This is an interview with Kristen Carr, who is heading up the PUID effort at RESO.
What is a Property Unique IDentifier (PUID)?
The idea of a PUID is an assigned number/name, or Identifier (ID), for every piece of real property. The ID will be absolutely unique for each property, using various bits of information to ensure its uniqueness. PUID would need to be implemented on the database level within the MLS and adopted by data consumers, such as IDX sites, broker back-office products, etc. PUID is probably not a field used in regular search, although there is no reason for it not to be except that it’s an ugly number.
What problems could we solve if we had a PUID standard in our industry?
When talking PUID people generally jump to, “Oh! We can eliminate duplicate listings on ZTR and IDX sites!” but PUID is so much more than that. We can absolutely eliminate duplicate listings on websites. If every listing had a PUID it would be easy for sites to find inappropriate duplicates and remove them. Right now, probably every data consumer already has a proprietary solution in place, so, for this purpose, PUID would likely be used by new vendors and service providers, not established ones.
Another big win for us is speeding up the transaction. Sometimes there is a lag due to incorrect or misfiled lien or mortgage information, confusion with comps, typos on required forms, etc. If everyone involved in a closing could quickly gather reliable information without having to check and recheck a closing could move a lot more quickly.
I was in a meeting with a broker friend who was searching online for one of her listings. She ended up discovering a lien she and the property owner weren’t aware of. She’d had to search various forms of the address. Imagine if she’d been able to just type in a unique number and return every possible bit of data!
What are the limitations of PUID, if any?
I don’t really see any limitations if our expectations are set appropriately. Back to the “dedupe” issue…of course PUID can be used to identify duplicate listings, but sometimes duplicates are allowed/expected. For instance an agent could belong to two MLSs. The listing is entered in both and is then syndicated. That agent likely expects websites to show the listing two times, which essentially doubles exposure. There are also “duplicates” when a property is listed both for rent and for sale. PUID will not remove the necessity for creating and enforcing business rules.
What are some approaches the RESO workgroup has already considered, and why wasn’t each selected?
Some think TaxID is a valid unique identifier, but there are several reasons TaxID is not. The same TaxID can be used in different tax jurisdictions. For instance, Palm Beach County, Florida may issue the exact same TaxID number that Montgomery County, Maryland uses. In some areas, such as Orange County, Florida, TaxID is reused. If, for example, a property is rezoned from residential to industrial and a new TaxID is issued, the county sometimes recycles the original TaxID.
We’ve had some wonderful discussion around what solution will likely work best for the industry. My personal favorite, which turned out to be shot full of holes upon further discussion, was the idea of creating an algorithm we could distribute, or make part of the RETS Standard, and allow interested parties to generate the PUID themselves. In theory anyone generating the PUID and feeding in the same information would generate the same PUID. This actually doesn’t quite work for many reasons, not the least of which is variances in addresses. For instance, my house is technically in Wellington, Florida, but sometimes address matching on websites changes my town to Lake Worth, Florida. Inputting Wellington would produce a different PUID than inputting Lake Worth. That’s just one, easy to understand, example of why the algorithm doesn’t work but there are many other reasons.
What approaches are you currently researching?
The concept we’re working with right now is a big database where anyone; the consumer, agent/broker, mortgage company, local, state, federal government, could “register” a property and generate a PUID for that property. Then anyone needing the PUID would be able to retrieve it from the same database.
As we started this work last January we’ve looked outside of our branch of real estate and into mortgage and then even further out into national and international standards bodies. Does anyone else think properties should have a unique identifier? If so, why? What are they doing? Can we join in the work and possibly solve the problems we’ve identified? What we found out is very interesting!
It turns out just about everyone who deals with a property on some level is interested in PUID. The Mortgage Industry Standards Maintenance Organization (MISMO), which is kind of like the RESO for mortgage, published a paper on PUID in the spring. And we’ve found other standards organizations, such as Electronic Commerce Code Management Association (ECCMA) and Open Geospatial Consortium (OGC), are working on the same thing. One use case outside of our bit of real estate is local fire and police; being able to quickly and accurately identify a property could save lives. There are countless other uses as well.
I’m finalizing the process of joining ECCMA. I’ll be a sort of conduit between RESO and this internationally recognized standards body. I’ll be able to be sure our interests are covered, make suggestions based on facts we know, and also feed information back to the RESO PUID workgroup.
If RESO came up with, or adopted, a standard for PUID, what would it mean for MLSs, brokers & agents, franchises, website publishers, and other stakeholders you might care to mention?
ECCMA has a super cool tool, already published; folks should check it out. I registered my house and a QR code was generated. I ran the QR code through my iPhone and my house was pinned on a map. I can never, ever find my house on Google or Apple maps for some reason so this was a great real life example of solving an issue for me.
I see PUID as a big gain with little investment. Remember, in concept at least, anyone can register a property and anyone can use the PUID. The MLS will have to add a database field and any data consumer (IDX site, broker back office, VOW) will need to also add that field. I think it’s more of an outreach and education issue than a technical one. MLSs would need to educate subscribers on the purpose and benefits of PUID and simply ask agents and brokers to register properties, then input PUID on listings.
If outside stakeholders adopt the same solution RESO does, which I do believe they will, we should have national coverage in just a few years. Imagine if each tax jurisdiction, mortgage company, fire department, and school district made the effort of registering the properties they deal with. We’d hit a large percentage pretty quickly. And once you get agents and brokers on board, well, it would be a very fast project!
So when will we know more about your progress?
Anyone attending the upcoming RESO Fall conference will get an update. After that, they can participate in our workgroup calls. And apart from that? Well, I’d be more than happy to answer any questions anyone has and I’d love to give you a quarterly update for your blog.
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