No. Home buyers needn’t bother searching on brokers’ websites because they will either have incomplete data, listings and/or be onerous to access (i.e. registration required).
Furthermore, even the most expensive, custom built agent website will be hard pressed to compete against the monolithic 3rd party listings aggregators like Zillow and StreetEasy that completely dominate the home search market.
IDX and VOW are both viable methods for brokers to display listings data from their local MLS (REBNY RLS for NYC) on their websites. They are different largely in that IDX won’t have a complete selection of listings, whereas VOW will have a complete selection of listings but requires consumers to register before seeing much data.
What is IDX?
IDX stands for Internet Data Exchange, and consists of the rules, licenses and technologies that allow agents to display MLS data on their own websites.
A website displaying IDX listings is easy to access, and buyers are able to freely search without needing to register or give out any personal information to do so.
IDX is built on the concept of reciprocity between brokers. Meaning if a broker opts into the IDX program, then that broker will be able to display the listings of every other broker who has opted in, and every other broker who has opted in will be able to display that broker’s listings.
Unfortunately for IDX, many brokers do not opt in, usually because they don’t feel the need to allow other brokers to display their listings.
Usually these are brokers with their own website development teams who think they can do a better job on their own, or perhaps because they already control a large amount of market share, and do not feel like helping their potential competitors by giving them a more complete, easy to apply IDX feed.
What is VOW?
VOW stands for Virtual Office Website, and is a more comprehensive listings feed that brokers can add to their websites. It will have listings from all member firms, and may have more comprehensive data such as sold listings, expired listings, de-listed listings, days on market, price changes etc.
How much additional data that is available with a VOW feed vs a IDX feed will vary by MLS, and many MLS associations these days provide pretty much the same data via IDX as they do via VOW.
The downside of VOW of course is ease of use for the consumer. Listings pages with VOW data typically require consumers to register and provide some amount of personal information before being allowed to see much of anything.
As you can imagine, this can be a major deterrent for home buyers who simply do not wish to register for yet another website.
Pro Tip: The DOJ Anti-Trust Division investigated the National Association of Realtors (NAR) in the early 2000’s and eventually sued the NAR in 2005 for anti-competitive practices regarding the fair dissemination of VOW data.
Per the Real Estate Board of New York, the following member firms don’t participate in IDX as of April 29, 2020:
CORE Group Marketing LLC
DG Neary Realty
Douglas Elliman Real Estate
Krug & Company Realty LLC
Newell & Associates Ltd.
P S Burnham Inc
RAND REALTY NY LLC
Sotheby’s International Realty
Weisbord Jeffrey D