Implementing meaningful data standards requires cooperation among MLSs and vendors

Sep 27, 2010 Michael Wurzer

This week I’m in Chicago for the Real Estate Standards Organization fall meeting and then for CMLS 2010 in the latter part of the week. Today was the opening sessions for the RESO meetings, and the overall tone was set for a productive meeting and a breath of fresh air for the future.

First, Mark Lesswing from NAR clarified that RESO is no longer going to try to create a formal organization. Instead, he recommended that the intellectual property for the standard be clarified by each contributor issuing a Creative Commons type license to make it clear that others are free to use the standard without fear of IP claims by other contributors. The lack of clarity on the ownership of the RESO standard has long been a frustration, and so it’s great to finally see some leadership and progress on this issue.

Second, Travis Wright, RESO’s Executive Director, also announced a strong slate of candidates for the five open RESO Board seats. The slate of candidates contains leaders from some of the largest MLSs in the country, including David Charron from MRIS, Art Carter from California Regional MLS, Rebecca Jensen from the Wasatch Front MLS in Utah, Pat Bybee from Metrolist in Denver, Jeremy Crawford from Sandicor, Kathy Condon from MLSPIN, and Rob Overman from LPS. Seeing such strong business leaders interested in the RESO Board is very encouraging.

Two of the RESO Board candidates, Art Carter and Rebecca Jensen, also were presenters in the last session of the day along with Bob Bemis, CEO of ARMLS (an FBS customer). These three executives all represent MLSs that are part of the COVE group of MLSs. During the presentations, they each emphasized strongly that RESO has failed so far in delivering data standards but now needs to deliver some meaningful progress on data standards or it is likely they would seek a different solution. Both Art Carter and Bob Bemis made it clear they felt that the MLS vendors had frustrated data standards, and that this needed to change. David Charron backed this up during the Q&A after the presentation by stating that MRIS was going to give RESO one more chance to deliver on data standards.

So, the writing on the wall seems clear. The biggest MLSs in the country are dead serious about data standards. David Charron and Art Carter are both running for election to the RESO Board, and so they obviously feel that there’s some life left in the organization, but they’ve also put the organization on notice that this is the last gasp: Do something about standards or the effort will go in a different direction.

These strong statements from these CEOs from the COVE group of MLSs were equaled by a recent blog post from Rob Overman (VP of New Technologies for LPS) entitled The Secret Standard?. In that post, Rob makes the case that the RESO standards already include definition of some standard data fields and states: “Most of the fingers are pointing in the wrong direction.” Rob goes on to make the case that the reason data standards aren’t implemented is that there isn’t a return on investment for the MLS organizations.

So, what’s really going on here, is there a conflict between the MLSs and vendors regarding data standards? I hope not. The COVE Group has done the industry a great service by moving forward together to define data standards (we expect to hear details about these efforts tomorrow). However, Rob’s point is well taken that defining data standards is only the first step and implementing them in the 800 MLSs around the country is a much more daunting task, requiring massive conversions or data mapping efforts by both MLSs and vendors.

Tomorrow we expect to hear from Matt Lavallee on efforts of the COVE Group to define 635 standard fields and data types. This is a great accomplishment and it will squarely raise the question of whether other MLSs will expend the resources to convert or map their data to this proposed standard. I sure hope so. For the last four years, FBS has been begging for data standards. We’re actively engaged in multiple regional efforts to standardize data, and it would be so great to have a national standard to guide these regional efforts. Please, please, I’m begging. The efforts we’re currently undertaking would be so much more efficient if we were working toward a national standard instead of lots of regional efforts. That’s the reason I started pounding the topic of data standards four years ago.

This shouldn’t be a vendor/MLS debate. And thanks to the COVE Group efforts, the debate isn’t long to be about defining data standards. Rather, as Rob points out, the issue is how do we implement the defined standards. It won’t be easy, but, if vendors and MLSs can work together, we can get it done.


Matt Cohen has a great write-up on today’s RESO meetings over at his blog. Go check it out.