By Sam DeBord
Article originally published on Inman.com.
Naked data under the stars: A real estate love story
Love is love. Yet it might be called by many names: amor, ai, liebe, caritas. So goes the quandary for a real estate geek in search of a common data romance language.
This is no white paper. It’s a love story about a brave organization that took a stand for pure data. A celestial body stripped its data down to the purest form, a standard for real estate data beauty.
Technology partners like Remine, RealScout and the MLS Grid swooned. Brokers and agents felt the love.
Paperback romance goes digital
Stellar MLS (formerly My Florida Regional MLS) recently went through the process of converting its entire internal database to a native RESO Data Dictionary standard. Don’t let that wonky terminology cause you to stop reading before the magic happens.
Picture the Instagram profile of a would-be date, shrouded in filters, makeup and massive sunglasses. What’s underneath might be very different when a blind date brings you face-to-face.
Industry data is also often masked in layers of cosmetic “enhancements” and workarounds. It presents relationship problems when agents, brokers and MLS aren’t looking at the same picture.
Why does this matter to agents and brokers?
In many marketplaces, a lack of clean data causes disharmony:
- Consumers get collaboration apps from their agents with mismatched searches that harm relationships.
- Agents’ website and lead gen vendors struggle to accurately match different data sets.
- Brokers’ back office tools can’t talk to one another without costly custom integrations.
The most elegant solution starts by cleaning up the data’s core, the MLS database. Every technology integration and implementation is faster, more accurate and less expensive when the database is natively standardized.
Remine turns a month into a week
Quality data is sexy, and Remine’s products are known for the kinds of predictive datasets that enhance agent performance. Working with Stellar MLS’s native Data Dictionary database provided lightning quick access to new technology tools for Stellar’s brokers and agents, according to Jonathan Spinetto, co-founder of Remine:
“StellarMLS was the fastest MLS onboarding in Remine history. The RESO Data Dictionary conversion they implemented on their side enabled our team to breeze through the tedious and messy process of normalizing raw data and mapping it to the RESO data dictionary standard.“
“Our normal cycle for an MLS onboarding usually takes a month. We had them up and running for internal Remine QA testing within a week.”
RealScout sees 10x potential
What if an MLS does not convert its internal database, searches and alerts to a native Data Dictionary feed and instead offers technology vendors a separate “Data Dictionary-Compliant” feed with different searches and fields?
While this will work for some technology products, others, like RealScout’s innovative agent-client collaboration app, rely on features that match the MLS’s exactly.
Anthony Sosso, RealScout’s senior software engineer, explains the potential break-up material:
“Vendors will integrate the vendor-only feed, receive complaints from users and agents that fields and values do not match the MLS (or are missing) and abandon the feed. (The MLS) would be implicitly expecting each vendor, individually, to explain the nuances and differences between the feeds to agents.”
Sosso emphasized that consistency is the key to great connections and better relationships: “For newer firms without real estate tech experience, I’d estimate a Data Dictionary feed integration is at least 10x faster for them. If everyone was fully Data Dictionary compliant, that number goes even higher.”
“Natively migrating to a RESO Data Dictionary data model will help the MLS maintain control over its greatest asset: its data. Stellar MLS’s model of native Data Dictionary compliance and providing a comprehensive migration guide is exactly the way forward.”
MLS Grid cuts integration times in half
Stellar MLS is a member of MLS Grid, a technology platform that can allow MLSs to share data more consistently and via the RESO Web API standard. Stellar’s integration process at Grid once again proved out that the native Data Dictionary database is a vision of beauty.
MLS Grid CEO Joseph Szurgyi: “Stellar’s onboarding took half the time of the average integration process for Grid. The total time was reduced from six weeks to three weeks.”
“What takes a significant amount of time is writing custom handlers in the conversion process … this is obviously where the majority of our man-hours are added in the process, and where a Data Dictionary database speeds the process along significantly. Much of the time MLS Grid would normally require to create custom handlers and map custom data sets to a standard was simply unneeded.”
The vendor had a customer faster.
The MLS had a new technology partner faster.
Brokers had access to data faster.
Agents had new tools faster.
WAV Group’s Victor Lund had a conversation with Stellar MLS CEO Merri Jo Cowen that crystallizes the “why” for an organization going on this journey to improve its inner beauty:
- What the agents see in the MLS is what they see in other applications. There’s no translation needed.
- When brokers and agents want multiple front ends for their MLS, there’s little data mapping necessary.
- Sharing data between MLSs becomes straightforward — brokers get access to more markets.
- Changing software systems at the MLS requires far less time and effort — better products reach agents faster.
- When MLSs merge, the data combines more accurately — agents and brokers have fewer technology struggles and fewer artificial geographic boundaries.
Look good, feel good, do good
Stellar MLS’s native Data Dictionary conversion has put its back end in top-notch condition. No one would be surprised if a Stellar database administrator whispered “who’s the fairest of them all?” to an enchanted mirror in the engineering department restroom.
This isn’t just a love story about one MLS, network or vendor, though they’re certainly lighting the path toward a more attractive data environment for the industry. It’s about organizations finding the discipline to better themselves internally, even at a financial cost, to improve their relationships and the value they provide. It’s about wanting to be a better partner.
Who wouldn’t love that?
Sam DeBord is CEO of the Real Estate Standards Organization (RESO) and 2019 National Association of REALTORS President’s Liaison for MLS and Data Management.