Marty Frame and Dale Ross Answer a Few Questions from Vendors

Nov 19, 2009  |  Michael Wurzer

I attended a presentation from Dale Ross and Marty Frame to a variety of MLS and public records software vendors last Sunday at the NAR Convention in San Diego.  Here are a few points I took away from the Q&A session:

  • No Focus on Data Standards for MLSs.  In response to my question as to whether RPR would be promoting a data standard for MLSs, Marty said something like they didn’t want to be a RETS enforcer.  I’m not completely sure what that means but if Marty intended for RPR to help with data standards, he likely would have said so.  Instead he said it wasn’t part of their plan and they’re primarily focused on about 120 data fields or so.
  • No Help For MLSs With Overlapping Market Disorder or Those Who Want to Data Share.  In response to my question as to whether RPR would be helping MLSs resolve overlapping market disorder in their area by serving as a data exchange/repository, Marty said no, that wasn’t in the plan either.  Of course, users can come to the RPR interface and see data from participating MLSs but there isn’t a plan for an API (RETS or otherwise) to allow MLSs to retrieve aggregate data even if the MLSs in the area agree to such an exchange.
  • No Authoritative Record.  In response to my question as to whether RPR will be establishing an authoritative record from the various sources of data (public records, MLS, loans, etc.), Marty said no.  RPR will present the various sources of data side by side but they won’t try to reconcile them.  I think this fact makes their claim of being a “property-centric” system a bit off target.  My understanding of property-centric systems is that they do, in fact, establish an authoritative record from the many sources — they combine the best data to provide a long-term repository of property information, instead of just displaying disparate data side-by-side.  The scenario I posed was as follows:
    • Agent Smith creates a new listing on January 1 and auto-pops the listing from the RPR tax record, and then corrects the square footage, which is off by a significant amount.
    • Agent Smith’s listing expires March 30.
    • Agent Jones lists the same property on April 1 and again auto-populates the listing from the tax record.  Agent Jones will again have to correct the square footage coming from the RPR public records because there isn’t a base or authoritative record available from RPR.
  • Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) — (Note: An API is a way two systems (such as RPR and the MLS or a broker back-office system) can talk to each other.)
    • Marty said there will be an API for the public records and MLSs will be able to pull the public records into their own system.  MLS systems also will be able to link to the PDF market and listing reports (though they won’t be available in HTML, just PDF).
    • RPR hopes MLSs will help RPR with authentication by using single sign-on (SSO) standards, though they’ll adapt to whatever the MLS will provide.
    • There will not be an API for any of the third-party licensed data (including listings), just the public records.  If you want to see the other data, you must login to RPR.
    • API documentation should become available in the next 30 days or so.

There were questions from other vendors as well about the APIs and the business model, but the above were the highlights for me.  I walked away from the meeting thinking they were missing a lot of the potential for how a system like RPR could help MLSs and their broker and agent members.  Helping MLSs improve data quality, data standards, and data sharing are all key benefits not being addressed by RPR. Hopefully this will change over the coming months as MLSs negotiate licenses with RPR and require that these issues be part of the deal.


Related and recent posts RPR by others:

Brian Larson — Report of RPRs Birth Is An Exaggeration

Rob Hahn — No More Drama and Hype: Known Facts on RPR


P.S.  Can I please request that all NAR conventions from here on out be in San Diego?  What a perfect location, with a great convention center, great hotels nearby, awesome restaurants, entertainment, and, of course, the views and weather!

9 Responses to “Marty Frame and Dale Ross Answer a Few Questions from Vendors”

  1. Hank Lerner says:

    First, a big “Amen” to San Diego as a convention site.

    More to the point, I’m also curious about the issue of reconciling data sources. If the business model of the RPR is to profit (in part) by adding the “wisdom of the Realtor crowds” it seems a bit odd that there won’t be a way to substitute that wisdom in place of a piece of data that is less accurate.

  2. Hey Michael,
    Ah, San Diego was great! I had such a fun time and truly love the area. I only wish I could have stayed longer.

    Thinking about your question above on overlapping markets, the RPR system is designed to solve the huge problem of data access for it’s members. As you mention in the RPR system if you are a member of a cooperating MLS, you are going to be able to see the data from all the other cooperating MLS’s.

    Also to your point about the authoritative record, I do not believe we would be doing the REALTOR a service by saying well we mashed all the data together…and it’s not completely transparent how we mashed it together. Instead we’re laser focused on providing the aggregate information. We’re going to inform the REALTOR on how anybody else is going to see the record…For example how’s the Mortgage Broker or Lender going to see it, how are the other agents going to see it, etc. The REALTOR needs to see all that information side by side…in one complete property-centric record.

    • mwurzer says:

      Reggie, agents don’t want to log into a third system to see all the data, they want to access it from their MLS system. In fact, having a third system has been tried many times and has been proven to only be a band-aid and not a complete solution. For example, the CARETS initiative was formed to solve the problem even though eNeighborhoods already had the Alliance system in place that provided an aggregate view. The problem is that adoption wasn’t complete because, again, from a practical perspective, going to a different system means agents have to manage multiple contact lists, multiple saved search sets, and think about when they’re going to be in system A versus system B. I’m hopeful RPR learns from the real-world experience of those of us in the MLS business who have been working on these problems for years. The approach being taken by RPR on this issue so far has two possible conclusions: (1) RPR won’t solve the problem; or (2) RPR becomes a monopoly MLS, which will fail in the long-term. In contrast to these two bleak outcomes, RPR could provide a great deal of value by taking the CARETS approach national, which is what I suggested here a long time ago.

      Regarding being a property-centric system, what RPR is doing now is no different than what MLS systems and operators have been doing for years, tying all the data together in one place. Most MLS systems today have listings, public records, maps, statistics, etc., all tied together around the parcel number or property address. There are a couple of key points I’d make about this “all in one place” approach, though:

      (1) Links Not Silos. The idea that you can actually get “all” the information about a property in one place in this day of the Interwebs is false, particularly with the closed approach RPR is taking. Though RPR is claiming to be promoting a universal property ID, I’m aware of no plans to making that ID discoverable by anyone except maybe a Realtor and there will be no way to link to it from what I understand. I certainly understand the need and desire for RPR to create a Realtor-only resource, but the one piece of RPR that should be widely distributed and accessible is the universal property ID. Again, I wrote about this issue here and here and here some time ago as well. To sum all that up, think “small pieces loosely joined.” RPR is just fooling its members and the public by making claims of having “all” the data, because it won’t and can’t.

      (2) Data Quality. Data silos do make sense in one aspect, if they create and protect an authoritative record. Again, RPR’s currently stated approach is the same one MLSs are already doing, so the value add isn’t there. Value could be created, however, if an authoritative record were being created that was more up to date than the tax records and more permanent than the listing records. The idea here is to divorce the marketing information from the “factual” information about the property, and make the factual information sacrosanct or controlled as to quality. By not addressing that issue, RPR isn’t adding to what MLSs are already doing. To the contrary, MLSs are already taking the true property-centric approach and so are or will be doing what RPR is not.

  3. Bob Wilson says:

    Michael, excellent points. I only wish everyone would remember that not all real estate brokers and agents are Realtors – meaning not everyone who lists and sells property is a member of NAR. However they are still members of the local mls. If I am a non Realtor broker, this is still my data, but RPR does nothing for me except profit on my data.

    I hope that all the MLS bigwigs who read this keep this in mind. There are many of us who want to make sure the local mls is independent of NAR in perpetuity, Please be careful in the decision making process that you all face. You cant afford to get this wrong. Proceed with caution and do your due diligence.

  4. Ann Hayman says:

    I agree whole-heartedly!!

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