July 18, 2024


Sapiens Digital

What is the Difference Between MLS, IDX, and RETS?

3 min read

What's the Difference Between MLS, IDX, And RETS, and What Do They All  Mean? -

Entering the world of real estate can be daunting. Whether you’re a realtor, investor, or regular homebuyer, there’s a lot of confusing lingo to learn. 


For example, you’ve probably heard of the MLS. But you may not know exactly what it means nor what the related terms IDX and RETS refer to. 


So in this article, we’ll go over the definition of each term and explain how they are different from each other.


What is the MLS?


The MLS stands for the multiple listing service. It started out as a way for realtors to share property listings. Today, there are over 700 local MLSs across the country and they are all online.


People who get their real estate license can get access to the MLS to post and retrieve property listing information. It’s the most up-to-date source for property listings. But it mainly benefits realtors since they have exclusive access to it.


What is an IDX?


IDX stands for internet data exchange and refers to software that allows regular shoppers to search their area’s MLS listings.


It’s a way for real estate agents to advertise properties to potential buyers. Before IDX, shoppers needed to go through an agent who had access to the MLS. But now, people can search through local listings on an IDX that a realtor sets up on their website. 


Agents can pull listing information straight from the MLS and post it on their website for the general public to view. This helps agents share listings in a fast and convenient way to gain more exposure and generate leads.


Ultimately, an IDX benefits buyers because it reduces the amount of hoops a shopper needs to jump through to look at listings in their area. Instead of talking directly to an agent, they can just look at an IDX website with no pressure.


What is RETS?


Now that you know the difference between MLS and IDX, it’s important to understand what Real Estate Transaction Standards (RETS) are.


Basically, RETS standardize the way that IDX software interacts with MLS data. It’s a language for real estate listing information that allows professionals to fetch MLS data more easily.


RETS replaced the less efficient precursor File Transfer Protocol (FTP) and is now based in Extensible Markup Language (XML). As it continues to be adopted across the nation, RETS will streamline the process of getting MLS data onto IDX websites.


Final Thoughts


So there you have it—the differences between MLS, IDX, and RETS. You’re now better equipped to navigate the real estate industry landscape. This is especially important going forward as technology continues to disrupt the real estate industry. 


For example, the Real Estate Standards Organization (RESO) is trying to replace the 700+ MLSs with one major platform. This way, there wouldn’t need to be so many different MLSs and the need to establish reciprocity between them. Any agent from anywhere in the US would have easy access to the most current property listings all across the country. 


No doubt, it’s an exciting time to be in real estate. There’s still so much potential to digitally transform this traditionally illiquid asset class. From virtual reality (VR) home tours to token ownership through blockchain to modular construction, the real estate industry is catching up with other sectors like health care and transportation that have undergone digital transformations. The RESO, IDXs and RETS are just another step in that direction. The sooner you understand them, the better.


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