What Are The Terms You'll Require For NAR's RPR to Use Your MLS Data?

Nov 9, 2009 Michael Wurzer

I wrote yesterday why NAR’s RPR won’t mean the death of the MLS.  Today, I want to ask some more important questions regarding the terms on which MLSs will allow NAR’s RPR to use (license) their MLS data.  I suspect NAR will be presenting a lot of MLSs with some sort of terms of use over the next few weeks and months, promising their members “free” access to the RPR in exchange for their MLS data.  There is some basic information on a fact sheet NAR posted about RPR (thanks, Kevin McQueen!) but the fact sheet doesn’t provide many details.

If I were negotiating this terms of use, I’d want to know answers to at least the following questions:

  • Will the MLS data be re-licensed (re-packaged) by RPR and, if so, on what terms? This is the same basic question asked by Brian Larson asked in his recent post about the possible business model for RPR.  There is some early speculation that RPR’s deal with LPS for the parcel database includes giving LPS the exclusive right to re-license the MLS data.  Clearly, much more detailed information about re-licensing of the MLS data is needed.
  • If the primary business model for RPR is re-licensing of the data, what does the MLS get in return? Is there a revenue opportunity for the MLS here?
  • What sort of access to the RPR database does the MLS get? More specifically, will there be an API (application programming interface) for the MLS to integrate RPR data into the MLS system?  In other words, will the data flow be a two-way street or is RPR expecting it to only flow one way?  As I mentioned in my post yesterday, an easy to use method for the MLS system to retrieve the universal property ID is critical in listing maintenance.  But also important is the ability for the MLS system to bring back data from the RPR during listing maintenance, into listing detail reports, CMA creation, and other places.  NAR claims the RPR isn’t trying to replace the MLS, and one proof of this will be whether RPR includes APIs that will open up the data to the MLS system.  Two clarifying points here: (1) I’m not talking about opening the system to the public, but rather to the MLS system already being used and paid for by the agents and brokers; and (2) agents don’t need yet another system to log into to do their work, what they need is all the data to be available to them wherever they login (MLS system, RPR, etc.).  If RPR silos the data and makes it accessible only through their web interface, that’s a sure sign that NARs real intent is to replace the local MLS.  Accordingly, having a strong API should be a key term required for access to the MLS data.  In other words, it’s not a one-way street, the data should flow both directions.
  • What are the real costs of the RPR? The magic word “free” is being bandied about a lot regarding RPR, but clearly it’s going to cost a lot of money and that money has to come from somewhere.  It’s important for the MLS to understand the costs of creating the RPR as a member benefit, because those costs will drive the business down the road.
  • What will MLS members be able to do with the MLS information once it’s in RPR? In this regard, the fact sheet put out by NAR currently states: “There will be no public access to the RPR™, and the database and its data cannot be shared through consumer websites or listing presentations.”  That seems like an odd restriction and contrary to the statement earlier in the fact sheet that RPR “will be exclusive to members of NAR, who can share its information with their clients.”  Again, clearly more information is needed here.  This point also is why being able to bring the data back into the MLS system is important, because that is a system where the agents and brokers have clearly defined rules about what they can do with the data and the local brokers and agents make the rules.
  • What happens if the deal sours down the road? Can the MLS get its data back?  Will RPR have commingled or transformed it to a point that it is no longer retrievable?

I understand a press release will be coming later today, but my guess is that the press release will be more hype than details.  The real facts will come in the proposed license agreements NAR tries to get MLSs to sign.  I think a system like RPR has a ton of opportunity for MLSs to make their members more efficient, but the key to leveraging the RPR opportunity will be in the license agreement for the MLS data.  RPR won’t amount to much without the MLS data and so that value should be recognized by the brokers and agents in the MLSs providing the data.

Update: Here’s NAR’s press release for November 9.  Not much different from the fact sheet except that CAR is going to partner with RPR with their ZipForms and Relay transaction management systems.  I’ll probably post more about that later.