The Truth Behind an IDX Feed

How many of you shop inside the convenience marts attached to gas stations? Apparently, far more than I ever really imagined if what I’ve seen at my in-laws’ ARCO station is accurate.

Until I was looking at the numbers one day, I would have assumed that the gasoline was driving the station’s profit margin. Believe it or not, it doesn’t. While not quite a loss leader, the real markup – and thus the real profit – comes from the items for sale inside the convenience mart. Margins on gas are thin but, as anyone who has had to buy a bottle of ketchup because the kids finished the last bottle and didn’t say anything may know, margins for everything else are fairly high.

Which likely is why I never shopped at these stores, at least not since my pre-teen days when I’d ride my bike down to 7-Eleven to buy a Slurpee, a pack of baseball cards and to play the pinball machine. (Yes, I really did say pinball machine.)

The listings feed on this site and other agent sites here in the Phoenix real estate market and elsewhere are much like the gasoline for sale alongside the corner convenience mart – while not loss leaders, these listings provided via IDX are the lure we use to try and get you, the consumer, talking to us. I highly doubt you’ll find an agent who can tell you with a straight face that this information is provided as a public service – it’s a tool of our business, plain and simple. You derive benefit from it and, hopefully, when you’re ready to buy or sell we’ll be the ones you contact.

Many folks already working with agents come to this site, which I suppose is fine (though in some cases I wonder what service the agent is providing if the buyer feels the need to come looking for homes here … are you not getting anything from your agent or do you not believe the completeness or accuracy of what’s being sent through to you. Answer yes to either one and I’d suggest rethinking that working relationship.)

Not so fine are the folks who call and e-mail to ask about a property or request a showing because they “don’t want to bother their agent with this.” Which makes sense, because my time clearly is less valuable than theirs and my agents and I should be spending our time working with people for free.

It’s hard to blame the public for not realizing all of the listings they see on a given site aren’t necessarily the agent’s listings. Hell, more and more real estate agents seem to be making the same mistake. At least once or twice a week I’ll receive a call from a real estate agent asking about a listing that’s not mine. When I tell them it’s not my listing, invariably I’ll be told “well I’m looking at your name.”

And that’s because you’re looking on Google, not on the MLS. Shouldn’t be hard to log in and check out the listing agent’s info, should it? Apparently it is.

All these machinations may seem a little bit cynical but the truth of the matter is real estate is a business like any other. We market a product when we list a home for sale but we also market ourselves, using whatever tools are available to us to do so within the rules set forth by the state and the REALTOR associations and Multiple Listing Services’ boards.

Think about it … no one calls Best Buy to buy a printer, goes to the store and then goes to pay for the printer at Staples. These are competing companies with their own inventory, etc.

Real estate’s just not that different. Again, this may be a surprise to some but it shouldn’t be.

Jonathan Dalton

Jonathan Dalton is a 40-plus-year resident of the Valley and has been helping folks buy and sell homes since 2004. He can be reached at 602-502-9693 or info at


  • Doug Francis 8 years ago

    I now look at IDX sites as tools that my real estate clients are using to have fun, and they often have more than one on their smartphones. At first I was intimidated, but when they started coming to me with print outs from those sites then I knew that I was still their “Number 1”.

    Also, when the local MLS in my Virginia market started advertising on radio and the Metro their free public IDX-style site, and FranklyMLS allowed me free branding then I decided to stop paying my IDX provider. By endorsing these excellent free resources I felt that I was providing better service to my real estate clients.

  • Jonathan Dalton 8 years ago

    We have a free IDX platform through the local MLS as well but I much, much prefer what I have through Diverse Solutions as it provides me a great deal of useful data on the backend.

  • John Wake 8 years ago

    Jonathan wrote: At least once or twice a week I’ll receive a call from a real estate agent asking about a listing that’s not mine. When I tell them it’s not my listing, invariably I’ll be told “well I’m looking at your name.”

    That is so true!

    This is what I think usually happens. The agent is in the car with their client and the client says, “And I want to see this one, too” and hands the agent a printout of a listing from my website. It’s a sure sign of an inexperienced agent if they call me thinking it’s my listing. It’s also a sure sign that the agent didn’t explain to their client how real estate works. The client is probably the same one who says, “Hey, there’s a lockbox on that home, I want to see that one, too.”

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