MLSs Taking First Steps to Reclaim Data with REdistribute

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Published by RISMedia April 17, 2023 

Written by Jesse Williams, senior editor at RISMedia.

It has become a cliche, but calling the last few decades a “revolution” in the industry still feels accurate. While the basics of buying and selling homes has remained unchanged, tech and digitalization created a whole new frontier to explore, as housing data fueled new innovations and brought huge amounts of capital into real estate. 

It is fundamentally that data, collected and curated every day by real estate professionals and stored on MLS platforms, that powers all the new efficiencies and proptech platforms. Recognizing this, the nation’s two largest MLSs (Bright MLS on the East Coast and CRMLS on the West Coast) formed REdistribute last year, a company aimed at harnessing that data, promising to bring the power (and compensation) back to brokers and agents. 

Against this backdrop, and with huge ambitions (hoping to eventually cover 70% of the country), REdistribute is taking its first steps very deliberately after launching its database last week. 

“For us to be successful in the short term, we’re really talking about going out with use cases that everyone is already used to seeing,” says Amy Gorce, acting CEO of REdistribute. 

Targeting mostly insurance companies and regional lenders, REdistribute has also had some very preliminary contact with the GSEs—Fannie and Freddie—as the company currently claims three large MLSs as investors, and around 20 more who have licensed their data. 

One of those MLS investor-participants is REcolorado. Gene Millman, REcolorado CEO, tells RISMedia that he sees the partnership as an important, collaborative and forward-thinking move to benefit his subscribers particularly—but in the long run, all of real estate. 

“I think you’re seeing somewhat of a pendulum swing within the industry,” Millman says. “When you have like-minded MLs that maybe have the same business DNA and a commitment to their subscribers, then I think those collaborations—for us at REcolorado, we always want a seat at the table. And if it truly benefits our subscribers…we want to be involved.” 

Another MLS investor is Florida-based Stellar MLS. Stellar CEO Merri Jo Cowen told RISMedia via email that she is “solidly behind the concept and goals of REdistribute,” saying that housing data has “long been undervalued” within the industry.  

“We know that the future is wrapped up in the ability to readily pool available data to enable all facets of real estate to prosper and innovate,” Cowen said. “We believe that proper management of the licensed data and returning value to our contributing brokers is the next step in allowing legitimate aggregation of data from multiple sources.” 

System reset 

From the MLS side, it is that “proper management” element that Gorce explains is very important to REdistribute, which hopes to build a brand as a real estate-sensitive player in a field traditionally dominated by outsiders—aggregators or startups with their own agendas.   

“I think the opportunity to drive some innovation and give MLS data—maybe not the MLSs themselves, but to give MLS data a seat at the table, I think is long overdue,” she says. 

That means transparency and utilizing feedback from participants to decide when, where and how to license data, “collaboratively discussing” new opportunities with advisory groups. 

Equally (or maybe more) important is the purely financial element. Real estate data has powered billions of dollars in tech and other industries, often moving through what CRMLS CEO Art Carter called a “gray market.” REdistribute claims that it will make sure brokerages benefit financially from the data that they collect. 

“We’re early days on the revenue side, so I can’t speak to any specific dollars,” Gorce says. “From an MLS point of view, certainly most of them have seen millions, if not billions of dollars in value be created somewhat based on MLS listing content, so it certainly will land with MLSs that choose to participate—that this is an opportunity to participate in some of that value creation.” 

Millman says that for REcolorado, it is also very early to talk any specifics, but that “there could be some financial pieces that we think will be coming back” for REcolorado subscribers. At the same time, though, the data privacy and opportunities to collaborate are also tremendously important, and align closely with his company’s values, he adds.  

“Subscribers will understand that their data is being kept in a safe terms of use (agreement) that they know is being protected,” he says. 

Millman also lauded the overall spirit of MLS cooperation that the company is seeking to nurture in an industry that has historically remained fractured. The idea of bolstering the whole industry through harnessing the joint power of data while retaining agency is also appealing from his perspective, Millman says. 

“Anytime there’s an opportunity that we can use scale—think of the scalability we get to use (with REdistribute),” he says. “We’re doing things on a scale that really helps benefit our subscribers, both jointly and independently…I think it’s long overdue. I’m happy that we can come together and do something that benefits everyone.”  

Cowen expressed a similar sentiment, focusing on the balance between owning the value of the data and sharing it in a positive way. 

“We believe that proper management of the licensed data and returning value to our contributing brokers is the next step in allowing legitimate aggregation of data from multiple sources,” she says. “Just like many others in our industry, Stellar MLS is looking to build pooled data and innovate for our brokers—so we get it.” 

From the consumer side, it is still too early to say exactly what kinds of innovations or new markets REdistribute might explore, according to Gorce. Right now, they are strictly licensing data for traditional real estate or real estate-adjacent purposes—risk management, analytics and valuations. 

But there is already value that she claims the company can offer through its MLS foundation, flexibility and data delivery through a modern API. 

“I would say our key value proposition is fast, accurate data directly from the source,” Gorce says. “If these COVID years in real estate have taught us anything, it is that we can’t rely on 30- or 60-day-old data to make decisions on valuations and risk management.” 

MLS data is more consistently updated, Gorce points out, compared to the public records, which other housing data aggregators either rely on or supplement their data with. Specific, up-to-the-minute and normalized (RESO-compliant) data on housing markets can create specific opportunities for lenders, and save them money and resources. 

“One of the services that we target is called match-and-append where a bank says ‘hey, here is our portfolio, can you tell us which (homes) are on the market?’ Because that means (the bank) will need to have some money to invest into additional mortgages,” Gorce says. “I think timely data helps that process happen much quicker, and so there’s more proactive decision-making.” 

REdistribute offers the capability of updating a file or dataset on more regular intervals—even daily, which Gorce says opens up new possibilities for consumers. 

Courting the GSEs has been a stated goal of REdistribute from the beginning, but that will require broader coverage of the country’s housing market. Gorce says she estimates the company will hit 55% – 60% market coverage over the next three months, and 70% by the end of the year—a point where the company will be able to claim national coverage. 

“Certainly we’ve had initial conversations, and they certainly understand who we are, and they value what we plan to deliver to the market,” Gorce says. 

Growing to add more participants and start building relationships with clients is the foundation, with the practical focus in the near term. In the long term, REdistribute hopes to steer the housing data market back toward the principles and priorities that have long guided the industry.  

“The big overall goal of REdistribute…is to add more value back to the MLSs and their broker participants while simultaneously better serving the data consumers,” Gorce says. “And I think this is equally important—we want to create more transparency for the MLSs into who is using their data and how it’s being used. We’re very committed to that transparency component.”