Big Question: Would a standard MLS data format matter?

Apr 3, 2009 Michael Wurzer

I’ve long advocated MLSs to work together on as wide of a basis as possible (nationally or regionally) to agree on a common data format for MLS listings.  My theory is that if there were a common data format, the data could move much more easily among MLS systems, enabling MLS vendors such as ourselves to more easily and effectively create regional MLSs along market boundaries.  My question is this:  Assume all MLSs all had common listing formats, would exchanging data among MLS systems be much easier?

Here are some follow up questions:

  • If data exchange were easier, would it eliminate the need for any broker to belong to more than one MLS?
  • Would it eliminate the need for duplicate listing entry?
  • Would it make IDX data feeds consistent?

And here’s the doozy of all questions on this topic:

  • If the answers to the above questions are yes, how do we get all the existing disparate formats converted to a new common format?  By this question, I don’t mean how do we agree on a format.  Rather, assume agreement is reached.  Instead, I’m wondering about the actual conversion work.  Anyone that’s been involved in a data conversion knows that it isn’t trivial.  The new formats require changes to forms, the new formats have to be learned by members, saved searches often have to be re-done, someone has to write a conversion program to transform the data, and lots of other details.  Are the costs of this effort worth the long-term benefits?