Internet Data Exchange & Virtual Office Website – A turning point in real estate’s relationship with technology .
by Carolyn Schwaar

(Note: This article was written in 2002 for Association Executives shortly after the initial adoption of IDX and VOWs. The full version is included as a PDF file below).

VOWs have been called the next generation of IDX, but in fact the two are different. IDX is a national association-mandated program whereby MLS member brokers allow other member brokers to post their listings on each others’ Web sites, exposing properties to more consumers. IDX is a way of advertising and marketing listings. VOWs, on the other hand, are a way of doing business over the Internet.

On an IDX-enabled Web site, property listings are displayed to the public to browse according to the MLS’s IDX rules. At a VOW, visitors must register with the site, provide their e-mail address, and describe the type of property they’re looking for before they can access listings.

To use an analogy, IDX is the equivalent of a broker placing listings in the office window so that anyone can see them. A VOW, on the other hand, is akin to an online office. Consumers stop in, describe the type of property they’re looking for, and the salesperson shows them a variety of listings matching their criteria from the MLS.

There’s little difference between a virtual office and a bricks-and-mortar office. VOWs can give registered consumers access to listings from the entire MLS—as they would get in a real office—without any other broker’s permission. But instead of telling a live salesperson what type of house they’re looking for, homebuyers interact with the site’s software and enter the search data directly. By registering at the site, visitors become customers.

 Comparison of IDX and VOW
Key Points of IDX

Public is: Visitor
Search is: Allowed listings
Display has: Allowed items
Public reveals: Nothing
Site is: Advertising
Rules applied: IDX

Key Points of VOW

Public is: Customer/client
Search is: All listings
Display has: All items
Public reveals: Contact info, property interest
Site is: Business office
Rules applied: MLS

Click here for the PDF of the full article: IDXVOW (2)