POLL: Do Brokers Care About RETS?

Jan 3, 2008  |  Michael Wurzer

Following my open letter, representatives from Google, Trulia, Zillow and Yahoo! contacted me and it looks like we’re going to be able to get together next week during the Inman conference. Cool. I’m very appreciative for the opportunity to discuss RETS with them.

In anticipation of that meeting, I’m wondering: Do brokers care about RETS? This is a good question that’s already come up in earlier discussions I’ve had with David Gibbons from Zillow, who made the point that their broker clients aren’t asking them to support RETS. This is a good point David makes and points to the fact that, until recently, RETS was more focused on moving listing data around than it was on making sure the listing data was standardized. With the development of the listing and property schema, however, RETS now offers the potential to solve many of the core problems brokers face regularly. In this regard, I think brokers care about RETS in the same way they care about how electricity gets to their office. In other words, they don’t care, as long as it gets the job done, and the job is:

  • Entering their listings only once.
  • Sending their listings to just the sites they want, easily.
  • Not having to pay someone to manage a bunch of data feeds.
  • Making sure their listings are updated right away when something changes.
  • Not getting calls or e-mails on listings that are already sold or expired.
  • Getting calls or e-mails on listings as soon as the data is entered.

All of these issues can be addressed by broad adoption of listing data standards. For example, coming from my perspective as an MLS software vendor, would the brokers reading this post like it if you could check a box in your MLS system to have the listings you choose automatically sent to whatever site you want without duplicate entry? Would you like it if that listing was then updated automatically on all of your selected sites as soon as the status or price changed in the MLS without you having to do anything?

If you answered yes to these questions, then I think you care about RETS, because a common listing data exchange standard will make developing these kinds of tools much easier. Also, focusing on RETS as the listing standard for the industry is important because it already has a great deal of investment behind it. Hundreds of MLSs already have RETS servers running and delivering data for IDX, Realtor.com and many other purposes. There are many MLS regionalization efforts underway right now with the new RETS data schema at the core of the effort. One of the core purposes of these regionalization efforts is to eliminate duplicate data entry of listings. Extending this same effort to the duplicate data entry or processing that’s happening right now with syndication to advertising web sites seems to make sense as well. In other words, RETS is not just about the MLS but is about giving brokers more control over their listing data.

So, do brokers care about RETS?

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11 Responses to “POLL: Do Brokers Care About RETS?”

  1. Andy Kaufman says:

    Brokers’ SHOULD care about RETS, unfortunately I’d be hard pressed to find one who knows the slightest thing about it. That’s why I joined the marketing workgroup and look forward to helping spread the word. 😉

  2. Scott Rogers says:

    Michael — can’t wait to hear how the meeting goes at Connect in regards to RETS. If those 4 companies were on board with RETS, it would (in theory) make adoption even more broad!

  3. Ryan Hukill says:

    I’d have to second Andy’s comment above. Brokers definitely have a vested interest in RETS, whether they realize it or not. Keep us updated on the outcome of your meeting, and good luck.

  4. Sheila Strunk says:

    As a broker, I cast my vote for the standardization that can be accomplished with RETS. I would go a step further, and want continual data feeds whenever a listing changes – including addition of tours and videos, floorplans, changes to expiration dates, changes to remarks, etc. I will admit that I don’t know all the details behind RETS – I have many issues and details to deal with every day, from compliance to agent business development. As you say, “I think brokers care about RETS in the same way they care about how electricity gets to their office. In other words, they don’t care, as long as it gets the job done”. I have discovered that I can’t be a good broker, available to agents and monitoring the market regularly, as well as a technical guru. Brokers have to leave the details to others – but RETS is an important detail!

  5. I’m coming out of the closet here…

    RETS can be a useful tool, but technology can lead us like lemmings over the cliff. Just because we can doesn’t always mean we should. When we give the public too many details, there is no need for them to call us. For example, our IDX does not include the property address. Guess what… most inquiries ask for the location, which is exactly what we wanted them to do. Now we have a lead (generated by our website.)

    As a standard for commonly used search fields, RETS can be very helpful, but as one who believes all real estate is local, the local terms must not be overshadowed.

    Unfortunately some perceive the Internet in physical terms. A competing website from a company 500 miles from your office is just as close as a competitor opening an office next door. That website is competing with your website for leads using your listings to attract viewers. And, of course, they will refer (for a fee) prospects back to you. Where would the viewers go if those competing websites did not exist? Your website!

    For those who believe there should be one MLS “stew”, which RETS would allow, I suggest they put a link to REALTOR.com on the home page of their website.

  6. Robbie says:

    I think you hit the nail on the head, when you said brokers “I think brokers care about RETS in the same way they care about how electricity gets to their office. In other words, they don’t care, as long as it gets the job done”. It reminds me a of a post I once wrote

    I think problem is several fold…

    1) The people who should lead the advocacy of RETS aren’t fully aware of it’s benefits (or its costs) and the people who are leading the advocacy of RETS aren’t in the trenches selling the houses and paying the bills.

    Us technical folk (the Zillows, Trulias, MLS vendors, IDX vendors), don’t have an emotional attachment to the data. To us its just data, a means to an end. We see all wasted human effort spent “moving bits” instead of letting the software do the grunt work, and letting the real estate pros do what they do best and think it’s so inefficient.

    2) The business folks (the MLSes, the brokers, agents, etc), don’t really understand how the technology works, perhaps haven’t decided how the technology should work to further their current business model or customer interests, and many lack the IT staff infrastructure needed to further business goals.

    It’s kinda similar to the dilemma that retailers have. Is a superior web site going to grow my business or cannabilize it? Will it empower customers to flee to my cheaper competitors? And is the benefit worth the expense and hassle?

    Maybe it’s because only the Redfins and big brokers have the cash to fund a real IT staff, and so industry as whole is less aware of it’s internet potential than other industries are.

    I don’t know what the answer is other than to have the technical leaders advocate to the industry what technology can do, can’t do, and could do, if the industry was willing to embrace change. If you keep blogging, good things will happen. 🙂

  7. ron stephan says:

    I’d like to know the demographics of who is answering this poll. Is it brokers or RETS enthusiasts? Broker’s don’t care about RETS because they dont even know it exists. The marketing of RETS has been extremely poor. It’s been an awfully long time in development and I’m not even sure the version we have available through FBS meets the demands of vendors and brokers. Your commentary is one of the few that identifies the reasons why brokers should be interested. The feedback you are getting from the vendors indicates that they also dont get it. As much as I want to support the RETS concept I’m not sure I get it either. Where is all the client software that is necessary to be able to utilize RETS effectively? Who promotes it? Who talks about it? We have over 100 vendors getting data feeds none of which demanded RETS? If we (the MLS) could supply them client software and teach them how to use it… perhaps that would be a reason to get on the bandwagon.

  8. Ron, believe me, I’d love to know who is answering the poll, too. I suspect you’re right, it’s not all brokers.

    You also raise some great points about the historical challenges facing RETS, all of which I believe have been or are in the process of being addressed. The central marketing challenge of RETS historically was that users expected standard data but RETS didn’t deliver that because the MLSs were not yet ready to make that level of commitment to the standards process. Further frustrating users, in order to accommodate all the different data sets the MLSs wanted to provide, the server and client specifications focused on metadata, which required a more interactive client experience than many wanted. Despite these challenges from the lack of standardization on data, there are many RETS clients available today and there are many MLSs and developers who have found those clients very useful and useable, especially for getting frequent (more than once a day) updates to their data.

    In your MLS, there are several vendors making use of RETS, including Showing Time, Transaction Desk, ThreeWide, Realtor.com (I believe), and some of the local vendors as well. Should more brokers in your area be using RETS to feed their IDX or back-office sites? Sure. I also agree we should be making it easier for both the MLSs and clients to use RETS, which is one of the reasons we’ll be releasing a RETS Manager product in late March, early April. However, I think the primary reason more brokers are not using RETS in your area is because you are using ThreeWide as the method for feed distribution. ThreeWide gets the data using RETS, they just don’t return it using RETS. I’m sure you chose ThreeWide in the first instance because you found it easier to use and manage than RETS through our system, but that doesn’t lessen the impact of that choice on how many brokers use RETS in your area.

    Of course, the brokers don’t care how they are getting the data, they just want to get it. I’ve never understood why it’s important for users to “demand” or “ask” for RETS. That really was why I wrote this post in the first place. Users don’t care about the plumbing, they care about what works. What’s been learned is that what’s really going to work is having standard data and not just a standard data transport. Looking ahead, this is why the schema developed over the last eighteen months is so critical, as it will provide a path for all MLSs to map their data into a more standard presentation.

    The reason there is so much momentum around RETS today is that the schema is not something in the future but a reality today, produced by the hard work of many and ready for use. In fact, the schema already is being used in many regionalization efforts across the country, and those efforts are, in turn, fueling the development and finalization of the schema. The difference between now and the past is that the pain of the brokers from duplicate entry and the disparate data formats provided by local MLSs is finally over-powering the benefits of those disparate data formats. In other words, the brokers are asking (demanding, screaming for) RETS, they just aren’t using the magic words Real Estate Transaction Standard. Instead, they’re speaking about the pain they are experiencing. They are talking about dealing with hundreds of different data formats and quadruple or more data entry costing them real money.

    So, do brokers care about RETS? Yes, I think they do, whether they use the magic words or not. The marketing challenge of RETS is simple: Provide a product that solves a problem. That’s what’s happening and why RETS is pretty exciting right now.

  9. Tony Arko says:

    Agents care about a solution to the problem of having to input listings on 20+ websites and having that information accurate and timely. Brokers don’t input listings so they are not interested in that aspect of it. Agents are dealing with the home sellers and when the home seller wants internet exposure our job as agents is to get the home sold. Brokers want traffic to their sites and not a third party site so they aren’t interested in the aggregation aspect. Agents want more time to sell homes and more people to sell to. Most brokerage business models have agents caps so selling more isn’t an incentive. But unfortunately, in the ass backward world of real estate, the listings belong to the brokers. Go figure.

  10. John T. says:

    Most Realtors are like parrots when it comes to things like RETS. They can repeat the words, but they don’t get it. They care only if someone tells them they should.

    Big brokers care about RETS because they have an IT department that can advise them. Small brokers don’t understand. If they did they couldn’t afford the feed anyway – this I know first hand.

    I don’t have a RETS feed just a BR site. I have a small office with just three agents including myself. I want a rets feed and can’t afford it.

    So if most agents don’t care about RETS, why does that matter? What we don’t understand won’t hurt us — right?

    Well, we Realtors are the base of the food chain. If the rest of the world evolves and leaves MLS behind there is going to be a sudden sucking sound when those who sell real estate discover cheaper better systems they don’t have to think about.

    Real estate agents may not always be Realtors unless MLS can provide state of the art, friendly, economical services.

    Don’t let up on RETS!

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