Trade Show Floor
There hasn’t been much mind-blowing innovation demonstrated on the trade show floor in recent years, but this year there was a big splash.
Best New Tech
The best new technology we saw is coming from Matterport. They sell a camera and associated app that can be used to easily create something that much more than a virtual tour – it is an immersive experience. It can be viewed on a computer or mobile device but where it really has amazing impact is when viewed through a device powered by Oculus Rift, as Matt is wearing in the picture below. It really feels as though you are walking through the house; you can almost reach out and open up the oven in the kitchen. Currently the camera costs $4,500 and it costs $19 to make each tour, with a plan ranging from $49-149 per month for typical volumes. Having a tour converted to be used by the Oculus Rift costs an additional few hundred dollars, so, this technology isn’t yet for everyone or every property. However, we’ve already heard of brokers buying a camera for their office and creating tours for every one of their agents’ listings.
Move’s New Brand
One of the most talked-about changes on the show floor was Realtor.com’s new re-branding. We like it a lot – it’s bold and stands out a lot better than the old blue-green-teal thing. And the tagline, “Real estate in real time,”is awesome. Of course, it’s a tagline that our friends at MRIS have been using for a few years. We later heard that someone at Realtor.com had asked MRIS permission to use the tagline, which was granted.
Supra’s New Key
Supra is promoting its new XpressKEY, which is especially good for agents who don’t carry a smartphone. The new key is quite compact, has a touchscreen with haptic feedback (such as a vibration or other tactile sensation), and updates over the cell network. It sends real-time showing information, can be remotely deactivated or authorized, and provides fast infrared lockbox communication. The super-bright flashlight built into it is a nice touch, as are the user replaceable battery and standard USB charging port.
CodeBox: a New Supra or SentriLock Competitor?
Seen on the tradeshow floor. It’s good to know that if it doesn’t work out, your MLS or Association can get your money back. Your reputation and the time and resources spent rolling it out? Not so much. 😉
NAR’s 2015 REach Program
Every year NAR’s Second Century Fund provides resources and mentoring for a number of companies that then exhibit at the tradeshow. In 2015, those companies were:
- AssetAvenue, an online peer-to-peer lending platform for commercial real estate loans
- BoostUp, a down payment savings platform
- Guard Llama, an agent security tool that alerts police of your location at the push of a button
- Loop & Tie, a platform for sending customer engagement gifts
- NotaryCam, an online eClosing solution built upon its unique online notary platform
- Pro.com, a home services marketplace
- TermScout, providing sales intelligence for commercial real estate
Interestingly, one last member of the class of 2015 was August (http://www.august.com). The August Smart Lock enables listing agents to arrange access for showings, stagers, and service professionals using smartphones for limited time access. This type of product could be disruptive to the traditional lockbox market. It may seem strange that NAR would support something that could pose a long-term risk for SentriLock, but perhaps the two systems will be integrated to complement each other.
Black Knight MLS has provided several significant releases with dozens of individual feature updates since the beginning of the year. One that has gotten great response from end-users is that, when Paragon is alerted that your email will not reach your intended recipient, users will receive a message indicating that their email was not received. These notifications, called NDRs, will include the reason for the bounce, if available. Paragon now also provides image editing including rotation and crop tools, auto-save for listing input and the ability to add documents to the CMA presentation. The Black Knight Team recently completed the internationalization of Paragon for its newly attained Canadian Customers, an expansion of its Market Monitor function including additional configurability and categories (Sold within 6 months, Listing Tours and Open Houses, etc.) and, in order to facilitate “Coming Soon” listings and the ability to market a listing within one’s own Office, Brokerage or Board, the Team implemented “Listing Visibility” functionality that includes the ability to include/exclude the listing from Prospecting, CDOM, RETS Feeds at each “Visibility” level. Black Knight is readying a number of enhancements to their Mobile Offering, continuing improvements to its Calendaring widget, enhancing the Power Search and unveiling the next version of Consumer Portal function.
CoreLogic now has INRIX integration, which eliminates the “commute time mystery” for homebuyers. Agents can specify an address (e.g., a work address) that can be driven to/from within a specified arrival time at a given time of day, and the system will automatically draw a map polygon shape containing the homes for sale within that drive time. CoreLogic has also made a variety of client portal enhancements, including overall usability and an email notification to the agent if a client hasn’t accepted an invitation after five days. They are also rolling out the new RESO 1.3 data management and distribution solution: a RETS Server and Web API to fulfill the NAR mandate. Matrix 360 is now in development. This new platform provides a parcel-based platform that organizes all listing records, tax records, and other supplementary data as child events of the property record. This initiative will eventually result in the consolidation of the Realist and Matrix platforms, with customers able to subscribe to listing management services, property information services, or both. Matrix 360 will have a refined user experience and redesigned systems architecture, and will use the Amazon cloud to provide reliability and speed.
FBS released its native iOS v.1.7 and Android 1.1 apps, a new photo uploader for both desktop and mobile web, new client collaboration features (a new menu, inbox and sent email features), a direct syndication feature, and sold listing capability for FlexMLS IDX. They also released a new photo uploader, which allows users to load an unlimited number of hi-res (3,000 x 2,000 pixel) photos all at once, drag and drop to reorder, rotate, rename and add a 1,000 character description to each photo. Users can also work in other areas of flexmls while the photos upload in the background. Photos can now be uploaded to incomplete listings so they will be there when the listing goes live. Coming this summer, we are told to expect “Flexmls Sharing,” a client collaboration module that works on any device and will transform the “email-centric prospecting process into a collaborative, real-time experience.”
Rapattoni has released a new touch-based responsive mobile MLS solution. They are also providing a listing syndication opting manager and have integrated with ListTrac for reporting. Rapattoni is also providing an enhanced utility to transfer listings that provides a new wizard style interface along with date range criteria fields for each individual status plus Co-Agent/Co-Office options, allowing for more precise searches and listing transfers. An optional new listing picture copyright feature requires users to select a picture copyright or licensing assignment. Rapattoni has certified customers on RESO Data Dictionary 1.3, in preparation for the end-of-year deadline.
Here are some of the key takeaways from various meetings:
Council of MLS
MLSs were urged to get their RESO certification in order as soon as possible, and not to wait for the last minute. MLS software vendors can help, but if everyone asks for help at the last minute, it’s not going to work out well. CMLS also discussed the idea of providing an MLS organization certification based on the best practices documents that they have published.
Many MLS executives and others seemed to be hearing about RESO standards compliance for the first time. There still seems to be a communications challenge even at the highest levels of our industry.
Federal Priorities Issues Briefing
At this briefing, speakers answered many questions about the new CFPB rules and expressed ongoing concerns about potential reduction of the mortgage interest deduction. The CFPB’s impact on real estate brokerage and closing services is potentially massive.
If you’re not up to speed on CFPB’s August 1 deadline and what it means for brokers, see Stewart Title’s summary and video at: http://www.stewart.com/en/cfpb.html.
NAR, via the Realtor Party, is also actively lobbying to address the patent troll issue via various pieces of Federal legislation.
MLS Executive Session
Realtor.com gave an update about the new commercials, improved traffic, high site stickiness, and the new branding and tagline. They also shared their open letter to the industry about their industry friendly principles, and asked MLSs to share it with their subscribers. The key promises include providing a link to broker websites and SEO friendly links directly to listings on brokers’ sites, managed in a control panel; a free listing performance report; no content difference – no charge for more photos and tours; and that the MLS copyright will be displayed. They will be launching new agent profiles, including ratings and reviews, by the end of 2015. Agent search results will sort by activity, based on sold data, and Realtor.com wants to display the agents’ past sales in their profile, so they are asking MLSs to provide them sold data and allow its use for that purpose. These promises in total represent a huge shift and say “game on”; they match up well with the terms offered by Zillow Group.
A lovely session honored the late Andy Rapattoni, including a video and Andy’s widow, Nikki, talking about their long life together.
There was a panel to discuss syndication. Cameron Paine expressed his support for the Broker Public Portal (BPP), a competitive response to the dominant national portals, which would be owned and operated by brokers. For more information, see: http://brokerpublicportal.com. Jim Harrison opined that there is a role for MLS in syndication as an option, but MLSListings also supports use of a syndication partner and broker direct syndication. Jim did point out that his MLS could negotiate the best terms for the data use. Cameron Paine also felt there was a role for MLS in syndication. He did not think it was right that only 40% of his subscribers ever went to the syndication partner site to manage their settings, and he was dissatisfied with the syndication partner’s data protections; he said that his own negotiated terms are far better. Matt Consalvo spoke to “Z2K,” (the Zillow deadline for direct data feeds due to its break-up with ListHub) saying that the April deadline was a goal, but his organization was not going to sacrifice anything important just to make the deadline. Jim Harrison’s take on Z2K is that the national portals only need 100 MLSs for the majority of the data, and Trulia had 125 before the deadline was even set, so Z2K was sort of a non-issue.
Ann Bailey led a short panel discussion asking what it would take to spur more innovation in the industry. Rich Lull from Black Knight opined that the answer was the RESO Data Dictionary and API, and also to have the MLS form tighter relationships and integrations and workflows with third parties while maintaining a single point of accountability. Luke Glass from Realtor.com replied that innovation takes access to capital, talent, and data, and that he’d like to see vendor consolidation, since currently the agent technology spend is spread across too many companies that just break even. Ann asked Greg Robertson from W&R Studios about RPR’s AMP project, and Greg did a good job laying out some of the challenges. Art Carter from CRMLS opined that AMP may discourage consolidation as an unintended consequence and noted that he is already developing front end of choice in his marketplace.
MLS Forum and MLS Issues and Policies Committee
Mark Lesswing, CIO at NAR, explained the need for a robust RESO API. Our current RESO RETS version does “Read” well and “Update” pretty well. The new RESO Web API standard leverages a full “CRUD” (create, read, update, delete) API called oData, recognized and used outside of our industry. It moves us from bulk download to high speed access. It will allow companies to hire people who already understand oData – people from outside the industry – to create a data access application.
Ron France from RPR provided an update. In its latest release RPR added Walkability scores. Ron provided an overview of RPR Mobile. Apple and Android apps were launched in November of 2014. In 2015, there will be an app for tablets that includes a new map drawing tool for custom searches. Ron encouraged MLS leadership to take advantage of the training and support RPR offers in getting subscribers to leverage RPR training and RPR itself. RPR is also providing various new integration options, including deep-linking from the MLS and Single Sign-on. RPR also provides a data share platform called “RPR View.” 317 MLSs representing over half a million subscribers currently use RPR View to share Active listings with neighboring boards and a somewhat smaller number uses it for listings in other statuses. In 2015 there will be Zipform and SentriLock data integration to RPR.
Luke Glass from MOVE provided an update as well. He described the new branding, which is “modern, bold, sophisticated brand expression.” The new tagline (“Real estate in real time”) emphasizes “our distinct, ownable equities.” Luke indicated that marketing in 2015 will increase and Realtor.com will be even more successful. Realtor.com has already surpassed Trulia in traffic in March. Clareity notes that, based on the slide Luke showed, the pace of traffic improvement was not as great as that shown by Zillow. It is Move’s goal to deliver a consistent web and mobile experience. It is also their goal to continue to improve engagement. He quoted a study that showed that Realtor.com is the number one site for consumers to find their Realtor® – better than Zillow, Trulia, or Homes.com. He then repeated his plea from the previous day for MLSs to provide sold data to Realtor.com so they can show previous sales on the agents’ profile pages. Luke reiterated Move’s commitment to NOT include properties not represented by an agent on the site, and the company’s commitment to Realtors®.
There was then a discussion whether pending sales should be included in IDX. This will be considered again at the next MLS Technology and Emerging Issues Advisory Board meeting. Sadly, there is no nationwide consistent definition for “pending sales”! Various examples of this inconsistency were provided by participants. It was also clear that to continue to advertise the property under contract would be inconsistent with article 1.7 of the code of ethics. Making this change seems as though it would be very difficult! We would need to create much more precise terms than “pending” and do so nationwide, in order to have a conversation which specific statuses would make any sense for inclusion in IDX. Pros? It gives brokers the ability to compete with other aggregators and national real estate sites. Also, a NAR study reveals that buyers want to see this information. Cons? It may reduce the need to directly contact brokers, and may discourage other buyers from making offers on property. There are also the issues of state laws, misuse by others (scraping), and disclosure of status to the general public (a privacy issue?). Most of the people who got up and spoke to the issue wanted to provide the data – accurate data about listings in whatever status – out of a belief that if they don’t, consumers will get the information elsewhere.
Melanie Wyne, Senior Technology Policy Representative from NAR, provided an update with regard to government tech policies. NAR organized in support of “net neutrality” and defeated the “Fast Lanes” proposal that was being considered. But some companies are pushing back – the fight isn’t over. On the subject of patent trolls, NAR has been working with a coalition of other large companies and trade associations – “United for Patent Reform” – which has been working to advance legislation (HR9 and S1137) that would make it harder for patent trolls to do what they do. Melanie also talked about the need for national data breach legislation which treats all industries in a balanced way, replacing the patchwork of 47 disparate state laws. Finally, there is an inquiry pending at the Copyright Office regarding photo copyrights; that is an area regarding which Melanie is starting to solicit feedback.
Local Issues and Concerns: Chris from Pasadena has seen an issue where photos and comments are being removed by an agent prior to sale, which makes it harder for agents to create CMAs. Also, buyers sometimes request that photos be removed. This is an area he would like to see considered. This is a topic that was also discussed at the MLS Breakouts on Friday.
Finally, we began discussion of the four policy recommendations:
- Augmenting IDX Listings with Supplemental Data. The first recommendation is to make it mandatory to allow supplemental data to be displayed alongside listings, as long as the source of that data is made clear. An amendment was suggested to add to the end of the second sentence: “clearly separated from the data supplied by MLS” for clarity. The amendment passed.
- MLS IDX approval timeframes. The second recommendation is to require MLSs to respond to requests for IDX feeds within five days – this is not a requirement to provide the feed within that time but rather a deadline for responding with issues or a timeframe for decision-making. Chris Carrillo made it clear that he doesn’t perceive a request as being fully made if it wasn’t done properly, with all executed agreements and so forth. He also sees a new vendor that requires vetting to be “extenuating circumstances” as described in the policy recommendation. Clareity notes – it should probably have been worded “extenuating circumstances including but not limited to ….” – unfortunately, that solution to the various issues raised by committee members was not suggested as an amendment by anyone on the committee.
- Definition of “Publicly Accessible” for IDX sold information. The third recommendation is for language better defining what “publicly accessible” means in the context of providing IDX sold information. So, if such information is “publicly accessible” according to the definition (not in a non-disclosure state), then MLSs would need to provide this data for IDX purposes.
- Clarification of the effective date. The fourth recommendation deals with the effective dates and implementation of new and amended policies. It is proposed that, whenever something is passed, unless a date is specified (immediate, or a specific date), then the policy would take hold on January 1 of the year following approval by the NAR Board of Directors, and MLSs would have 60 days to adopt them locally.
All recommendations were passed by the NAR board of directors on Saturday.
Several associations have created a joint venture to be the “association of associations” called reALtitude to enable local associations to collaborate. The founding associations are the Miami Association of Realtors, Mainstreet Organization of Realtors, San Antonio Board of Realtors, and the San Diego Association of Realtors – together representing 70,000 Realtor® members. Its goal is to share and utilize previously vetted vendors with favorably negotiated terms and create economies of scale, to solidify marketing and adoption techniques, and pool resources to maximize efficiencies.
REDPLAN, an organization dedicated to protecting the industry’s intellectual property rights, held its regular board of directors meeting in DC. REDPLAN recently distributed over 60 copies of the Model Content License Agreement (MCLA) for organizations to use as a starting point for data licensing to national portals or others. The board voted to approve the creation of two new very exciting services:
- a Library of Prior Art to be used in future patent troll cases, and
- a National Forms Registry to help document copyrighted forms and valid uses.
Two work groups were established to further define each project over the next 30 days.
NAR has released a new report: a “Definitive Analysis of Negative Game Changers Emerging in Real Estate”. It was compiled by Stefan Swanepoel, and outlines various disruptive challenges facing the industry. These are some of the challenges that are normally discussed during the S.W.O.T. section of Clareity’s strategic planning process.
Dangers for MLSs include:
- Entry by a New Player
- Unclear End Result (i.e. Project Upstream)
- Control of a National MLS
- Decentralized Infrastructure Becomes Obsolete
- Large Patent Troll Attack
- Security Breach
- Off-MLS Listings Escalate
- Increased Hostility in the Real Estate Community
- Consumer-Facing Websites at the Crossroad
- A Better Mouse Trap
With security breach noted as a “high” risk on the report’s “danger index” for MLSs, it is Clareity Consulting’s hope that more MLSs speak with our sister company, Clareity Security, about implementing a stronger authentication solution, especially alongside a Single Sign-On (SSO) solution. Tremendous development is happening at Clareity Security that will greatly enhance both login and SSO solutions this year.
That said, login security is only one part of information security, and it is a business responsibility to engage in regular security assessment and issue remediation. Please contact Matt (firstname.lastname@example.org) to schedule assistance in this area.
To obtain the full report, including dangers for associations (local, state, and NAR), brokers, and franchises, visit: http://www.dangerreport.com/
REALTOR® Party Corporate Ally Program
NAR has created a way for companies to contribute soft money to the REALTOR® Party. From MLSs, NAR is asking for at least $1 per subscriber per year, or $5000, whichever is greater, beginning in 2015 ($2 per subscriber per election cycle). They also wish this to be ongoing support, built into the MLS’s budget. Clareity has contributed to this program, and encourages others to do so as well. Read more about the program on our blog: https://clareity.com/the-realtor-party-corporate-ally-program/
The Biggest Rumor Was True
What had to be the most widely discussed rumor at the meetings was that RPR was seeking additional funding from NAR to both implement Project Upstream and create an MLS database (Advanced Multi-List Platform or “AMP”). During the Texas Caucus, Dale Ross, CEO of RPR, said, “Some say this is a national MLS; I couldn’t build a national MLS if I wanted.” Well, Dale should know; he was the creator of MRIS, a multi-state MLS that many said was impossible before he did it. Dale has also previously said a national MLS would take up to 3,000 employees, and local services and compliance would always be required.
More information on the Upstream project can be found in this article: http://rismedia.com/2015-05-14/breaking-news-project-upstream-revealed/
Additional official details surrounding AMP, especially what it is and what it is not, will certainly be forthcoming.
Both of these projects are huge endeavors. Combined, they are massive and have the potential to completely change an industry. Here are some of our thoughts at this point:
This project has almost universal support from the entire industry.
In March of 2005, Clareity showed this slide at our MLS Executive Workshop and described the future of listing input and syndication due to the RETS standard.
We expected it would take a few years to be implemented, but 10 years? It’s high time to support Upstream, as larger multi-office, multi-MLS brokerages have been asking for this capability for about 20 years. The RESO Dictionary is a critical component to getting this done, so the timing for a limited 2016 launch of Upstream seems possible. However, we anticipate that the national implementation of Upstream will take several years due to the magnitude of this project, including additional maturation of the RESO standards.
With the success of Upstream, brokers will now have the flexibility and control to manage every aspect of their listing distribution, including when it is sent to MLS, IDX, and the publishers/portals.
Advanced Multi-List Platform (AMP)
AMP has the potential to be the Holy Grail and MOADB – the mother of all databases – for real estate information. A national database has been discussed for years and so has a national MLS. AMP raises many questions and will impact many people and organizations.
The data utility argument was often heard last week during the explanation of AMP. Our friend Walt B. described it as “MLS data is a utility that any subscriber has the right to access, but we don’t have to tell them what kind of lamp they need to buy and plug in. Let them pick. There should be front-end of choice.”
A few of the questions we heard last week were:
Is AMP intended to become a national MLS?
If so, how many years will this take to accomplish?
What functions will local and regional MLS organizations perform in the new AMP back-end database model?
AMP is being described as a back-end system, but won’t AMP also a front-end? (RPR Search)
Will front-end of choice really save anybody money?
Is this leveling of the playing field for small MLSs? Will this potentially slow regional MLS (and therefore Association shareholder) consolidation?
What are the ramifications if every agent and firm picks there own front-end? Is this the same as picking apps for your smart phone, or will there be training, support, or switching firms issues that make this different from consumer apps?
Does AMP provide an advantage to larger firms to compete for agents on front-end technology?
How will compliance be done? Will we always need local compliance and rules/policy enforcement?
Will some local richness of MLS data sets be lost in a national database?
Does having one national database pose a risk to the DOJ or FTC mandating equal consumer access?
Will there be an organized resistance to adopting AMP, or only a few stragglers?
How will stronger authentication be implemented?
Will brokers still want to pay the same amount for “local” MLS if they are using a national system? If not, what is the impact on MLSs and local associations?
How will the existing MLS software providers respond? Will they be happy as just front-end providers? If disrupted, will they pursue anti-trust action?
Will AMP cure Overlapping Market Disorder?
Is Dale Ross the White Knight for REALTORS?
At our MLS Workshop in February this year, we advised our audience to strap in, because 2015 was going to be a year of change. Zillow vs. Move? Stay tuned on that battle. NAR/RPR vs. the MLS Industry? Will this be the “Battle Royale” or a logical and cooperative move forward in a fragmented business that needs to evolve?
Clareity Consulting stands ready to assist organizations understand these two projects, as we always do in times of change. Let us know if we can help answer questions and facilitate the discussion for your group.
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