Is any MLS truly "native" Data Dictionary?

Oct 13, 2021 Michael Wurzer

The NAR’s MLS Technology and Emerging Issues Advisory Board (MLSTEIAB) (gotta love those acronyms, right?) recently sent a list of recommendations for consideration by, I believe, the NAR Board of Directors. Among those recommendations was this one:

Best Practice: By July 1, 2022, MLSs should create with their vendors and leadership a written plan with a timeline and cost estimate to establish a native* RESO Data Dictionary compliant MLS for all listing content available to MLS Participants and Subscribers.

“Native” means all of the MLS’s data access services for Participants, Subscribers, vendors, designees, and other authorized recipients must be delivered Data Dictionary compliant data without the need to convert it from some other format.

I’ve gotten a few calls about this and have been surprised it hasn’t been more. Perhaps the lack of interest or concern is because the term “best practice” means optional? Or maybe everyone is just waiting to see if anything comes of it at the NAR meetings? Regardless, I thought I should take a moment to think out loud about it, because this is potentially a very big deal for MLSs and their vendors.

The first thing that comes to mind is that I’m kind of skeptical that any MLSs will actually be able to comply with it as written, which is that MLSs must deliver “Data Dictionary compliant data without the need to convert it from some other format.”

The first thought that pops into my mind is that I can’t think of any MLSs off the top of my head that even follow the RESO standard statuses. Instead, pretty much every MLS provides the “local MLS” status fields and then maps those to provide the RESO standard status fields. So, will all those MLSs have to conform their statuses to the RESO standard statuses as part of this project?

The next thing that comes to mind is that there are many, many cases (trust me, we’ve been mapping MLS data to the RESO DD for years) where MLSs have more detailed data than the DD supports. So, will those MLSs either lose that detailed data or will the additional details be added to the DD ahead of or as part of the conversion?

Honestly, thinking beyond these kinds of basic questions to the broader prospect of 500 MLS conversions in the years ahead makes me wonder what outcome is being sought by this proposal, and whether this is the best path to achieving that outcome? In terms of a plan, I’d recommend some basic cost-benefit analysis be the first step, because it’s hard to imagine an outcome that’s going to be achieved that justifies the costs, especially when the reality is that the RESO DD actually embeds within it the ability to map something as fundamental as status. And we also know that thousands of data consumers today are processing mapped feeds successfully today.

One of the key benefits I can see of having all MLSs be “native” (without data mapping) is for third party listing entry and updates to the MLS. If a third party wants to enter a listing, but they’re using the DD and that doesn’t have the same level of detail as the local MLS, that causes data loss or degradation, so having them the same becomes important. However, getting there on every field is a massive undertaking that raises very practical cost-benefit concerns.

To this point, instead of starting with some broad mandate about every single field, how about we start with some core categories like property type, status, location fields (e.g., address, city, county, school district, etc.), and media to see if MLSs can get native on those? These narrow categories would bring significant advantages and would be a great test to see if and how MLSs are able to respond to such a change before jumping off the bridge and being forced to blow out the data dictionary to accommodate all the MLS local field details or for MLSs to lose those details to comply with this policy.

In sum, if this proposal moves forward, I’m very hopeful a clear outcome is defined that justifies the scope of the project, and that at least the initial scope is limited to some of the fundamental categories that have proven most challenging so far.