Help Protect the Real Estate Community

As a partner in real estate industry, you understand the pressing need for real estate safety education and resources. Since losing his mother, real estate agent Beverly Carter, to a horrific crime, Carl Carter, Jr. has spoken to thousands of agents across the country about the need for safety program integration. The need is real, and the solution is complex.

Carl has founded The Beverly Carter Foundation, a 501(c)(3) non-profit, with the following mission: to create a lasting, substantive, positive impact on safety that every agent needs – and deserves.

The Beverly Carter Foundation envisions multiple nationwide programs to address the current state of safety in the real estate industry. Their efforts will be focused on providing the following programs at no cost to real estate agents:

1. Educational Resources
2. Instructor-Led Training & Certification Program
3. Safety Seminars & Certification Events
4. Technology Support & Endorsement
5. Victim Support & Advocacy
6. Agent Safety Legislation

Their efforts to keep safety at the forefront of the industry can’t take effect unless they have support. They are seeking a tax-deductible donation, which can be made here: https://www.BeverlyCarterFoundation.org

Please feel free to contact Beverly’s son Carl directly at 501.912.6708 or Carl@BeverlyCarterFoundation.org.

Posted in Clareity Blog

Inman’s Hacker Connect – Come on Down!

Inman’s Hacker Connect, being held Monday, January 16, 2017 in New York City, promises to be a really interesting time. Instead of the usual presentation and panel formats attendees will split into smaller groups to talk about real estate industry technology issues. A facilitator will help define the problem and facilitate a discussion of solutions. Yes, each facilitator will have the knowledge and experience to bring ideas to the table as needed, but this meeting will be more about active discussion and participation. After the breakout session each facilitator will then report back to the attendees about what was determined during the session.

Matt Cohen, Speaker, Inman Hacker Connect

I’ll be facilitating the “Combating Cybercrime” topic, which should be big this year given all of the issues the brokerage community has had with wire fraud. But, that topic will be just one of six topics scheduled at that time in the afternoon. This should be an action-packed day!

Topics are as follows:

9:00am – DDOS Actions, Hacktivism and Civil Disobedience on the Internet
9:30am – API Successes to Replicate and Pitfalls to Avoid
9:50am – Using Emotional Intelligence and Cognitive Science for Designing UI/UX
10:10am – Protecting Real Estate Data Against Phishing
10:30am – Blockchain and Real Estate
11:10am – Next Generation Real Estate Chatbots
11:30am – Product Roadmaps: What to Expect in 2017
11:50am – What Technology Will VCs Fund This Year?
12:00pm – Lunch
1:00pm – Sharing Data Better
1:00pm – Building Best Practices in Small Companies
1:00pm – Driving Adoption in Legacy Companies
1:00pm – Integration: Life Made Easier With Portals
1:00pm – How to Make a Marriage of Tech Startups and Legacy Companies
1:00pm – Next Generation Buying/Selling Experience
2:30pm – Advancing VR
2:30pm – Integration: Making Life Easier With the MLSs and Other Data Providers
2:30pm – Buy or Build? Who Decides and Why?
2:30pm – Recruitment Made Easy
2:30pm – Combating Cybercrime
2:30pm – Data Standards in Real Estate
4:00pm – Recommendations, Best Strategies and How to Move Forward
5:00pm – Open Microphone: Feedback, Next Steps and Rants
5:30pm – Networking Reception

For more information and to register, visit the event website:

https://www.inman.com/hacker17/

Posted in Clareity Blog Tagged with: ,

Innovative MLS Website to Launch

Matt CohenMyFlorida Regional MLS (MFRMLS) is about to launch one of the most innovative real estate listing websites in years, designed from scratch in collaboration with August Partners and built upon technology from a company that I’ve been a fan of for a long time – TLCengine.

First, the basics: it’s a well-designed website that works just as well on mobile devices.  The site follows both relevant IDX rules and the Fair Display Guidelines promulgated by The Realty Alliance, based in turn on Clareity’s 2011 “Syndication Bill of Rights”. Besides a listing and roster search, the site includes content about communities in their region and a consumer-focused blog. It contains no advertising, and provides fairly typical agent/client collaboration functionality. But, besides the good design, there are a few things about the site that are by no means typical.

Search Results

state27homes - search results

First, the site makes a really powerful case for why a consumer would want to use this website rather than a national portal. A picture (from the site’s home page) is worth 1000 words:

mls search - get there first

The focus on how current the listings are extends to the listing search results, where the default sort order is “Freshest First”.

“Freshest First” sort order

freshest first sort order

Then, as previously mentioned, there’s the TLCengine technology. As TLCengine co-founder Krishna Malyala likes to ask, “Mortgages account for only 50% of the actual cost of home ownership, so where is the rest of it?” Typically consumers search for homes in a particular price range, with an assumption that they know how this translates into affordability. But what if one $350,000 home has low utility bills, low insurance, and low commute costs (it’s close to the client’s job), while another $350,000 home has high costs in those categories? It turns out that even two homes with the same list price may have a very different monthly cost when everything is taken into account. Or maybe a home that has a higher list price is more affordable than one with a lower list price. That’s what TLCengine calculates and makes clear to the site visitor. By taking into account over 100 lifestyle cost variables, TLCengine’s patent pending technology helps site visitors answer the most important question: “Can I afford my dream home?”

TLCengine Search

tlcengine search - what can I truly afford?

Whether one starts from a typical location-based search or the TLCengine search pictured above, when one sees the results they include not just the list price but the estimated cost per month including all the factors mentioned above. In the example below you can see how one $350,000 house actually could cost over $300 a month more than an identically priced house!

tlc cost versus list price

Of course, that’s based on a number of assumptions, all of which are configurable by the site visitor and those configurations can be saved if the visitor registers on the site. Pictured below are some of those configurations:

tlc configuration 1 tlc configuration 2
tlc configuration 3 tlc configuration 4

It’s important to note that the numbers on which TLC monthly totals are based, illustrated above, are not random or hard-coded. Homeowner insurance is predicted based on insurance risk data per zip code and flood zone data. As data like mortgage APRs and gas costs change, the numbers in TLC change. If you want to learn more about TLCengine, visit http://www.tlcengine.com/.

Another important aspect of the site is that it provides an easy to use lifestyle search and includes hyperlocal content about popular lifestyle features (e.g. arts and culture, beaches, boating, fishing, foodie culture, etc.) which will be available from the “Communities” section of the site.

Community / Lifestyle search available as a search filter

community as a search filter

The site also provides some information about the area around each listing. A listing detail screen includes a list of relevant schools and also includes some neighborhood demographics. A selection of nearby listings is also displayed. Each listing also includes a “Soundscore” that shows how noisy it is near a property – illustrated below:

soundscore

There’s a lot more to the site  – I’ve only given you the smallest glimpse, and there’s even more you won’t experience until you’re collaborating with an agent using the website – but you can’t do that until the site is live, which is expected to be in January of 2017, when you should be able to visit http://state27homes.com and see for yourself.

While the site leverages mobile-responsive design, there’s currently no plan to extend the work into installed native apps. MFRMLS currently provides  subscribers (and through them, consumers)  CoreLogic’s Go MLS app, white labeled as My MLS App, MFRMLS is still working through the synergy between the My MLS App and State27Homes.com and how they might position the two together.

The new website is a very compelling new experience and it should provide great benefit to MLS subscribers. Listing agents will get exposure directly proportional to the number of listings they have on the site and buyer’s agents will have a new tool they can use to collaborate with their clients. All MLS subscribers will receive leads from the site at no cost. These benefits were created without raising MLS fees. Well done, MFRMLS!

 

Posted in Clareity Blog Tagged with: , ,

MLS: Homegrown and Happy

ires-showing-feedback-response

There was a period of time when over twenty MLSs, representing about a quarter-million MLS subscribers used a primary MLS system that had been developed in-house by developers, or was developed by a local software company just for them.  We called those systems “homegrown,” compared with using a national vendor’s system. Clareity Consulting worked, and continues to work, with many of them to help maintain the competitiveness of their system. Other MLSs had us evaluate their ability to compete and our advice was to select a vendor system. Over the last decade, the number of MLSs with homegrown systems has decreased, but it’s worth putting a spotlight on this category because some of these MLSs are pretty happy that they took this route and have maintained it over the years.

There are a number of reasons that MLSs have chosen this route:

  • Vendors can be difficult to work with. Most of them have gone through periods where they are less than optimally responsive to enhancement requests and even to bug-fix requests.
  • Vendors are acquired by a company that doesn’t provide the same level of service.
  • Vendors go out of business (though all the current major vendors are quite stable!)
  • Vendors ‘retire’ well-liked systems
  • Licensing a shared code-base can mean waiting months or years for enhancement requests – or the vendor may just say, “No.”

Most of all, some MLSs get tired of all of the above and chasing a new vendor to try to get what they want via concessions and sales incentives – and both MLS staff and subscribers don’t enjoy moving from vendor to vendor. Having their own system has put them fully in control of their own MLS destiny. Building and maintaining a competitive MLS system isn’t an easy path by any means, and with the expansion of platforms to include high-functioning RETS servers, mobile apps and more it has only become more difficult – but following are some of the MLSs that have made it work – CLAW, IRES, and RMLS  in Portland, OR:

Combined L.A./Westside Multiple Listing Service (CLAW)

The MLS™ – CLAW (TheMLS.com) services more than 15,000 real estate professionals in the Southern California area. The MLS™ primarily focuses on the greater Los Angeles and Malibu areas; in addition, they license their software to the Palm Springs Regional MLS and Imperial County Association of Realtors® members. The MLS™ has data share initiatives with six MLSs, which gives members access to over 95,000 active listings and 6.5 million of-market listings; they are planning to add even more data shares in 2017. Further, The MLS™ produces its own in-house publication, The MLS Broker Caravan™, which is distributed to more than 4,500 Los Angeles-based real estate agents. This past year, The MLS™ achieved RESO Platinum Data Dictionary Certification.

As The MLS™ continues to innovate it helps ensure subscribers have the customer service they need via one-on-one trainings, Webinars, hands-on classes, Help Desk, and a YouTube channel that provides on-demand information.

The MLS™’s in-house technical team is actively working on their new listing search software (currently in alpha mode). Following are some key features in the new listing search (alpha) software:

The MLS™ has developed mobile responsive designed reports, and they anticipate that the entire MLS system will use responsive design in 2017.

claw-responsive-design

They combined public records data into search and mapping, so that members can find off-market sales and learn more about homes nearby to their listings, as illustrated below:

claw-public-records-in-mapping

Public record content is also integrated into MLS reports:

claw-public-records-in-mls-reports

Great Schools information has been integrated with their maps; this new feature includes a school boundary search:

claw-school-content

Users can search on the map by freehand drawing on any touch-screen.

claw-freehand-map-drawing

The MLS™ has also imported and integrated subdivision layers into mapping.  Layers can be used as reference or can be clicked on to search within that shape in the overlay.

claw-subdivision-mapping-layers

Users can easily communicate with clients and send them listings via SMS text messaging:

claw-sms-messaging

All of these examples just scratch the surface of how CLAW has been innovating recently to maintain the competitiveness of its homegrown MLS system.

Information and Real Estate Services (IRES)

IRES serves over 6,000 subscribers in Colorado. They are proud to have their very own local development team, allowing them to customize, enhance, and innovate – providing a great user experience for subscribers.

From inception in 2001, integration has been a primary goal, not only for convenience, but also for streamlining the various processes involved with a transaction, and maintaining a high level of data integrity. Wherever possible, listings, agents, offices, and broker contacts are integrated throughout the system. IRES has also integrated products such as Cloud CMA, Realist, InfoSparks statistics, NewHomeSource Professional, and ListTrac.

In terms of service, IRES has also developed a Learning Center available online 24/7/365, with numerous training videos and PDF booklets. They are able to coordinate this Learning Center content with what’s about to be released since the lines of communication are open between development and education. IRES also has exceptional customer service, and kudos from their subscribers are a common occurrence.  They can share screens with callers and offer a Live Chat. They also regularly conduct webinars, training classes and in-office presentations.  Again, the tight two-way communication between development and customer service makes each of them better.

IRES has also created www.ColoProperty.com, a very popular public listings web site that drives leads to subscribers.

ires-coloproperty.com

Following are some of the most popular features that make IRES MLS stand out. All three of these modules are included in the monthly MLS fees: showings, online contracts and MySite, a robust prospect website.

Showings Module

ires-showing-systemFirst, IRES designed and integrated its own Showings System. This system has some unique features, including the ability to text or email the showing agent and occupants directly through a ‘message center’. Sellers and tenants are very pleased with this ability to clearly and easily communicate directly with the listing office; and the listing office staff is thrilled to be able to provide the showing agent with instructions and lockbox code information at the click of a button. This message center takes away the stress of having to make multiple phone calls, to multiple people, just to set up a single showing.

The Showings module also takes the strain out of trying to receive feedback from showing agents. Users can automatically send feedback requests to the showing agent up to three different times: once on the day of the showing, and if no feedback has been received, a second time 3 days later, and a third attempt after 7 days. If the automatic feedback is still not received, the listing agent has the opportunity to call the showing agent and manually enter the feedback for the showing. The feedback may be printed to provide it to the clients. This is a great way for the broker to have a conversation with their client about what they could do to make a better impression on buyers.

ires-showing-feedback-response

Another one of the highly utilized showing reports gives the listing agent the ability to effortlessly send an email to all showing agents who have shown the home and let them know of a price reduction, or that the home is back on the market. This gives the broker an opportunity to do some marketing and possibly receive a second showing on the home.

For additional convenience, the Showings module is integrated with Sentrilock lockboxes and also links to the state licensing site to verify the status of an individual’s license when showing appointments are requested.

Online Contracts

IRES also built its own Contracts System with all Colorado state required forms and disclosures, and the system integrates both with MLS data and DocuSign®, the electronic signature program preferred by NAR.

ires-contracts

DocuSign® integration creates a seamless signing process between the broker and the client. Users do not need to tag the document for signatures, initials or dates – the IRES system does that for them. They simply click “Send” and the document is sent out for signatures. Mobile compatibility allows the client to access the document via email on their smart phone, sign, and get it back to the broker quickly and efficiently.

Another feature is the ability to export dates and deadlines into a calendar widget such as Outlook, iCal, or Google Calendar. Once the Export Dates function is selected, it will download a .CSV file to the user’s computer which they can then import into their desired calendar tool. They then have all of those important dates and deadlines in one place and have the ability to set up reminders for each of them.

MySite – Prospect Website

Lastly, one of the most popular features of the IRES system is what they call, “MySite”. This personalized web site was designed with both the broker and consumer in mind. Consumers can view listing information, all the photos, virtual tours, the map location, neighborhood demographics and much more. The site is branded with broker information and it’s simple to set up, too. This service is an IRES subscriber favorite.

ires-mysite

Here’s how it works. The broker creates a Prospect search that runs automatically based on the parameters selected (instantly, daily, weekly, or monthly). Along with the Prospect search, they have the ability to enable the MySite. When listings match the criteria of the search, they are emailed and simultaneously posted to MySite. The client will receive an email with a link to login.

Clients can view full listing details, rate properties, make notes about their likes/dislikes, or contact their broker for more information or to set up a showing – all from within MySite. Brokers have access to some great reporting tools that show the client’s usage and activity as well.

The common theme between all of the features described above (Showings, Contracts, and MySite) is the collaboration between the subscribers and the consumers. These kinds of features, and the customer service and support they can provide to subscribers by having their own homegrown MLS system, are the reasons IRES is proud to have their very own, homegrown, MLS system.

Regional Multiple Listing Service (RMLS)

RMLS serves over 10,000 agents in the Portland, Oregon area. Greg Moore at RMLS says that their “evolution not revolution philosophy along with our nimble approach; allowing the Board to direct and reprioritize our development efforts during the year has been our success.  This allows us to continually improve our MLS system without cutting over our user base.”  Like IRES, integrations are a specialty for RMLS. They “mash up” and/or provide Single Sign-On into RPR, ShackShout, Find and ZipForms as well as embedding school and city URLs in system reports, providing  all kinds of “one click” conveniences to enhance the user experience.  Convenience is their focus as RMLS continues to improve the system.

The screenshot below illustrates how RMLS integrated ShackShout to provide an easy way for subscribers to see how a property looks at various locations online:

rmls-shackshout

Search results allow subscribers to easily tab through various reports, including a photo report, maps, tax, and property history. Agent information is integrated on reports – all the information needed to complete a contact is included.

rmls-search-tabs

The roster includes a mashup with Realtor.com agent profiles, which provides efficiency for those agents using that Realtor.com service while providing a robust report for those searching the roster.

rmls-roster-realtor.com-mashup

Last Words

Over the last few years, some MLSs have been grumbling that we could use more competition in the MLS software space. While projects like AMP promise to increase that competition in some ways, some MLSs – those profiled above and others as well – took control over their MLS software destiny years ago, and have developed and continue to innovate the system they believe will best meet the needs of their subscribers.

Not every MLS with a homegrown system is a large one either – for example, Hawaii Information Services has had fewer than 2,000 subscribers and has been using a parcel-centric MLS for many years now – something the rest of the industry is just starting to implement. There are also many MLSs that may not be developing all of the functions we currently consider a whole MLS system, but have developed substantial MLS modules and related tools – this may be the subject of a future blog post and/or a session at an MLS Executive Workshop.

It’s wonderful to see innovation at every level, since innovation and competition is at the heart of what makes our industry great.

 

Posted in Clareity Blog Tagged with: ,

Just How Easy Should Software for Professionals Be?

Matt CohenWhen I’m leading a technology selection process, I ensure my client has a deep understanding of the companies involved, the software, the service, the business implications of contract provisions, the feature differences between systems, and so much more. But for the software to be “easy” almost always seems to bubble up near to the top as a consideration – and it sometimes overrides many other considerations. But just how easy should software for professionals be?

If everything else was equal about the software capabilities, training and support, availability, system speed, vendors and so forth, of course the scales would be tipped in favor of the easy software. But typically, easy comes at a cost. There’s a spectrum that runs from “full of features, information, and flexible and difficult” to being “light on features, lacking information, and inflexible and easy”.  Good software design is often the result of an effort to find the right balance.

I’ve written a lot about software design – for example, about what user experience designers do, and common user experience mistakes made when designing real estate search. Almost every software company does their best to meet the user and customer requirements while maintaining ease of use. But, the most information-packed report will never look as elegant as one with less information and white space. And apps with more customization capabilities (that provide the ability for agents to differentiate) are always more complicated to figure out than those that provide no options. Again, the software designers try to maintain the balance, but you can’t have it all – there’s always a compromise.

Another factor that plays into “ease of use” is “How similar is the new software to my old software?” Often, the more innovative the new software choice is, the less it will be like the old software. So, if ease of use is top priority, people are likely to choose the less innovative software – and that’s not a good thing for them in the long term.

Which is the tool for a professional photographer?

two cameras - one point and shoot, one dslr

Consider this question: “Which is easier? A DSLR camera or a point-and-shoot camera (or phone camera for the those among us who have never held a standalone camera)? Obviously, the point-and-shoot or phone camera is easier than the DSLR.  But have you ever seen a professional photographer on the job with just a phone camera? What would you think if you saw a professional wedding photographer trying to shoot in low light with a little point-and-shoot camera? Perhaps we should expect professionals to be able to use the professional-grade software tools, even if they are a bit difficult. Maybe if someone is going to have a tool for a few years, they would consider going for the tool with more capabilities, a tool that one could learn and grow into, and select it over a tool that’s very easy to use all of its few features immediately, but leaves no room for growth.

I would love it if we could get extremely innovative, functionally robust, and information-packed software that was super easy and looked great – but you just can’t have it all. I’m not saying that ease of use isn’t important – sometimes simple and easy is just great – but one must look at what one is giving up for that ease of use and ask the question, “How easy is too easy?”

 

Posted in Clareity Blog, Matt's Real Estate Technology Blog

Clareity’s 2016 NAR Orlando Meeting and Expo Report

nar-expo-2016-welcome

Contents:

Orange County/Orlando Convention Center. Because size matters for groups as large as NAR!

orange-county-convention-center

CMLS @ NAR

Before NAR meetings got underway, the CMLS board of directors met to discuss current initiatives and plan strategic objectives for the coming years. I was privileged to be a part of this impressive group, and I can’t wait until these many fine initiatives become public knowledge.

CMLS at NAR

Parties

Both CoreLogic and Zillow threw amazing parties within fifty feet of each other. Many party guests went from one party to the other. We can’t say one party was the best – together they rate “best party!”

Tradeshow Floor

To everyone’s enjoyment, there was a lot going on down on the tradeshow floor this year!

Hot Trend – Virtual Reality

You couldn’t turn around without finding someone trying to compete with Matterport on virtual reality, trying to provide something along the same lines and for less money, including a “DIY” product.

immoviewer cartoblue
matterport floor-plan-visuals
diy-vr

Booth Comparison

We all know Greg Robertson, and that man can sell. Check out his booth – selling the benefits of his product to agents – “Win More Listings” and “Be the First to Know”. It drew agents in like moths to a flame. Then compare it with the much less busy Emphasys Software booth. While Emphasys is a well-respected company in our industry, can you tell what that company does and whether you should go over to learn more? Booth design is important!

wr-studios

emphasys

Drones

You all know how much Clareity loves gadgets. There were several sweet drones for sale on the tradeshow floor. Their HD cameras and stability were a cut above the normal drones we’ve seen for sale, and the value for high-end drones is getting better and better.

drone

drone

Now that legislation has officially passed, allowing drone pilots to use the technology for real estate, plan to see many more companies flow into this space!

Transaction Management

Last year people were worried that NAR’s member-money spend on transaction management to provide “free” transaction management to members would interfere in the competitive technology market – but so far it has not. For instance, in the last year Instanet Solutions has signed 16 new MLS and Association enterprise clients totaling over 120,000 new users. Instanet also signed marquis broker clients William Pitt Sotheby’s (1,100 agents – the largest Sotheby’s franchise), Latter and Blum and companies (1,600 agents), and many more small to mid-size brokerages plus thousands of individual subscribers. Instanet also extended 100% of its current MLS and Association enterprise clients totaling more than 55,000 users.

We’ve also heard that DocuSign is doing well in the space, and seen announcements from Dotloop and Ziplogix regarding contract renewals. Again, competition in the forms and TM market segment seems alive and well, despite everyone’s thoughts last year!

The REach Class

NAR’s REach program provides mentorship and resources for several companies a year, helping them become more successful in the industry. At the NAR Expo, they all share a booth. The REach class of 2016 includes:

flipt Flipt is a simple and affordable marketing technology that helps brokers and agents in the US and Canada to display online ads to local homeowners who are going through life-changing events and motivated to sell. Flipt make it easy to launch a real estate ad campaign in less than 5 minutes. Sales associates are then notified via text and email when a potential home seller submits their information to your Flipt landing page, making it possible to start building relationships and win listings.

 

homediary HomeDiary allows homeowners to visualize their home in 3D, log inventory, document maintenance and improvements, and track ideas. We provide an opportunity for real estate agents to stay in touch with clients for life in a relevant way — while homeowners manage their most valuable asset. Powered by FloorPlanOnline, the inventor of the Interactive Floor Plan Virtual Tour, HomeDiary helps people Dream, Manage and Do more with their home.

 

homeselfie HomeSelfe is an industry leading energy efficiency app, that provides a clear picture of a home’s energy use and a personalized path to lower utility bills, increased energy efficiency, available rebates, and a higher home value. Founded in 2014, HomeSelfe was created as a patent pending technology by Energy Datametrics, one of the leading providers of cutting-edge energy efficiency software and technology services to over 155 power companies in the US.

 

realscout RealScout is a web and mobile platform that allows real estate agents to work with clients to select the perfect home. RealScout’s natural language technology allows users to search for listings using value added features such as open floor plans, large backyard, or close to public transportation.

 

sindeo Sindeo has rebuilt the home financing experience from the ground up, making it simpler and more transparent. Sindeo is helping real estate pros qualify more clients and close more deals.

 

truststamp When you set up an appointment with a stranger, how can you be sure that they are who they say they are or even whether they are a dangerous criminal? Trust Stamp combines photographic and driver’s license data with over 200 public records and social media sites. TrustStamp’s patented system deploys the analytical and secure-data resources of IBM Watson & the Ethereum Blockchain to provide you with better-than-bank levels of reliability and security at only $1.99 per registered client.

 

valoancaptain VA Loan Captain provides Realtors with a comprehensive set of personalized tools allowing them to attract military and veteran home buying customers. We also provide exclusive veteran buyer referrals to our Home Captain network agents who pass our stringent network guidelines.

 

zenergyst zenergyst provides customers with one highly intuitive system, at one low price that enables agents to streamline the sales transaction process through a single, fully integrated toolset and provide brokers insights into real estate transactions, with better collaboration, communication and transparency for all parties.

 

Meetings

MLS Association Executives Session

The audience received an update from NAR liaison to realtor.com, Suzanne Mueller (SVP, realtor.com): realtor.com now gets 53 million visitors per month. Realtor.com just launched a new mobile app, good considering mobile accounts for 50% of their growth. Over a third of realtor.com visitors don’t visit other portals, Suzanne claimed. The Elizabeth Banks campaigns have been very successful, especially with millennials. Coming soon expect to see larger photos, maps next to the photo, and more information moved to top of the fold, including broker and agent attribution. Recently Move has relaunched a much improved international portal with 4.5 million listings seen in over 70 countries for a global audience of 200 million visitors per month.

The Peter Shuttleworth MLS Executive Award was awarded to John Mosey from Northstar MLS. Kudos to John, and more on this below!

Jeremy Crawford led a panel talking about RESO and data standards. Glen, who presented at the RESO conference, talked about how challenging it can be to get rets feed from 50+ MLSs, even some MLSs that didn’t want them to join as a broker. Some MLSs he dealt with were still not data dictionary certified, and some didn’t even know what it is! Suzanne talked about the need to improve communication with MLSs about data standards, and how important creating consistent data is for the industry. The group talked about how MLSs don’t generally put enough information on their websites about RESO compliance and how to get data. MLSs should use the compliance logo and explain the benefits of standards use to subscribers.

Matt Cohen was on an MLS technology panel with Mike Wurzer and Chad Curry that discussed everything from computer vision to software personalization to aquaculture and self driving cars and their impact on real estate. Sorry, we could have taken better notes, but Matt was on stage! If you want Matt or me to talk to your organization about the future of technology and real estate, give us a call.

Matt Cohen was also on a panel discussing MLS Regionalization and much was shared about the goals of the topic and the need to establish trust and follow a deliberate process toward regionalization. Please contact Matt if you want to discuss this topic or if your MLS needs a facilitator to help you achieve your regionalization objective.

Denee Evans and Lauren Hansen from CMLS talked about MLSs and NAR working together. The next CMLS meeting is set in Austin, Texas and it will be a great opportunity for networking and peer exchange. Lauren talked about the MLS best practice documents offered by CMLS – available on the CMLS website and which are kept fresh by section councils and CMLS member feedback. Lauren also described the CMLX designations. Denee suggested that audience members join the section councils. She continued with a description of the CMLS partnership with NAR. CMLS taught the CMLS Best Practices at AEI. CMLS Board Members also ran the MLS breakout sessions at the NAR meetings. CMLS also has representation on three key NAR committees – AE Committee, Emerging Technologies Committee, and one other. CMLS has updated NAR leadership about CMLS initiatives. Katlyn, NAR’s director of MLS, was introduced. Her responsibility is to work on the CMLS relationship and creating a workgroup on cooperative relationships. She’ll also be working with RESO, Upstream, etc. Katlyn is excited to improve communications between NAR and MLSs and make everything better.

Multiple Listing Service Forum

Karen France provided an RPR update. RPR has now partnered with 661 (of 716) MLSs representing 1.16 million Realtors. Annually, 627,000 people use RPR with 130,000+ using it on a monthly basis. Over 255,000 members have installed the mobile app, and over 3,000,000 reports are created annually by Realtors. In the past year, sessions increased by 87%, and returning visitors increased by 110% year over year. Karen said that “All of this busts the myth that no one is using RPR.” After this update, Nicole Nicolay, a Realtor whose husband works for RPR, gave her testimonial about how RPR has helped her business, improving her open house conversions. She shows open house visitors RPR reports in print (she only has one copy), then gets people to type their contact information into a form on her website so she can send them the reports electronically later. 30% of her business is generated this way. Smart way to use the free RPR report, Nicole! To see sample RPR reports text “NARRPR” to 555888.

Jessica Edgerton (Associate Council, NAR) provided a legal update. First, she provided copyright litigation updates. The first was between a photographer and a broker (Redfin) who the photographer said misused his photos. The broker argued that this was an MLS rules issue, not a copyright case, and also that they were protected by DMCA. NAR filed an amicus brief on behalf of the broker with regard to DMCA. The court found in favor of Redfin but didn’t base its decision on the DMCA argument, but rather the first argument. However, in a footnote the court said they liked the DMCA argument. There is a motion from the photographer to reconsider. A national network of photographers (VHT) has filed suit against Zillow saying the license to its images was being overstepped by the images on Zillow, especially where they end up on “diggs.” This relates to the limited license between photographers and agents, limited to the life of the listing – not for use after a property has sold. Zillow filed to dismiss based on failure to reference necessary parties in the case (all the brokers and licensees). That’s where the case stands. Jessica says Zillow’s argument is flawed, but we’ll see what happens. There’s a lot of potential here, since every image misused can result in damages up to $150,000. In Stevens v CoreLogic it was claimed that CoreLogic removed embedded copyright information. It’s easy to accidentally remove this image during typical manipulation. The case was dismissed because there was no proof there was copyright information (CMI) in the images or that information was intentionally removed. MLSs must obtain representation from participants that the have proper license to use images, use DMCA, and more. On the patent front NAR v. Data Distribution Technologies, LLC. DDT targeted the industry. NAR filed requesting DDT’s patent on a “remotely updated database system” be declared invalid. They also filed an Inter Pares review petition with the USPTO to invalidate the patent. DDT settled with NAR and made covenants not to sue any real estate related entity on this patent.

Jessica also mentioned ADA Website Accessibility – brokers are getting demand letters about this. DOJ is trying to answer the question “Is a website a place of public accommodation?” Six years later we are waiting for guidance, and we think it will happen by 2018. There does seem to be guidance based on jurisdiction. But the overall advice is to get ADA compliant now, meeting WCAG 2.0 AA. There are resources about this on Realtor.org

Alex Lange, President and CEO of Upstream provided an Upstream update. The brokers got together to deal with the inefficiencies of entering listings and other information in too many places and where they feel they have lost control over distribution. Alex says brokers want to create listing use agreements at a granular, listing level – who receives what fields and media, and when. They also want to distribute hi-resolution photos and videos that many MLSs can’t handle. Upstream wouldn’t have that limitation. Alex talked about the broker ownership and governance of Upstream and how NAR has provided some funding but has no ownership. He further talked about how they would like to see Upstream integrated with the MLS, inside the MLS. Upstream is in five pilot markets with 16 brokerages. Alex showed a video of an implementation, showing listing input and an integration with Skyslope transaction management, and the creation of an Imprev single property website, Corefact which creates marketing materials, and more. All of these integrations had access to the content as soon as the listing was marked active in Upstream – instantly. Tim Dain did some rough math based on Alex’s assertion that all the entry costs $6 per listing. Tim said that if the MLS with all the fields was $4 of that, what was left was $2 times the 6 million listings in the United States – times the two dollars that’s over $12 million a year. What would Upstream cost compared with that figure? There was no answer, but Alex promised one soon.

Mark Lesswing talked about RESO data dictionary and Web API compliance, as well as Blockchain technology. 1.24 million members are covered by dictionary compliance. Over 400,000 are covered by Web API compliance. That’s great progress (though not 100% compliance with NAR rules!). Mark urges MLSs to make these feeds available and get the word out to members and their vendors. He also urges everyone to get involved in RESO. Moving on to Blockchain: Blockchain is a way of managing data in a non-centralized way – keeping track of events over time. It could be used to track how properties evolve over time in the recording process, contracts, and more. No one we spoke to in the audience understood a word of the Blockchain description if they didn’t already understand Blockchain – this will take a lot more explanation in the future to move it forward.

Rhett Damon from realtor.com provided an update, mostly repetitive with the presentation from Suzanne @ realtor.com to the MLS executives the previous day. (See notes above.)

Melanie Wyne from NAR provided a government affairs update. She’s been working on patent litigation reform but the pharma PAC has blocked it. They’ll try again next year. While congress is stalled, the FTC has moved forward with recommendations about venue reform, greater transparency with regard to patent troll shell companies, and requiring them to give more information when filing a lawsuit – how you might be infringing. In privacy and data security many bills were introduced – NAR has concerns and want the bill fixed or stopped. Regarding the Internet of Things (IoT), there are security and privacy concerns. The commerce department has started discussions and NAR is a part of them.

Marbury Little and Jim Imhoff presented an update regarding NAR’s Corporate Ally Program, which funds much of the work that Melanie was talking about. Marbury gave a passionate plea for continued high levels of support. Attention MLS operators and industry vendors, make a contribution if you haven’t yet. Clareity proudly contributed $10,000 last year and $10,000 in 2016 to the CAP program. Everyone does not agree with everything that is done at NAR, but one thing nobody disagrees on is the strength of NAR’s Advocacy in Washington DC to protect the real estate industry and drive the value of home ownership. Everyone reading this report makes their living from the success and health of the real estate industry, and NAR has our backs for advocacy. To find out more about making a contribution, please email Marbury at: marburyl@aol.com, or email the NAR CAP’s staff manager Paula Martino at pmartino@realtor.org.

The microphone was opened to discuss local issues. No issues were reported.

MLS Listing Issues and Policies Committee

Previous minutes were approved. Then there was a progress report on the NAR-CMLS collaboration, repetitive with Clareity’s previous reports on this relationship and with the presentation described from the previous day.

Jeanne Radsick provided an update on the progress of the MLS Technology and Emerging Issues Advisory Board. The group received a letter from LeadingRE and they are researching information so they can respond. Issues include a standard IDX payload, mandatory broker attribution and eliminating agent attribution, eliminating IDX display of expired listings, and many, many more items. The group is also discussing automatically generated thumbnail displays of property information on social media platforms and their compliance with IDX policy. The group so far is predisposed to agreeing on this – as long as information doesn’t change and it links to an IDX site. The group is also reviewing lockbox security requirements. Finally, 7.42, jurisdiction of association multiple listing services. Input has been requested via survey. This is a very important thing, especially in light of the MLS regionalization trend. Following is a quote of a comment made by the change requestor:

Jim Weix, Broker/Owner of The Real Estate Company, Inc., and those attending the National Association of Realtor (NAR) convention in Orlando last weekend got a pleasant surprise.

Acting on a request from Weix, NAR’s Multiple Listing Issues and Policies Committee announced that they are studying the elimination of a Multiple Listing Service (MLS) Territorial Jurisdiction rule. A task force has been created and there may be a recommendation at the Committee’s May, 2017 meeting.

Attendees also learned that a MLS Consolidation Resource Program is being set up and expanded by NAR, to assist in MLS mergers. The Committee said that the number of MLSs in America is shrinking daily, as MLSs merge.

Early in Sept., Weix had requested that NAR’s Multiple Listing Issues and Policies Committee eliminate the MLS Territorial Jurisdiction policy. This policy allows mainly small MLSs to force agents to join that particular MLS, if their Broker belongs to it and their office is located in that MLS’s Territorial Jurisdiction.

Weix was able to meet with Rick Harris, Chairman, and Jeanne Radsick, the head of the task force studying the issue. Weix explained to committee members that the rule was unfair to Brokers, Agents, and homeowners nationwide trying to do business or sell their homes. He stated that it also hindered Brokerage firms in hiring Agents and added unnecessary cost to Agents.

To compound the problem, many of these small MLSs try to restrain trade by refusing to do data sharing with neighboring MLSs. Brokerage firms and agents then also must join those neighboring MLSs in order to give their listings the added exposure needed.

Brokerage firms and Agents nationwide have complained for decades that MLS Territorial Jurisdiction forced Agents to join an MLS that they often had no use for. They then had to not only join that MLS, but also the one that better served their needs and that of their customers.

NAR eliminated a similar rule for forced Realtor Association membership back in 1996, and created what is known as “Board of Choice”. By eliminating the right of Associations to use Territorial Jurisdiction, Agents were free to join the local Realtor board that made the most sense to them, based upon such factors as geography, location, services, etc.

“I feel very strongly that an ‘MLS of Choice’ will best serve the needs of Agents and homeowners nationwide” said Weix.

NAR’s Multiple Listing Issues and Policies Committee announced yesterday that NAR’s MLS Territorial Jurisdiction Policy is being reviewed. This will perhaps eliminate MLS Territorial Jurisdiction. Jeanne Radsick, Advisory Board Chair, informed us that, as part of the task force studying the issue, a survey is being done by the Council of Multiple Listing Services

Shelley Speccio shared information about the CMLX certification program and CMLS best practices. She reviewed each level of the program. CMLX 1 is now self-paced online in five 1-hour modules. There are 190 graduates of this level. Level 2 is six 1.5 hour modules, offered twice per year. There’s also a white paper written assignment required. There are 94 level 2 graduates. Level three has two 2-day seminars, 360-degree executive leadership assessment, evaluation of the best practice checklist and limited executive accepted, finally completion of a benchmark project that benefits the industry.

There were no policy changes put forth this year.

AMP Demonstrations

There was a session where RPR and participating vendors showed some of the products that are integrated with it to provide “front end of choice.” Surprisingly, less than a hundred people were in attendance.

Rob Overman at Robotik Software showed a product focusing on key features – listing maintenance (limited business rule capabilities at present) and search. It is his intent to build in prospecting and some other features.

Matt Fowler showed Solid Earth’s Spring product, integrated with AMP. This product doesn’t manage listing input – it’s an attractive lead generating website. The demo showed data coming out of the Greater Alabama MLS database, via AMP. The demonstration that followed, of a broker site, included the RPR AVM.

Lone Wolf provides an end to end broker solution – from a listing system to websites and CRM to accounting. The focus of this demonstration was running search off of AMP. It included listing history, school information, and open houses. They also showed some basic listing maintenance.

Carlos Grass from Stratus Data Systems demonstrated his AMP-connected listing search – including share (email, text, etc.), export options, list creation and more. He also demonstrated a robust client / agent communication tool. Carlos is looking forward to adding more information from RPR right in his interface in the future.

Greg Robertson showed CloudMLX, CloudStreams and finally – integrated with AMP – is CloudCMA. Though not yet integrated with AMP yet, CloudMLX (which won the 2016 Inman Innovator award) was super slick, as always. CloudStreams is a listing alert system – super fast notifications when listing events happen, and beautiful too. CloudCMA already integrates with 15 other APIs, so AMP integration was easy for them.

AMP still has work to do in order to become a viable repository for MLS data, especially for content beyond the listings, and to achieve listing input incorporating MLS business rules. Data standards toward that end still need to be completed and approved through the RESO process, and we strongly encourage our clients to get involved in RESO to help make that happen. That said, it was great to see some compelling products!

John Mosey Receives CMLS’ Highest Honor

Congratulations to John Mosey, CEO of the Northstar MLS in Minnesota for winning the Peter Shuttleworth MLS Executive Achievement Award from CMLS. David Charron, last year’s recipient, presented this award and John received a huge ovation from the several hundred MLS and Association execs present. John Anderson, Northstar MLS chairman, accepted the award on John’s behalf and said he wished John could be there. The whole room wished John was there to see his huge smile and pride from receiving this award. Peter Shuttleworth was a mentor and leader for many of us in the MLS and property record management business. John, you have been a mentor for me and Matt and several partners at Clareity as well. Your creativity, leadership and diplomacy with the brokerage community for 40 years made you a perennial All Star team player and the MVP for the 2016 season. Congratulations, John, for your career well done!

MLS Roundup

Black Knight added some major enhancements since the last NAR meetings. First, the Collaboration Center, Paragon’s new consumer portal, has a completely new look-and–feel, new features, and responsive design for tablets and smartphones. The property detail view includes school and neighborhood content to keep consumers engaged, and the social media integration helps consumers draw others into their property search. Black Knight started the rollout of Collaboration Center in July, and all customers will have by early December. Second, for those that prefer a native mobile app, Paragon users and their clients and prospects now have access to Homesnap Pro. Black Knight and Homesnap are collaborating to deliver Homesnap Pro for Paragon, a new product that further integrates Homesnap and Paragon, and delivers a seamless user experience between the two applications. Homesnap Pro and Homesnap Pro for Paragon will be powered by Black Knight’s extensive property data and analytics. Homesnap Pro will be provided at no cost to Paragon customers (though there may be a setup charge). Since the Broker Public Portal (BPP) also leverages HomeSnap, Black Knight will subsidize 30% of the cost of BPP for customers. Third, Black Knight is launching Paragon for Brokers (P4B). This product provides broker branding of the MLS and listing reports and integration with third-party vendors and back-office systems. It also provides brokers the ability to customize messages to agents via the home page, calendar and login message. Brokers can also optimize listing management – defining and managing custom data fields exclusive to their listings, customizing listing reports, and setting up broker-exclusive listings. To manage this, brokers have a dashboard with all the administrative tools they need. There are already over 30 brokers taking advantage of this product. Finally, Black Knight has launched Association Autonomy, a capability built into Paragon that supports the emerging needs of Associations and MLSs to consolidate to a common platform and listings database while maintaining a level of independence and control for each Association to serve their unique needs of their market area and their members, whether or not they change their organizational structure in a merger. Key features include association-level branding and messaging, association-level customization of fields, business rules and reports, the ability for associations to manage data sharing relationships, association-specific third party integrations, and association-specific administrative features and defaults.

CoreLogic Matrix is now up to 636,000 users and climbing. CoreLogic’s platform consolidation should be complete over in the next six months. Matrix version 7 pilot installations are in progress, providing a vastly stronger Client Portal, new client activity notifications, a switch to Google Maps for superior imagery and coverage, an improved geocoding solution, and LisTrac integration. The Matrix 360a pilot installation in progress – providing an MLS product with a strong public records component built-in. Their Trestle data management platform is now live and processing RESO Web API certifications and RESO Data Dictionary v1.4 Silver compliance. INRIX Drive Time search is available via the Matrix Client Portal. CoreLogic can provide integrated “HouseFax” reports – comprehensive property history reports – like a “Carfax” for homes. Another add-on is ePropertyWatch, which sends a monthly email report about a client’s property including the home’s current value (CoreLogic RealAVM™), equity, price trends, recent sales, foreclosures, building permits, and more. These emails have a 50%+ email open rates and 36% click-through rates. CoreLogic also provides a visualization option for Matrix 7 called Graphiq, providing visually rich representations of community, transportation, hyper-local insights, community, school, property, market trend, and other information.

CoreLogic’s GraphIQ Add-On

graphiq

dynaConnections has introduced a refreshed, and mobile-optimized Agent interface using responsive web design. With this release, connectMLS offers complete Add/Edit listing capability in a mobile-optimized format, including the ability to upload documents and photos and create drafts. dynaConnections also introduced the “SmartBar”. Similar to a Google search, the SmartBar displays search result suggestions based on criteria as it is entered in real time. The SmartBar also saves and displays a record of recent search activity. dynaConnections recently became the first MLS Vendor to earn RESO Web API certification at the Gold level. Finally, dynaConnections released an SSO offering leveraging Open ID Connect.

dynaconnections - home view on phone

FBS has been focusing on a number of feature enhancements and user experience optimizations in the Flexmls collaboration tools that agents and their customers use to work together before, during, and after a transaction. This includes in-house native-app development leveraging their RESO data dictionary compliant Spark API platform. Providing consistency across all platforms, including mobile, is an FBS differentiator. Recent enhancements include a cross-MLS search, enhanced address search and GPS location capability, sharing via text-message, and easier “one-click” “push” subscriptions. FBS has added 20,000 new subscribers to the Flexmls platform this year and not lost accounts, other than what has occurred via MLS consolidation. They are also top performers in Clareity’s annual satisfaction survey. Most recently, FBS announced that the Spark platform is powering AgentSquared IDX websites, integrated with Flexmls CRM.

FBS Advanced Address Search

FBS - advanced address search

FBS Listing Share via Text Message

FBS - Share via text message

Rapattoni Corporation has been working over the past year towards constant MLS improvement, not only in speed, performance and stability, but also improving workflows as well as look at feel. Following are the top three most visible improvements: The interactive Google Maps search provides an improved search interface and includes Street View. Rapattoni intends to continue to improve mapping by integrating new layers, parcel data, tax information, flood zones and more over the new few months. The new map search allows users to view listings, share information, and act on listings without leaving the page. Auto-Prospecting has been enhanced to allow agents to granularly select the types of updates they receive as well as their clients. They can select to include or exclude updates for Price Changes, Status Chance and Rejected Listings. Agents also have the ability to schedule their auto-prospecting based on specific criteria or for immediate matches. There’s also a new look and feel for auto-prospecting that extends to the MLS and email notifications for clients and agents. Rapattoni’s IDX solution also has a new look and feel, and the design will be brought into the MLS itself in the coming months. The IDX solution uses responsive design, has built-in lead generation features, and comes with a search widget that can be placed on any website easily.

Rapattoni’s New Mapping

Rapattoni's new mapping interface

Stratus Data Systems re-engineered listing input, which may not sound exciting but there are some interesting twists. Not only is it cloud-based, but it’s standalone so it can be provided separately from the full MLS system. Stratus has also structured their database so that below the level of the listing, there’s a database of building information. So, anyone who wants to use their listing input at their Real Estate Board of New York customer can have their listings auto-filled both with public records information and building information (e.g. doorman, exercise, elevator info, etc.) – saving subscribers time in what’s usually a time-consuming part of any MLS system. Stratus also engineered their system to use the AMP API, so they are ready to compete in that arena. They also support the Retsly API.

Stratus Data Systems’ New Listing Maintenance Module

Stratus - listing maintenance

Something for Everybody

All of us attending Universal Studios Night had a great time!

wizarding-world-of-harry-potter

Do we really need this type of wacky restaurant concept to please the whole family on vacation in Orlando? Pick one: Sushi or Burger, and tell your whiny kid you’ll do the other one tomorrow night. Show your kids who’s the boss and don’t settle for a sushi chef wearing cowboy boots and a hat. That’s just silly in any language!

cowfish

2017 MLS Executive Workshop – Register Now!

MLS executives and staff and leadership, please consider joining us in Scottsdale, Arizona March 1-3, 2017 for Clareity’s 16th Annual MLS Executive Workshop. This MLS Workshop will provide timely updates and address the key issues facing MLS executives and leaders. Space is limited and the event sells AND hotel sells out every single year, so please do not delay. For more information and registration, please see http://clareity.com/events

That’s all folks! Thanks for reading our 2016 NAR Meeting and Expo Report!

Thank you!

Gregg Larson
President & CEO
Clareity Consulting
Scottsdale, AZ
Gregg.Larson@clareity.com
602-315-3362
Matt Cohen
Chief Technologist
Clareity Consulting
Minneapolis, MN
Matt.Cohen@clareity.com
612-331-1788

 

Posted in Publications Tagged with: , , , , , , , , ,

Computer Vision and Improving Real Estate Search

Matt CohenLast week I was on a panel at the RESO conference where we talked about software personalization as an important trend. Back in 2008, I wrote some articles about improving prospecting and real estate search, one aspect of which was that we needed to get smarter about understanding consumer preferences so that consumers don’t have to page through so many listings, or can at least see the most likely matches to their interests first. As I noted in that article, the tricky part was that “there are various qualitative aspects of property selection that we don’t currently track data for at the current time.” That’s where “computer vision”, a technology that is becoming both more robust and more common, could make a difference.

“Computer vision” is the ability of a computer to analyze photos and create data out of them. Imagine a consumer likes open floor plans, modern kitchens, wide driveways, high ceilings, mature trees, or lots of natural light – those are all things a consumer might mention when describing their dream home, but little of that information is reliably tracked by agents in most MLSs. With computer vision, that data could be extracted from the listing photos by a computer as keywords by which listings could be searched – without having to manually sort through many homes and many more photos.

I recently saw an example of computer vision demonstrated by RealScout (not a Clareity client) that I was impressed by. I don’t think any company has fully leveraged the potential of computer vision and created the “perfect” product with it, but this company had clearly made some real progress on applying computer vision to real estate search. During the demonstration they showed how they could automatically tag photos so a consumer could, for instance, page through just the kitchen photos of multiple listings – even if the photos weren’t labeled “kitchen” by the MLS. The technology enables searches for normally unsearchable criteria, and to compare images for key features and rooms side-by-side and room-by-room, as illustrated below:

realscout search

realscout compareImages used with RealScout’s permission.

We’ve watched computer vision evolve over the past fifteen years or so – Google’s image search was launched in 2001 and has continued to get more sophisticated, and there are many other companies outside our industry that specialize in it. RealScout is not the only company using computer vision in real estate – during their demonstration they showed how Trulia has used it, and I’ve seen others explore this area over the past few years though not always release the resulting products. There are also quite a number of companies outside of our industry that license computer vision technology – of course, it would have to be optimized for real estate use. And there are some limitations to what the technology can do at this point, especially where listing photos are limited. No one wants their client to miss out on a home because the pictures didn’t highlight a certain feature. That said, this technology – if used artfully – can certainly augment existing listing search technologies and create a compelling user experience.

I have no doubts that our industry will continue to evaluate how to create a great listing search experience using computer vision, and that the number of products – both existing and new – leveraging this technology will grow over time. This is certainly an area to keep an eye on.

 

Posted in Clareity Blog, Matt's Real Estate Technology Blog Tagged with: , ,

RESO 2016 Fall Conference

Matt CohenFollowing are my meeting notes from the Real Estate Standard Organization’s 2016 Fall Conference. It isn’t meant to be comprehensive, but covers what happened at key sessions for those who couldn’t attend. Some of the presentations should be available at some point on the RESO website.

Day One

Jeremy Crawford, Executive Director for RESO kicked off the RESO meetings by introducing new attendees to RESO, which has the vison of “A streamlined real estate technology industry”. For those not familiar with RESO, its mission is “To create and promote the adoption of standards that drive efficiency throughout the real estate industry.” RESO is a non-profit, member organization with categories for NAR, tech vendors, brokers AORs/MLSs, and non-profit entities. Committees are driven by volunteers and ratified standards are free and open source. The standards process starts with the Research & Development group, which acts as a funnel for new ideas for the standards, then through other groups like Data Dictionary, Transport, Internet Tracking, Property Unique ID, Payloads, then finally through the Technical Committee to the Board of Directors for final standards adoption. There are also certification and marketing committees.

Workgroup meetings on the first day included:

  • Payloads Workgroup. The agenda is to review the IDX payload the group has developed, and discuss certification (e.g. an IDX “Endorsement” to the standard certifications).
  • Property Unique ID Workgroup. This group is building from efforts form the US government, public records, and other data standards organizations to build the “definitive” standard for the Universal Property Identifier to be used by the real estate industry. The agenda included a history of the effort, an overview of the proposed PUID structure, industry concerns, a solution approach, and project timelines.
  • Data Dictionary Workgroup. This group is creating a standard for the fields and lookups (enumerations) in the MLS. It is a common center for all expressions of fields and enumerations in the RETS standard. The workgroup purpose is to maintain and develop the Data Dictionary. Agenda included a process review, a discussion of the December enumerations meeting, the commercial property subtype, ownership / structure & PropertySubType, and “[Type]” Enumerations, Saved Searches, Contacts, Auto-Email relationships, and version 1.6 strategic objectives.
  • Internet Tracking Workgroup. The charter of this group is to create analytics that show value for tracking activity around the MLS listing – ideally creating a unified view of activity across all the systems where the listings are displayed. The agenda included a field summary, transporting the fields, tracking and recording methods, and next steps.
  • Research and Development Workgroup. This workgroup solicits and reviews submitted business cases from the real estate community and identifying how RESO can contribute to the benefit of that business process. The agenda included a review of current initiatives, a presentation about SSO and account linking, lockbox activity, standardizing showing data, metadata change history, industry best practices (CMLS) and MLS Business Rule Expression.
  • Transport (Web API) Workgroup. The agenda included discussing RESO Web API Update, Updated goals, use cases, oData Support, open discussion and next steps.

Other sessions include “Taking your brokerage to the next level using RESO standards”, a “Show N Tell” contest with 20 entries, and more.

Tragically, various workgroups met at the same time, so this summary will not be comprehensive. Here are some of the details of those workgroup sessions:

Property Unique ID Workgroup Session

The workgroup chair is Mark Bessett from Arizona Regional MLS. The goal of this workgroup is to create ubiquitous identifiers for properties. The standard must be standards based, non-proprietary and straightforward to implement. It must be portable – the universal key to an ecosystem of data. There has been similar work by the U.S. Department of Transportation and the CFPB, and this group has found many ways to represent uniqueness. There are many use cases, but one of the most important is linking records like tax history, listings, mortgage history, ownership history, and insurance claim history. It would also help listing aggregators identify and perhaps eliminate duplicate listings.

The proposed ID is based on public records.

  • It’s based on an ISO convention model (hierarchical)
  • ISO 3166 specifies country codes
  • Specifies that country identify sub-regions
  • US uses FIPS conventions for unique county
  • Most or all counties have unique numbering for parcels

There’s an equivalent standard for Canada.

An example:

Country Code

ISO 3166-1

Sub-country code

ISO-3166-2

(US=FIPS)

Parcel Type Identifier County defined Parcel Number Other Differentiator? (reused?, etc.)
US 04013 00 508-22-009 ?

US040130050822009A

The workgroup needs help, especially to figure out those differentiators (disambiguators). Also, to evaluate current concerns:

  • Is the county uniqueness assumption valid?
  • Do some areas allow APN re-use?
  • Do delimiters present challenges?
  • Are APNs governed (resilient to change)?

The solution approach is to:

  • Identify proposal issues (listed above) 12/2016
  • Verify and validate (Zillow, CoreLogic, CRES Data granting research license to RESO) 4/2017
  • Finalize ID components 6/2017
  • Launch proof of concept for testing 7/2017
  • Public PUID definition standard 9/2017
  • Launch RESO Open source Repository (returning PUID only) 11/2017

The group discussed issues with parcel splits, changing APN (based on land use) in California, and more. Yes, if the property changes in a substantial way, the PUID is going to change. In the case of apartments buildings with only one APN, there will need to a “unit” disambiguator. In commercial there’s a lot of “assembly”, when 15-20 blocks of residential property may merge to a single commercial APN – that will need to be accounted for – starting the disambiguator with a zoning key may be desirable. There may need to be a way to track those APNs and PUIDs that got “recycled”.

Matt says: There needs to be a standardized way of expressing lineage if we want to use this as a tool to track what has happened to a property over time, even as PUIDs change (due to parcel splits, assembly, etc.). This could potentially be accomplished using Blockchain technology.

The PUID Home is at http://members.reso.org/display/PUID

Data Dictionary Workgroup Session

Rob Larson, the workgroup chair, started with a process review:

  • Suggestions come through the Wiki from reso.org. We’re no longer using a spreadsheet.
  • Posted to Confluence for discussion (members.reso.org).
  • Managed in confluence tasks by administrators
  • Changes will be discussed with those already using the field (via the certification team)
  • There is a focus on stability around changes, and a process to support that.

The group will be meeting in San Dimas – December 6-7. The group will be working on the gold enumeration worksheet. There is a google doc where members can contribute their enumerations, whether they are going to make it to San Dimas or not.

There is a posting on Confluence regarding Commercial PropertySubType

  • Long and short lists
  • Sub Groups to the Sub Type
  • Propose an extendable “medium list” (staying away from business types – no “donut shop” – that’s “Business Type”).
  • Add to PropertySubType
  • Individuals are okay to create a sub sub type.

Examples are: agriculture, business, hotel/motel, industrial, mixed us, multi family, office, retail, unimproved land, and warehouse.

Some discussion items were brought up regarding this enumeration:

  • Would industrial include manufacturing, or would that be a separate list item?
  • What about commercial improved / commercial unimproved? This could be extended on an individual MLS level – or if there are enough MLSs that need this, it could be added to the list.
  • There may need to be more vetting around farm vs. agriculture.
  • How do we deal with a property subtype in RETS (e.g. multi-family or farm) are full-on property types in an MLS? Rob Larson discussed how a property might be cross-listing between Commercial subtype Multi-Family and the property type Residential Income as an example.
  • How about “medical”? The list could be extended – start chiming in on the list on Confluence!

The current enumeration passed voting – note that this doesn’t mean that it can’t be extended further via further work in Confluence.

The conversation next moved to Ownership and Structure, and the idea of a gradual replacement of the property sub-type.

  • Describe the type of ownership (e.g. fee simple (freehold) or lease (leasehold)) – NOT ownership structures (individual, partnership, corporation, trust) and NOT forms of transfer/financing (deed, right to use, in acquisition).
    • What about types of common interest (coop, condo, etc.)? RESO’s property subtype includes condominium, stock cooperative, timeshare. Other common interests include planned development, community apartment, or none. Canada has strata and cooperative.
    • Options:
      • Ownership option 1: keep existing LandLeaseYN and add new field CommonInterest (condominium, planned development, community apartment, stock cooperative, timeshare, none) where LandLeaseYN=No means fee simple / freehold.
      • Ownership option 2: Deprecate LandLeaseYN and replace with Ownership Type (land fee simple, condominium, planned development, community apartment, land leas, stock cooperative, timeshare).
        • How about adding tenants in common (TIC)?
      • What direction should the data dictionary go? Option one was selected.
    • DO describe the types of structures (SFR detached, apartment building, townhouse/rowhomes) but NOT styles of architecture.
      • Do we keep PropertySubType around, or add Structure type?
      • Enumerations: Single Family Residence, Manufactured Home, Townhouse, Apartment (condo?, unit?), Duplex, Triplex, Quadraplex, Boat Slip, Deeded Parking, Cabin, Farm, Ranch, (+ our commercial list).
        • “SFR is too generic – all my agents will just pick that one.”
        • SFR is NOT a structure – that’s just how it’s used. Try “attached” or “detached”.
        • There are really two things reflected in this list at present – what it is and how it was built. That may be a separate action item, if desired by the group.
        • This needs to be vetted out more.

How should we enumerate repeating elements?

  • Pretty Easy (one size fits all)
    • Room[type]Level
    • Room[type]LengthWidthSource
    • Room[type]Furnished
  • Room[type]Features
    • Features can be different for each type
    • Should RESO tackle the “low hanging fruit?” (e.g. bedroom, bathroom, kitchen, other?)
  • Bedroom & Bathroom
    • One list, or different lists for rooms 1-5 (and master?)?
  • Kitchen
  • Other Fields
    • Basement, Bonus Room, Den, Exercise Room, Family Room, Game Room, Great Room, Gym, Laundry, Library, Living Room, Loft, Media Room, Office, Sauna, Utility Room, Workshop

The group voted to move forward with an exploration of the second option.

Research & Development Workgroup Session

Greg Moore, the workgroup chair, introduced the group and how it works – promoting use of the online discussion system on reso.org, and encouraging a rich conversation that drives standards development. We talked about the following subjects:

  • SSO Account Linking. Paul Hethmon from Clareity Security presented a proposal for “User Federation”. More on this subject later in this post.
  • Lockbox activity payload. Summary: Work with RESO member lockbox vendors, MLSs and brokerages to define a standardized data feed (payload) for lockbox data. Greg has reached out to some vendors already. The value is having current standardized lockbox activity data available to brokerage and MLS systems would facilitate better statistics. RESO member lockbox system providers collaborate with the broker community and MLSs to define a standard (data dictionary) field set and definition for a lockbox data feed. This involves lockbox system providers supplying data and brokers and MLSs who consume the data.
  • Standardize showing data. This is similar to the lockbox effort – in this case, facilitating updates to broker calendaring systems and facilitating better statistics.
  • Metadata change history. The idea is to create a payload so people can see what RETS data structures have changed over time or are going to change.
  • We have created some Best Practices documents with CMLS
    • Basic RETS Usage. At the heart of it, for providers: Ensuring data is current and accessible via compliant RETS server. Ensuring brokers can access their complete content. Ensuring all data consumers of RETS are aware of certified resources available. Each resources should have a record modification date. There should be clear documentation of available resources. Deleted listings, media and other content is clearly documented. Provide 4 weeks written notice of significant changes, providing documentation. Providing access to a test platform at least 2 weeks before release. Data consumers need to know the RESO certifications the data provider has achieved, to ensure data pull are efficient, to comply with data access and display rules, and pull the payload specific to the data use case. The full best practice document will be published by CMLS.
    • Discuss developing an image (media standards) best practice…
  • Review other business cases at the reso.org confluence R&D home page.
  • Business Rules syntax. I described the basic syntax as further described in the full documentation available on the reso.org collaboration system. Susie Cass from RPR described her experience using the syntax to successfully document MLS rules.
  • The following slide illustrates WHY it’s best to use structured English and REBR rather than programming code to exchange rules. The proprietary code is unintelligible to anyone but the originating vendor, and cannot be validated by the business folks!

working-with-rebr

Transport Workgroup Session

Greg Lemon took notes from this session that I could not attend due to the concurrent scheduling of workgroups. This is my summary of those notes and any mistakes are mine.

It is the objective of this workgroup to have an Update Standard (draft) completed in Q1 2017 – that standard will allow for API-based listing maintenance. There were still questions remaining about what will be included in this initial release – whether it will focus only on new records or on modifications to existing records; also whether it will include partial, full, or a minimal field set for update transactions (at first). The consensus was to start out with updating media as a starting point to learn lessons that would be applied to other resources. Also, it was determined that the location of the Business Rules (BR) logic (at this time) should be behind the API and reside on the server. [Matt’s note: the BR payload should soon be sent to Transport, so they can figure out the appropriate way to expose this payload.]

The group discussed OData support, and the workgroup will look through the OData 4 standard to see which sections (e.g. OData version 4 Section 11.4) will be used by each of the use cases. Hopefully RESO will not need to deviate from the standard, or not very much.

Payloads Workgroup Session

What I heard from several people that attended this session is that there was a lot of tension around the idea that there would be a minimum set of fields that MLSs might be required to include in order to get an IDX Payload “Endorsement”.  At one point during the meeting MLSs were assured they may not be required to include specific content in the IDX payload fields, but if so it’s unclear what the value of this payload would be for brokers. It sounds like this is going to be an ongoing discussion.

Day Two

Jeremy Crawford kicked off the day. RESO has undergone great growth in the past year. There are now over 570 RESO member organizations contributing to standards – a 30% increase year to date. There’s a 25% overall increase in workgroup participation. Over 1.2 million MLS subscribers are represented by 630+ MLSs that are data dictionary certified. Over 375,000 MLS subscribers are represented on MLSs that are Web API Server certified. The conference this year had 32% more registrants than last year.

Art Carter talked about strategic positioning for RESO and its role in the real estate industry. One of the main goals for the board of directors has been to improve the velocity with which standards are developed, and this goal has been achieved. Art talked about how this organization is a listening organization, and he used the Payloads workgroup as an example of this – he recognized how much brokers from that session wanted to see a standardized IDX payload. Art talked about the composition of the board of directors – he encouraged people to visit reso.org to learn more about the organization. The nomination period for the board of directors will end November 10th. Finally, Art talked about the aggressive strategic plan and how hard the RESO staff (like Jeremy Crawford, Greg Lemon, and the staff from IMI) have worked to meet goals.

Shaun York from Homes.com talked about how they perform listing data aggregation. In terms of Inventory, Homes.com manages over 5.8 Million active listings from 834 sources: 643 MLSs, 70 brokers, and 122 others. They use RETS (646 sources), FTP (push and pull – 129 sources)), HTTP, and Web Services to get these listings. Most are updated hourly, most of the rest at least daily, and a few (40 sources) less than once per day. Homes.com has a “Discovery” pipeline that goes through several stages: image processing, geospatial targeting, property record matching, school and neighborhood tagging, data deduplication, profile construction, and publication. Altogether that’s 733 operations per second, just to process listings! Each listing takes 5 seconds to go through the process, with most of that time being image retrieval. Over 65 organizations receive Homes.com performance metrics, in formats including 3rd party APIs, FTP flat files, and even PDFs attached via email. Measures are both real time and aggregated over a period of time (day, week, or month). Shaun shared a list of the fields they typically share, and expressed the need for the standardization currently being worked on by RESO. Homes.com would love to reduce the use of non-RESO transports, and leverage the new RESO Web API further.

There were a number of other sessions (including the “Show N Tell” on day one, a panel I spoke on, and other day two sessions) that were informative and fun but weren’t really focused on RESO’s mission of creating and driving adoption of data standards, so I’m not going to cover them in depth in this (already) very long post. That said, it certainly was interesting to see how Zillow wants to compete with what Upstream is doing –, and how many proprietary APIs they have (agent reviews, leads, AVM, public records, traffic/tracking) that they might want to coordinate on with other vendors via RESO to create standards. On day three there was also a presentation by Ethan Bailey about CoreLogic Trestle which was, in some ways, comparable with the Zillow and Upstream presentations but also adding a data marketplace and contract workflow. But again, detailed descriptions of those presentations are really out of scope for an article about data standards development – perhaps in another article!

Rob Larson from CRMLS presented “Data Dictionary: Then, Now, Beyond”. In 2011, 23 MLSs met to look at RETS Standard Names and their own contributions. By 2012 they released version 1.1 of the Data Dictionary that had 731 fields, 65 enumerations, covering the following resources: property, member, office, media, history, and contacts. By August 2013, they had 801 fields and two new resources including open house. In version 2.3 released in July 2014 the workgroup added commercial classes, defined “core fields”, added 42 fields, and 93 modifications. In August 2015, workgroup released version 1.4, which had five certification levels, a “teams” resource and over a hundred modifications from the previous version. In June 2016, the workgroup released 1.5 with 1058 fields and 1434 enumerations. Work was done in a Wiki rather than a spreadsheet; they added the OUID resource, minimum IDX fields, fields about power production and a “Silver Enumerations” level.

In Spring of 2017 the group will release version 1.6. Work will be done to evolve ownership/structure versus property sub-type, adding accessibility and showing data fields, “Gold Enumerations”, and resources for saved searches, carts, and portal preferences, as well as Internet Tracking Fields (from that work group). Beyond that, in version 1.7, the group will finish enumerating picklist fields, add a system rules resource, and property unique IDs. Additional targets (for 2017/2018) include transaction management, tax, statistics, evolving tech (VR), teams (enhanced), CRM, back office, Internet of Things, and DOE / Green Data Sources.

“Toward RESO standard real estate developer platform for MLS and Brokerages” was presented by Dr. Umesh Harigopal and Matt Kumar. Matt says: If you aren’t “geeky”, skip to the next major section of this blog, “Day Three”! They believe the opportunities to accelerate analytical innovation are in three areas:

  1. Big Data & Integration
  • Longitudinal Property Record
    • Common temporal model for real estate properties
    • Single standard canonical model across data sets
      • Assessment, Recorder, Neighborhood, etc.
  1. Retrieval & Delivery
  • Standard Real Estate Ontology
    • Matt says: Ontology is a formal naming and definition of the types, properties, and interrelationships of the entities that really or fundamentally exist for a particular domain of discourse. I know, that’s still pretty dense stuff.
    • Represent RE knowledge for effective querying.
    • Enable natural language processing (NLP) frameworks extract ontological structures
  1. Analytics & Insights
  • Reusable Analytical Models
    • Appraisal models, improving consistency
  • Real Estate Cognitive Computing framework

Delivering a standards-based cognitive computing platform provides a “cognition fabric” providing insights – potentially predictive – from unstructured and structured data streams. This would involve an application layer on top of standard frameworks & platform (realtime predictive models, cognition fabric, longitudinal property record, and canonical data model). That would sit on top of image, video, text and transactional data.

Focusing on the predictive angle, they are trying to generate the following insights:

  • Recommend when to sell a home
  • Recommend who to work with to buy/sell my home
  • Owner’s propensity to sell
  • Best home to buy
  • Predict a home price
  • Recommend best investments

Challenges are:

  • Semantically inconsistent data
  • Partially specified data
  • Integration of disparate information domains
  • Natural language with incomplete sentences.

This group has a “solution approach” to evolve metadata to ontology, taking all the information and putting it through natural language processing and data integration, leveraging machine learning models and RE Ontology, along with query and analytics engines and a derived knowledge graph.

The example they provided involved pricing predictions. Neat stuff!

Day Three

Jeremy Crawford kicked off the day by urging MLSs to switch their data feeds over to use the Data Dictionary, even knowing how difficult it may be to do so for all involved.

Glen Phillips, CEO of Lake Homes described “The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly: Lesson from Joining 50 MLSs in 80 Months”. Some background: How could a small brokerage compete with national ones (using a “Money Ball” movie analogy) – by creating a highly virtual company, with one foot in the cloud and one in bricks in mortar – just like Uber, Amazon, Airbnb, Instacart, and Shipt. This brokerage focused on Lakes – which stretch between the MLSs, and they needed to create a single website for consumers, on which they could find all lake properties, regardless of MLS. They’re in 50 MLSs in 10 states, focusing on 41,000+ listings – specializing on specific lake inventory. Solds and pending listings are only available for display from a limited number of MLSs and not all offered a data dictionary feed. The good: There are service-minded MLSs and dictionary certification appears to have buy-in, and almost all MLSs have good data. The bad – sold data in feeds is NOT commonly available and specialized data field usage is very inconsistent (e.g. agents not marking a listing as lake view, lake access, etc.).  The ugly: some MLSs are unresponsive to members and some rural-area MLSs commonly are data isolationists. A few MLSs operate to fund staff, parties, and trips. Two MLSs they deal with issue “policy” fines in direct conflict with laws and regulations. Overall, there’s more good than bad/ugly. With time, they are typically treated professionally. Consumers want more data – this is an opportunity! Matt says: I think this presentation really plays into both MLS rules and how NAR monitors MLS compliance – as well as informing our ongoing discussions of resources and payloads in the process of standards creation at RESO.

Dave Duran from Yo Data talked about creating a Schema.org extension for real estate data based on RESO standards. According to Dave, Google is using this type of structured data to create search results, displaying key data in their interface. This is illustrated in how they display recipe information, travel information, and more – above the organic search results. Zillow, Trulia, and Redfin are taking advantage of this. He suggests extending schema.org for real estate data, specifically open house events, real estate offers (who is selling something), and identity (in terms of the author/ originating publisher, e.g. the listing broker). Dave wants to see if he can get RESO to participate in this effort.

Scott Petronus from Onboard Informatics and chair of the Transport Workgroup, along with Demian Quinonez from CRMLS, Ashish Antal from MLSListings, and John Kennedy from dynaConnections presented “Implementing the RESO Web API: Challenges and Lessons Learned”.  A number of challenges came up including authentication and security – whether to use Oauth2 or OpenID Connect. Matt says: I believe how that’s going to work out in the final-final spec down the line is still a matter of discussion!). Certification of OpenID Connect security was challenging for one panelist because there was no one at RESO to talk to about how to meet those requirements. Other challenges included getting metadata for the data dictionary right, and implementing specific search features like date/time. Another good question came up – “How do you charge for this service? On the basis of “hits”? How do you monitor usage?” That’s going to be an ongoing discussion. While there were a few bumps in the road for certification, it all worked out for all of the panelists. One of the panelists suggested there be a reference implementation set up – not the first time this suggestion has come up during the standards development process. Another was very concerned about how top-heavy OpenID Connect is, and the lack of industry support for it (again, this is an ongoing discussion).

Paul Hethmon from Clareity Security proposed a process for user federation using both SAML and OpenID Connect protocols by using a relying party proxy. In a nutshell, this is a process for allowing users to move from one group of SSO-connected system to another, where for example an MLS may have one SSO “identity provider” and a broker has another. When a user moves from one to the other, the second would communicate back to the first, and the accounts would be linked. In that way, for example, the broker intranet would know on an ongoing basis that user “Paul” coming from the MLS is the same as user “PaulHethmon” on the broker system when that user moves between systems. Paul has provided a formal proposal for this, which is on the RESO site, in the R&D area. One person in the audience asked, “Why not use OpenID to do this?” the answer for which is that we need a platform agnostic solution because people use different SSO protocols – which is exactly why this is a discussion for the standards group.

Matt McGuire from CoreLogic presented “The Final Planned Version of the RETS Specification”. All proposed changes will be made by January 1, 2017. There will be a workgroup review, and final submission to the board of directors by mid-March 2017, if not earlier. Testing requirements will need to be nailed down early, so testing and certification goes smoothly. Highlights of 1.9 include:

  • Additional support for data dictionary and WebAPI transition
  • Update standards references to current versions – improved support for 3rd party libraries and security standards
  • A potentially breaking change in RCP 108 with change to headers to use ‘X-‘ form (e.g. X-RETS-Request-ID)
  • Further corrections to the standard including Update Transaction.

Note that there was no RETS 1.x meeting during this conference. RESO is no longer just “RETS” – it’s so much more now.

That’s all folks! I hope you find my notes useful.

Posted in Clareity Blog, Matt's Real Estate Technology Blog Tagged with: ,

MLS Best Practices for “Coming Soon” Listings

Matt CohenNot every MLS market allows for “coming soon” listings. Various articles have been written about the benefits and pitfalls of these listings and we also discussed them extensively a few years ago at Clareity’s MLS Executive Workshop. But this article is not about passing some kind of judgement about them. In some markets MLSs have implemented a “coming soon” or similar listing status and additional MLSs are evaluating doing the same today, including some of our clients. Clareity has encountered some MLS rule sets that describe the conditions for these types of listings in great depth – but also others that do not adequately describe those conditions. So, this article lists out some of the best of what we have seen for either creating “coming soon” rules or re-evaluating those rules.

Define Your Terms. No matter what you call these listings, be sure to clearly define your term.

Here’s one such definition of a “Coming Soon Listing” from the MLSListings website:  “There is a valid listing contract between the seller and the listing broker, but the listing is not ready for market. The listing is in the MLS, but not on market. Coming Soon is not an online exclusion or a draft of the listing.”

Here’s another example from North Carolina Regional MLS: “Listings where the marketing date is utilized or where the seller has not authorized display until a later date must nevertheless be entered within the time frame above but the status would be “Coming Soon”.

Some MLSs are even more explicit that the listing cannot be marketed, shown, or sold while in this status or it is a violation. Obviously, there are some carve-outs to describe, because the listing is being marketed to other agents in the MLS, for starters. Be explicit about what is allowed and what is not while a listing is in this status in the MLS.

Input Requirements. Some MLSs state that a primary listing photo must be input within 48 or 72 hours of a listing being entered into the system – even (explicitly) a “coming soon” listing. Other MLSs explicitly state that no photo is needed until the listing status changes to another status.

Status Flow. After a period of time (e.g. 21 or 30 days) or a “marketing begins date” / “start showing date” (whichever comes first or last), does the listing status automatically change (say, to “withdrawn” or “active” status)? Every MLS we have seen so far only allows newly entered listings to be put into the “coming soon” status – one cannot go back to this status from any other. One exception we have seen is where MLS staff can move the listing back to “coming soon” from “withdrawn” after it was automatically moved to “withdrawn”.  MLSs allow users to move the listing from “coming soon” to “active” at any time, and this may change the “marketing begins date” (if extant) to the date the status was changed.

We’ve seen some advanced rules regarding status flow that bears mentioning. An example, for consideration, is as follows: “A listing broker may not re-list a property in COMING SOON status unless the listing has been in EXPIRED or WITHDRAWN status for over 90 days; or unless the property is listed with a new brokerage firm; or the property has been sold or rented.”

Regardless of your statuses and rules and any automated or manual processes you intend to have happen, the status flow needs to be determined, spelled out in the MLS rules and regulations, and the business rules must be reflected in the MLS system.

Listing Distribution / Use.  Syndication is always disabled for these listings, and they are not included in the IDX feed, as those constitute marketing uses that are counter to the definition of the listing status. Some MLSs include them in the VOW feed and/or broker back office feeds – while others don’t.

Other MLS Functions. There are a wide variety of system ramifications that need to be decided upon and implemented in the MLS software:

  • Under what conditions does DOM (ADOM, CDOM, etc.) accrue, or not accrue?
  • Can these listings be included in prospecting results and client-collaboration portal searches and results?
  • Will reports include specific language (e.g. “No showings.”)
  • Are these listings included in a Hotsheet? In their own section? What about price changes?
  • Is the email function disabled for these listings?
  • Is the print function disabled for these listings?
  • How are these listings used in terms of statistics (market statistics, production statistics, etc.)?
  • One of our MLS clients has a variation on “coming soon” where only others in their firm can see the listing, and it is also available in their own back-office feeds but not in others’.

Whether or not to implement “coming soon” listings is a decision to be made market by market to meet the needs of participants. If your MLS implements them, having clear policies and procedures surrounding them is a good thing, both in terms of communicating with subscribers and ensuring that the programmers implementing your listing input and other MLS functions are reflecting MLS organizational decisions.

The subject of “coming soon” listings in the MLS was first discussed extensively at Clareity’s MLS Executive Workshop. Registration for the next Workshop has just re-opened.

Posted in Clareity Blog, Matt's Real Estate Technology Blog Tagged with: ,

Data Sharing – Viable, But Not an Easy Answer

In our previous blog post, Clareity Consulting pointed out that “data shares – at least in most markets – are not the answer.”  That doesn’t mean that they are not a useful tool for MLSs for solving issues relating to Overlapping Market Disorder – including creating consolidated data for MLS and IDX/VOW use, helping to eliminate duplicate fees, and more. Clareity has, in fact, helped several clients to establish data shares in our industry where it was not feasible to merge MLSs for political reasons. However, data sharing provides limited benefits in comparison with MLS consolidation, and it’s not as simple as some who just look at the technical aspects of it might think. While there are some very successful data share arrangements, in recent years some data shares arrangements have collapsed as organizations run into the complexities that they thought they were avoiding. There are a variety of areas of conflict that occur when a data share is set up:

Initial and Ongoing Costs. Data shares most often fail because of costs, especially because of the vendor and staff time needed to maintain the data share which are unanticipated and cause tensions between groups. This goes beyond having a vendor charging to map the data from one system to another as it moves from one system to and from the other. For the data to be usable in one compilation, it really needs to be as similar as possible in both systems. That means ideally having similar property types and statuses, as well as field names and field values – especially how amenities are grouped. If that’s not done, searches and reports can become ungainly. What seemed simple really ends up taking long negotiation between data share parties. Then, over the longer term, data share parties will want to make changes to their fields – in a data share those can’t be made without coordinating between the two systems and potentially incurring additional cost. This is not just vendor time and cost – but it takes leadership and staff time to maintain. It can be frustrating when one group wants to make changes and there is push-back from the other(s). With the consolidation of MLSs, one goes through this process once, decisions are made, and then the single MLS is more efficient moving forward.

Data Use. Many questions related to data use must be answered before MLSs establish a data share. For example:

  • What data is shared between the MLSs?
  • How may subscribers use that data?
  • How may each association and its MLS use the combined data?
  • For what purposes can each license that compilation?
  • What happens if there is disagreement about a use?
  • How is each group responsible for protecting the data?
  • How is copyright registration handled?
  • What happens in event of a lawsuit over copyright infringement?
  • What happens to the data and all the derivative uses (statistical reports, CMAs, AVMs, etc.) if the data share is ended?

These are complex matters, and groups end up needing a rigorously crafted Intellectual Property Agreement to reflect their eventual understanding. Even when MLSs have taken care to articulate this type of agreement, there have been legal conflicts. One might think by avoiding MLS merger in favor of a data share, MLSs are avoiding complexity – but that’s just not the case. In fact, it’s more likely that two or more MLS decision-making groups will end up in conflict over data use than if the region has a single group. This issue doesn’t necessarily go away even with regionalization – unless it is clear in the process of company formation that shareholder associations no longer are the decision-makers with regard to data use – that is an MLS function.

Rule Conformance and Compliance. Creating a data share is not just a matter of aligning fields and statuses, and coming to agreement over data uses but also aligning on both rules (both validation rules and display rules [IDX, etc.] and compliance checking. If this isn’t done the groups end up competing on who has the “easiest” rules and least stringent compliance – which leads to bad data for everyone, inconsistent display practices that cause tensions between groups, and more. Even when groups agree on a common set of rules and compliance practices, differences in rule interpretation can cause tensions. Consistency of enforcement matters, especially for multi-office companies. Frankly, it’s easier to have one MLS compliance groups than two. Again, a data share is about a lot more than something the vendor can just do for you.

Price Competition. This is a scary area to discuss, because anti-trust concerns can appear so quickly. Just like there can be competition on rules and compliance, there can be a race to the bottom on price – and subsequently on quality of service. Though the data share can create “MLS of choice”, one cannot avoid this issue by setting pricing or boundaries – again, one enters anti-trust territory.

Ease of Use. If the data share just involves “Reciprocal Access” between MLS systems or the addition of another “overlay” system, rather than sharing data from one MLS system to use inside another, subscribers must learn a new system in addition to their MLS system. These types of data share solutions also do not allow the subscribers to leverage the shared data in their native MLS for use in statistics, CMAs, prospecting, etc.  That’s a substantial limitation!

Decision-Making Conflict. In a “Shared MLS System” type of data share, one must still establish a governance structure for managing the system – and we’ve seen tensions flare up between MLSs over the years even when this is done. Sometimes, depending on the governance structures set up around the shared system, there are also governance delays as decisions are brought back to each shareholder. Sometimes important decisions take months – or are never made.

When a regional MLS is formed, associations can focus more on association functions – the reverse is true by adding data share complexity, as association staff people are typically more involved with a data share.  With a regional MLS, one can leverage buying power – but rarely with a data share (the exception, to some degree, being a few larger MLSs sharing a system). With a regional MLS one can apply the buying power to improve product and service scope – but not with a data share. A data share doesn’t necessarily result in reducing the number of data feeds needed by participants – unless all broker-desired uses and licenses are agreed to as part of the data share. The same goes for the benefit of uniform rules and enforcement for brokers – that doesn’t just happen automatically with a data share. And, for those brokers that want to stay involved with governance and committees, the data share doesn’t reduce the MLS to one organization. From another perspective, software vendors still have to deal with the 700+ MLSs – data shares do not significantly reduce the barrier to innovation that maintaining so many MLSs – each with their own data licenses, compliance processes, etc. – creates.

MLSs need to fully understand the pros and cons of various forms of MLS cooperation – including the various forms of data shares and regionalization – before choosing a strategy. Clareity Consulting believes that there are various situations where a data share is the right tool – and it is a tool we will continue to leverage for clients where it is the right solution. By understanding potential issues, like those listed above, some issues can be avoided. However, a data share has much of the complexity of creating a regional MLS – it is in some ways more complicated in the long term, as described above, and it lacks some of the advantages of consolidation. That is why, where possible politically, consolidation is more desirable.  Also, many of the brokers we have spoken with and surveyed want fewer MLSs, and data shares are a way that MLSs try to avoid consolidation.   “It’s good enough,” some people would say.  But, with the pace of today’s innovation and tomorrow’s competition, “good enough” may not be good enough for long.

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