Lucky for you, building your own IDX website is pretty easy these days—easy enough for an agent with limited tech skills to build a website with IDX listings, lead capture, map search, and more in an afternoon.
In this guide we’ll cover the basics of IDX websites, including terminology, strategy, and step-by-step instructions to building your own IDX real estate site in an afternoon.
Let’s start at the beginning:
What is IDX Anyway?
Short for Internet Data Exchange, IDX is a real estate industry term that defines the technology and individual agreements between your MLS and individual agent and brokerage websites that allows them to display MLS listings online.
Here’s how it works.
Your MLS has pre-defined rules that determine how brokerages and agents can display MLS listings online. For example, some MLS have rules on how listing brokerages need to be displayed, watermarks on listing photos, and other rules for displaying their listings.
Multiple times per day, third party technology vendors then take the raw listing data from your MLS and syndicate it in a feed to the hundreds (or thousands) of real estate websites that have permission to show your MLS’s listings.
What’s an IDX Website?
Simple. An IDX website is any website that receives a feed of fresh listings from your MLS through a third party IDX provider. Generally speaking, third party IDX providers update their MLS listings every 15 minutes. That means that an IDX website will have listings that are just as fresh as your MLS’s website.
Potential buyers will have a very similar experience browsing an IDX website for new listings as your MLS’s site.
While many IDX websites just have listings, others are full agent or brokerage websites that have landing pages, about us pages, mortgage calculators, a blog, videos, and everything else an agent might have on their website.
Do I Need to Use WordPress to Build an IDX Website?
Absolutely not. There are many ways to build an IDX website including coding it yourself, or using other CMS systems like Joomla or Drupal. However, WordPress is by far the most popular CMS system on the market and has the most tutorials, support, and updates. This is why we strongly recommend agents and brokerages use WordPress for their IDX website.
How to Build an IDX Real Estate Agent Website in WordPress
Now that you know the basics, let’s go through the best way to build an IDX website with WordPress.
Make a Back-of-the-Napkin Sketch of What You Want from Your IDX Website
The most important (and most often avoided) stage in building a website is to sit down and figure out what exactly you want from your real estate IDX website. While this might seem obvious at first (leads!!) you’d be surprised at what you can forget until you’re halfway done building your site. This will also help you pick your WordPress theme (more on this later) and IDX provider (ditto).
So take ten minutes and sit down and write out what you want from your IDX website. Think of features you’ve seen on other sites like map search, video backgrounds, sliders, lead capture, home valuation pages, pop-ups, and the general aesthetic you want for your site. What would you like to offer your site visitors that will turn them into leads?
You don’t need to go crazy here, you can (and should) update and upgrade your site many times over the next few years. So there’s no pressure to include absolutely everything now. Just take a few minutes to outline the big stuff before you commit to anything.
Choose a Web Hosting Company
Before you even think about building a page for your website, you need to set up an account with a web hosting company. A web hosting company will provide a home for your website online and ensure it always loads quickly and reliably from any device.
For WordPress IDX websites, Bluehost is pretty hard to beat—first and foremost, at less than $3 per month it is incredibly affordable, and second, it has a tool that lets you install WordPress with the click of a button. You also get five email addresses for you, your team, and maybe a few ISAs all for less than the price of a cup of coffee per month.
You can set up a quick account at Bluehost here and come join us when you’re done. Shouldn’t take more than a few minutes.
Choose & Purchase Your Domain Name(s)
Your domain name is your own private slice of online real estate. Since your domain name is going to be where your website is found online, it’s important to choose a good one. It’s also a good idea to snatch up a few other competing domains if they’re available.
For example, let’s say you settle on Sallyjonesrealtymiami.com. Why not buy out the .net and .biz versions of that name while you’re at it? This way you can ensure your competition doesn’t get it.
What’s in a Name? How to Choose a Domain Name That Works
Luckily, choosing a great domain name is pretty easy. Just make sure it’s memorable, short enough to yell across a crowded restaurant, and ideally matches your name or personal brand. Unless you think you’re going to spend your entire career at your current brokerage, it’s probably best to avoid including your brokerage name in your domain name. After all, you’re an independent contractor right? Be independent.
Generally speaking, .com is better than the alternatives, but if you have the perfect name, just can’t get .com, and no one else in your farm area is using it, then by all means, go for another TLD like .net, /bix etc.
You can search for and buy domain names below at Bluehost:
Install WordPress on Your New Domain
Now that you have a fresh new domain and web host, the next step to building an IDX website is to install WordPress. Since WordPress is open source, it’s free to install and free to use. Not bad right?
To install WordPress on your Bluehost account, log in to your Bluehost Cpanel, and then click on the Website section, then click on “Install WordPress.”
Next, click on “Marketplace” and find WordPress.
Then click on Install.
Next, you’ll be prompted to choose the domain name you want to install WordPress on. Choose the domain name you purchased in the previous step, read through and accept the license and service agreements, and finally click on “install now” to install WordPress on your domain.
Congratulations! You now have your very own WordPress website ready to rock! Pretty easy right?
Next, follow the prompts to connect to WordPress.com and create an account. Now that you have WordPress up and running on your web host, let’s move on to making your website look great and adding IDX so you can get MLS listings on your site.
Choose Your Third Party IDX Plugin for WordPress
Before you get started building your WordPress IDX site, you’re going to want to pick out your IDX plugin, or at least research some good options.
Luckily there are only a few IDX providers to choose from, so this will really come down to a choice between price, features, and compatibility.
What is an IDX Plugin?
In WordPress, plugins are small add-on apps that you can use to change the way your WordPress theme looks or behaves. An IDX plugin translates the raw listing data from your MLS into code that WordPress can turn into attractive listings for your website. IDX plugins can also provide features like listings search, map search, widgets, lead capture, and more.
How Much Do IDX Plugins Cost?
IDX is a pretty inexpensive plugin for your IDX website. Generally speaking, you’ll pay between $50 and $99 per month for an IDX plugin. Most IDX providers offer much more than just a simple connection between your MLS and your website so the cost is well worth it.
How to Choose the Right IDX Plugin
Since there is a lot of competition in this space, and only a handful of providers, take a quick run through the features each provide and then sign up for the one that suits your needs best.
You might want to look at:
- How the IDX listings look, layout/fonts etc.
While all providers give you listings, how those listings are displayed on your website is unique to each provider. Check out examples of how their listings look.
How easily can you customize the listings feed to match the look and feel of your website?
- How many and what features they offer (Widgets, Map Search, etc.)
Features are generally what separates good IDX providers from the great ones. Look for widgets that let you quickly and easily drop listings onto any page you want, widgets that offer search from a traditional search box, map search, the ability to favorite and save properties, etc.
Here are the four most popular IDX providers for WordPress along with some information to help you choose the best one for you:
IDX Provider Comparison Table 2020
|IDX Provider||Pricing (2019)||Free trial?||Setup fee|
|Showcase IDX||$59.95-$99.95 per month||30-day free trial||No setup fee|
|Ihomefinder||$59.95-$144.95 per month||30-day free trial||$99-$499|
|IDX Broker||$50-$110 per month||No free trial||100|
|Flex MLS||$499 per year||No free trial||No setup fee|
Choose & Install an IDX-Ready WordPress Theme
Now it’s time to pick a WordPress theme that looks great, provides the features you want, and can work with your chosen IDX provider.
OK, What The Heck is a WordPress Theme?
A WordPress theme is a collection of templates and other themes that control how your WordPress site looks and acts for site visitors. If you’ve ever used a template for Word, Excel, PowerPoint, or Google Slides, a WordPress theme is pretty similar except that it’s far more powerful. Themes also generally include many different templates for everything from headers, fonts, colors, backgrounds, and even lead capture and other advanced features.
How Much do Real Estate WordPress Themes Cost?
Unlike your IDX provider, your real estate WordPress theme isn’t charged monthly, but is something you buy outright. Good themes can run from $20 to $99. Most good themes should cost right around the $50 mark.
How to Choose The Perfect WordPress Theme for Your IDX Website
Remember that back-of-the-napkin list of features and bells and whistles you want for your website? Well, here’s where it comes into play. Use your list of features you want to help you narrow down your choices when picking out a WordPress template.
Here are a few important (and not so important) criteria to keep in mind when choosing a WordPress theme for your real estate IDX website:
1. Is it Compatible With Your IDX Plugins?
While most modern themes will be compatible with your chosen IDX plugin, it’s always a good idea to check.
2. Does it Offer Enough Customization Options?
One of the coolest features WordPress themes offer is templates that offer multiple different looks for different parts of your website. For example, a template might have four or more unique templates just for the homepage, three for the about us page, and three for the contact us page.
3. What Plugins Come With the Theme?
While the vast majority of the plugins you’ll end up using for your real estate IDX website will be free except for your IDX provider, it’s nice to get a bunch of useful plugins along with your theme. Visual composer, Yoast, Mailchimp, Contact Form 7, and slider revolution are common plugins that come along with real estate WordPress themes.
4. Is it a Real Estate-Specific Theme?
This one is actually less important than many people think. While real estate themes will commonly have agents pages as well as listings pages and ways to set up listings, those listings will need to be manually added and will more than likely NOT work with your IDX provider. So don’t choose a theme based on whether or not it’s a real estate specific theme or not.
5. Check Out Reviews & Updates on Envato
Generally speaking, a great theme will have a good amount of great reviews on Envato market. It should also have a log of recent updates to make sure your site is always up-to-date.
Where to Buy Real Estate WordPress Themes
Here are a few places to check out and buy real estate WordPress themes.
Once you’ve picked out a theme you like that has the features you want and will support your IDX plugin, buy it, and then download the zip files for the theme.
Install Your New WordPress Theme
Next, you need to install your new theme into your WordPress account.
First, log in to WordPress, and then click on “Appearance” in the left column of your WordPress dashboard. Then click on “Themes.”
You should see the default WordPress 2020 theme already installed here. This is what The Close’s “Themes” page on WordPress looks like. Note that since we have multiple themes installed, there are a few other themes here besides the default WordPress theme:
To install your new theme, click on the “add new theme” button on the lower right side of the page. Then, navigate to the WordPress theme ZIP file you downloaded and install it.
Install Your WordPress Plugins and IDX Plugin
Next, head back over to your WordPress dashboard and click on “plugins” on the left side menu, then click on “installed plugins” just to check to see what plugins may have installed with your new theme.
Make a note of what plugins are already installed, then click on “add new.”
Here you can search for and install any plugins that you want for your site.
A word of caution here: Since there are thousands of plugins available for WordPress it can be very tempting to just load up on plugins. After all, more is better right? Well, for WordPress, the opposite can be true. More plugins can and often do equal more problems.
Don’t worry, you’ll have plenty of time to find and experiment with plugins later on. This is half the fun of using WordPress. For now, here is a quick list of plugins that are useful for IDX real estate websites.
With over 5 million downloads, Yoast is the most popular (and arguably the best) SEO checker for WordPress. Yoast reads any pages of blog posts you’ve created and checks them for SEO best practices like keyword count, keyword usage, readability and more. There is a limited free version of the plugin and a premium version for $89.
Akismet is a great anti-spam plugin for WordPress that protects against brute force attacks, and more importantly, spam in your comment section.
Contact Form 7 is a simple and easy to use contact form plugin that lets you create and edit contact forms on your website. You can use it to create lead capture forms for landing pages, or general contact forms on your website.
Mailchimp (or whatever email marketing service you use)
Email marketing plugins allow you to use certain features of your email marketing software on your website. For example, you can include an email sign-up form right on your website that can sign visitors up to your drip campaigns.
Your IDX Plugin
Depending on what IDX provider you chose, you may or may not be able to just install the plugin via the WordPress plugin manager. You will more than likely already have instructions from your IDX provider, but if you don’t, give them a call.
Start Customizing Your WordPress Theme
OK, now you have a pretty looking website set up, but it’s filled with dummy copy and stock imagery. The next step to building out your IDX website is to customize how your theme looks and behaves.
Unfortunately, most of these customization options are going to vary depending on what theme you chose. In order to get you started here are a few basic things you can change with any advanced WordPress theme.
Once you add your logo to your WordPress theme it automatically shows up on multiple pages on your website, and at the top of any new page you create.
Your Site Navigation
Like your logo, your site navigation will show up on every page you want it to, and will also show up automatically on every new page you create. Even better, since you edit your site navigation in a single place, the changes you make there also get changed on every page on your site.
The footer area of your site will generally have social media contact information, phone numbers, and a sitemap, which is a list of all the pages available on your site. Like your navigation, your footer will show up on every page you want it to, and any new page you create.
The sidebar is the vertical area to the right or left of your main content area. For example, the sidebar on our site has an offer from Parkbench. If you want to dominate your farm area and get more referrals, check them out ———->
Widgets are small pieces of code that let you drag and drop site features like search bars, listings by price range, email capture, navigation menus, recent articles, and many more onto any page of your website.
Fonts, Colors, Header & Background Images, & Demos
Most WordPress themes will come with multiple layouts called demos. The demos will be fully finished design and layout variations of the theme. Each one will make your website look very different. For example, the popular Houzez theme has 16 different demos that have 16 unique layouts for your site.
You can also pick and choose different elements from different demos for your site.
Start Building The Main Pages for Your Website
Now we’re getting somewhere. At this point you should have a site that looks like you want it to, and has your logo, images, and contact information ready to go. Next, we’ll start building the pages of your site.
Before we start, you need to understand the difference between Pages and Posts. Pages are the main pages of your site that don’t change very often. Things like “about us, contact us, for sale, or for rent, blog, etc. could be pages on your site.
On the blog page, you will have posts. Posts are the individual blog posts that are on your blog. For the most part, once you have your pages built you shouldn’t have to change them very often. You should be adding new blog posts as often as you can. WordPress treats pages and posts differently and you can set different navigation, sidebars, or other features for each.
Pages Every Real Estate IDX Website Should Have
While the pages you have on your website will largely depend on your business, your farm area, and your creativity, here are a few common pages that most IDX websites have.
- About Us
- Contact Us
- Homes for Sale
- Sell With Us
- First Time Buyers
- Open Houses
- Home Valuation Landing Page
Promote Your New IDX Website
Congratulations! You now have a fully functional WordPress IDX website that’s ready to attract and convert leads to help you close more deals!
Of course a website is pretty useless if you don’t tell people about it. So the next step is to promote your new website everywhere you can. Here’s a quick list of places to promote your new website.
- Social Media Profiles: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest
- Your Business Cards
- Your Real Estate Postcards
- Your Email Signature
- Your Zillow & Realtor Profile
How to Use Your New IDX Website to Get and Convert More Leads
Your website is the most powerful tool in your arsenal to both attract and convert leads. Even if you promote it all over your social media profiles, that’s still not going to be enough to get a decent flow of traffic to your new site.
In reality, you’re going to have to work hard to get people to visit your site and ideally leave you their contact information or reach out and call you. While we could write a book on all the ways to drive traffic to your site, just keep in mind that you now have a miniature Zillow, with all the listings in your farm area. This is something that most people want to visit, so you’re really starting off on second base.
Advertise New Listings on Facebook
Once you have your own website with landing pages, it opens up tons of new possibilities to advertise on Facebook. For example, you might advertise new or underpriced listings on Facebook and then send them to your search page or a landing page with your lead capture form on it.
Advertise Free Home Valuations on Facebook or Google
The best way to get seller leads on your own is to advertise free home valuations on Facebook or Google. You can then send the leads to your landing page with your lead capture form, or sign up with a free automated home valuation service like Home Value Leads.
Advertise Free First-time Homebuyer E-books on Social Media
First time homebuyers, especially millennials, are always looking for great educational content to help them through the buying process. To generate buyer leads, you can write an educational e-book or private blog post and then advertise it on social media. When buyers come to your page, they will be prompted to enter their contact information in order to download the content.
Over to You
What did you think of our guide on real estate IDX websites? Naturally we had to leave a ton of information out otherwise this would have been longer than “War and Peace.” What topics that we missed do you think we need more coverage of? Let us know in the comments.