If you’ve shopped for property in other areas (with the exception of Manhattan, that doesn’t have a Multiple Listing Service), you’ve probably gone to a Realtor’s site and found a button that says "Search the MLS" — giving you the ability not to search just that broker’s listings, but all listings available through the Multiple Listing Service.
One of the big frustrations for many buyers here has been the lack of that capability. Buyers who just want to surf through listings online have had to go from site to site, seeing a few listings here, a few there. Or there was the fallback to Realtor.com, a nationwide MLS aggregator operated by the National Association of Realtors. If you’ve used Realtor.com, though, you may have found the experience less than satisfying. Most listings, for example, only have one photo, and its not possible to do some things like search by lake community (an important feature for many buyers looking in Sullivan County.)
The Sullivan County MLS has been working to make the MLS data available for individual brokers and agents to display on their websites. The technical term for the capability is "Internet Data Exchange" or IDX. IDX, though, just makes the raw data available — and let me tell you, its pretty raw, you might call it ‘listings tartare.’ Its up to individual members to contract with a third party vendor to provide a user-friendly search and display mechanism, or to hire programmers to create it.
For the time being, I’ve contracted with IDXPro to put the MLS data on my site. (Click here to go to the new search page.) The IDXPro system is pretty good — there are a lot of great capabilities, like the ability to search by subdivision or lake community, age of house, house style or acreage. So now, you can search for all farmhouses on 10+ acres priced between $300,000 and $500,000, for example. You can save your searches, email listings to a friend and even set up an automatic search to notify you of new listings that meet your criteria.
IDXPro, though, is still kind of generic for the type of searches I think buyers want to do here. For example, lakefront, riverfront, streamfront and properties with ponds all roll up in to one search selection "Waterfront." And there’s no way to search for houses with lake rights that aren’t "Waterfront". Property taxes also aren’t included in the search results, and property taxes are an important factor for many buyers. While you can search by village or township, I think it would also be helpful to be able to search by region of the county, sort of like the way I’ve divided up the county on my County Areas page.
I can’t find an off the shelf system that will do all of that, so I guess I’m going to have to roll my own. It will probably take a few months. One thing I’d like to hear from you is what you’d like an MLS/IDX online real estate search system to do. There are a few things I can’t do, though. Showing property addresses is a no-no — the Sullivan MLS has decided that properties addresses can’t be displayed. So is showing "Days on Market". But a lot of other stuff — things you want to search by or things you want to know about a property — is very possible. Please play around with the new Sullivan County MLS Search and then leave some comments about what improvements you’d like to see.