- IDX is a site that allows consumers to search for MLS properties
- RETS is a set of standards to help normalize the way software interacts with MLS data
Multiple Listing Service (MLS) – MLS is a set of services that allows brokerages operating in a local real estate board to fairly cooperate and share information about properties and helps order and disseminate information about area properties to clients.
In the United States there’s no single or nationwide MLS, each MLS is controlled by a local association of brokerages & realtors. Database and software for accessing the MLS data are usually provided by private software companies (MLS vendors), the two most common being CoreLogic and FlexMLS.
Due to the differences in real estate boards and the fact there’s no single authoritative MLS, there’s no common data format between different boards. There are certain data standards that are emerging which brings us to IDX & RETS.
Internet Data Exchange (IDX) – An Internet Data Exchange is simply a site that allows public consumers to search for MLS properties in an area.
Also going by Broker Reciprocity, IDX encompasses the policies, rules and software governing how listings are shared online to the public.
Real Estate Transaction Standard (RETS) – Prior to RETS listing data was stored in flat files on FTP servers and it was impossible to perform queries or only get updated listings every night. Furthermore, the data formats and locations of the files would vary from board to board, making it extremely difficult for software to work universally.
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