iHomefinder Optima Express Plugin Overview
iHomefinder offers a home search with a modern feel and has worked with many large website developers for years. They are frequently chosen by agencies due to their MLS coverage and API access for developers’ customer software.
The company was founded in 1997 and is located in Berkeley, California. We were unable to verify that all of their technology is Made in America.
Pros & Cons of iHomefinder:
- MLS Coverage: iHomefinder likely includes coverage for your MLS.
- Recently updated search, map display, and listings: Their interface was starting to look outdated but they fixed this recently. The design is attractive and clean while having some visitor retention issues we’ll discuss later in the review.
- CRM: They offer a basic CRM that meets the needs for most individual agents.
- Market Stats & Reports: Their MarketBoost reports can be used for yet another way to nurture leads, for the extra upgrade cost.
- Agent Mobile Application: They offer a mobile app for agents to see leads, manage contacts, and monitor lead activity.
- Map Search: Their Eureka map search looks good but is only available on their higher plans, so make sure you’ve budgeted for it. iHomefinder has a map style that allows your website to visually look similar to some large portals like Zillow.
- Marketing automation campaigns: As part of it’s Premium + CRM package, you receive the ability to send automated follow-up campaigns for new leads and nurture campaigns.
- iFrames and SEO: The iHomefinder Optima Express plugin relies heavily on iFrames. iFrames hurt your SEO and make it extremely difficult to rank a real estate website on Google. According to Boostability, “Essentially, iframes allow you to embed another website in the code of your website, like a page within a page…Since search engines consider the content in iframes to belong to another website, the best you can hope for is no effect. Iframes tend to neither help nor hurt your search engine ranking.” Google tells us in the training they give web developers that at best that iFrames may not hurt your site but they’ll never help it. While their are sites built on iHomeFinder’s Optima Express plugin that receive large amounts of traffic, it is due to content marketing and other work the agent has done on their site. See our 2020 IDX Report for more details. The company claims this only impacts their Optima IDX product and this appears to be only partially true. Optima IDX product does use iframes directly but numerous of the SEO experts we reached out to said that how Optima Express renders into websites mimics iFrames from a Google bot perspective. Even if not true, the high loss of consumers on sites powered by iHomefinder is a concern.
- Lower retention of your clients: We compared iHomeFinder, IDX Broker, Real Geeks, Showcase IDX, and many other home search providers in our 2020 IDX Report and found that of the qualified leads going to a site powered by iHomeFinder that only 23.8 stayed on the site – twice what was seen from IDX Broker, which is a relative win for iHomefinder vs IDX Broker. See the full details here.
- Borrows Messaging from Other IDX Vendors: Starting in 2019, we saw the company shift the wording in their ads and some of the wording on their website to copy the claims of Showcase IDX. This can be seen using one of the many tools, such as Spyfu, that allow you to view a company’s Google and Facebook ad copy from previous months and years. The biggest issue with this is that the product does not provide the same results.
- iHomefinder Competes with Website Developers: Agents are now able to buy websites directly on the iHomefinder website and throughout iHomefinder marketing content. Since being acquired by industry behemoth Front Steps, the company has been expanding it’s offering.
- From their home page, “Add to your own website or get a ready-to-use real estate website” and “IDX website, CRM, and marketing solutions that grow your real estate business”.
- Complaints About Too Many Emails to Agents: There are complaints about receiving spam and too many emails from the company. Now, we believe the company does follow proper opt-in rules before sending emails but we can appreciate if agents (or their developers) feel agents are receiving too many emails. It’s possible they are just a little aggressive in their content marketing and training. That is hard to gauge without being a customer for a long time, and while we did review 25,000+ real estate websites, we have not been signed up as an agent.
- Support: Want to chat with support? That option is only available on their plans starting at $129.95 / month. Read reviews from agents here for their thoughts of support and why they left because of it.
What makes iHomeFinder’s Optima IDX and Optima Express unique?
Their MLS coverage, market reports, and use of iFrames (or iframe mimicking technologies) to deliver much of the consumer experience.
While they offer a $49.95 / month plan, that “standard” plan is definitely NOT standard. You’ll have to choose one of their other plans which start at $84.95 or $129.95 / month to get features included in some other top IDXs basic plans such as universal search bar, interactive map search, and multiple agent IDs for Featured Listings.
Additional iHomefinder fees:
- There is a $99 setup fee
- MLS Pass-Through Fees. All home search and IDX vendors will have a fee that passes through the additional access fees the MLS’s charge for access to the MLS data feed. These could be as low as zero and as much as $500 per year for a few MLSs. Where there are fees, they’ll typically be between $5 and $20 per month. Note that this fee is not a profit to the IDX as it simply covers their costs to the MLS for pure access, not counting the large amount of work that must be done to normalize and work with the data from each MLS.
- Ask about additional fees. There will be a charge of $25 / month for access to additional MLS feeds. Not all IDXs charge this $300 per year fee.
The company has expanded it’s offering from just being an IDX plugin to including other things like CRM, market report, mobile apps for agents, and even ready-to-use websites. As typically happens with niche-focused products that try to expand to “all-in-one”, there is almost always a loss in quality for what they initially became known for as they push to capture more total revenue.
Overall though, their home search does look great. The performance just is not there compared to other options.
We reviewed 25,000+ real estate agent websites and studied 125,000+ qualified sellers/buyers for our 2020 IDX Report, and from looking at the data, we believe there are better options available for individual real estate agents and marketing agencies in many parts of the United States.
If you don’t want to spend a bunch of time playing with your IDX settings and features, consider a website provider from our list of the Top 17 Real Estate Marketing Agencies in the United States.
Want an IDX with higher consumer retention, better SEO, and that our test show is the only home search chosen over Zillow, consider Showcase IDX.