By Cass Herrin, Director of Data Services at MoxiWorks
One of the most exciting and least understood developments in real estate over the last five years has been the increasing pace at which the Real Estate Standards Organization (RESO) has driven the adoption of data standards across the industry.
What are real estate data standards?
As you probably know, technology vendors and brokers receive “feeds” from MLS organizations and those feeds supply listing information to the technology products used by brokers. These MLS feeds provide all the information available to brokers about a listing. Historically, writing software to handle these feeds has been complex and time consuming. Adding a new MLS to a product could often take many months. RESO’s push for the adoption Data Standards is making that process much easier.
An example might help: the most common piece of data provided by all MLS organizations is the MLS Number. At one point, a few years ago, we identified nearly 30 different ways this single field was named in the feeds we used. For a software company dealing with MLS Listing information, that meant the code needed to be written to account for each of those ways. It also required that new code be written anytime a new MLS was added to a product.
Multiply that scenario times the 150 data points an average feed provides and you get some idea of how inefficient and error prone that process could be.
With the increasing adoption of RESO Data Standards across the industry, brokers and vendors like MoxiWorks can bring a new MLS to market much faster and more importantly, devote more time to building new, innovative products.
In the past, the complexity of MLS data and the rules that govern it dissuaded companies from entering the real estate technology space. Standards lower the barrier for entry into this market and increase competition, which should result in brokers having access to a growing variety of innovative products. Essentially, if you want a better world, you should definitely be in support of standardization.
Is that all?
Not quite. While standards are an extremely important step forward in increasing innovation and driving down costs, the complexity of the MLS rules that govern feeds and the way data may displayed also hinders innovation.
We would like to see the industry standardize not only the types of data provided, but also the rules around how feeds are provided and how data may be displayed.
We recognize that protecting broker’s listing data is the responsibility of the MLS. The origins of MoxiWorks are as the technology department for a large brokerage. We are still owned by three brokers. We have always understood the important role that the MLS plays in this industry.
But we also know very well that MLS data licensing and display rules slow down innovation across the industry.
A final example: If the same broker or vendor has both a back-office tool and IDX sites, is it really necessary to have two separate feeds, one for each product? Or even worse, is it really necessary to have two feeds for every customer using those products in that market? Surely data duplication carries more risk for inaccuracy and error than a single feed with rules that support multiple applications? Complicated feed rules make for software that is more complicated to build and maintain. More time spent doing this means less time focused on improving existing products or building new ones.
Like creating standards, this won’t be easy work, but we already see many progressive MLS that are providing models for how to streamline this process. Through the efforts of CMLS and NAR the display of Sold Listings on IDX sites is nearly ubiquitous. Certainly, that can serve as an inspiration to do more!
What these real estate data standards mean for brokerages
We believe all of this will support the ultimate goal of making sure that brokers have control of their own data and where that data can be sent. Historically, MLS have been focused on making sure that a listing doesn’t end up somewhere unintended – a valid concern, but we are in a different era now, one where there are so many different advertising platforms and productivity tools available to brokerages.
That choice should be in the hands of the broker. The broker’s choice on where listings are distributed is something all of us; brokers, vendors and MLS organizations, should work to support. Solid Data Standards and simplified, consistent MLS rules can help make that possible.