So we’ve been looking into building a site for a realtor. For the most part, this is a straightforward proposition. You just need a basic content management system that you can style so that it looks nice. Home listings can, in essence, be blog posts or any other “container” that you want. It’s a solved problem.

However, things get vastly more complicated if you want to show “live” listings from the Multiple Listing Service. For one thing, there’s not one MLS, there’s more like a hundred around the country. So for the Portland area, they have their own unique data and their own format, as I understand it. And you can certainly link to a search form on their site if you like, but all the results you get are on their own site with links to various different realtors. Not the seamless experience Needmore wants to provide to a client.

The way around this is with a data exchange format called IDX. However, this is no simple data feed that anyone can grab. You need to be a fully licensed realtor, and sign a rather strict agreement to get to the data. You also need a competent programmer to handle processing the data, since each MLS seems to use a slightly different format. In other words, you legally need a company of a certain size to just develop a means of handling this data and integrating it into a site. A small firm like us can’t just build a website using this data.

And so there’s a whole slew of companies who offer IDX listings that you can drop into your site. The problem is that they don’t look attractive and they’re not going to look right in the site we build. That concerns us. What concerns us more is that they charge anywhere from $35/month to $100/month and up. They also usually charge several-hundred-dollar setup fees!

This is a lamentable state of affairs. I can’t see it improving any time soon, but it sure would be nice.