What is NAR's Gateway?

Jul 5, 2007 Michael Wurzer

The other day, I posted about an article in RealTrends written by Jeremy Conaway, who said:

During the Washington meetings, there seemed to be some confusion over whether the Gateway database will in fact constitute a national MLS. Gary Thomas has exercised some excellent leadership in both his written and oral presentations by making it clear that the database will in fact operate as an MLS.

Then, just the other day, Judith Lindenau, a very respected MLS executive from Traverse City, Michigan, wrote this on the RealTown message board:

From my vantage point, the problem you are ALL having with Gateway is that you are thinking of it as an MLS, and you are calling it and MLS. Stop that right now! It’s a database, not an MLS, and differences are vast between the two. Think of it like a telephone book…lots of information, but just because you have a phone book doesn’t mean you will ever call everyone in it—it fact, you may never use it at all. But if you want to, the information is collected in one handy place. And nobody says that the information in the phone book has been checked for accuracy or business rules, or anything else. It’s just there if you need it—and if you need it to find someone, or someone needs it to find you—you are really happy to have that tool.

So “Gateway” is a database of active listings which transcends the restrictive borders of your local or regional MLS, just as the internet itself can’t be contained to a locality. Sounds to me like a great tool, should you need to use it.

So, which is it? Is the Gateway an MLS or not? I’ve heard Gary Thomas speak a couple of times on the Gateway and he’s equivocated a few times, saying it isn’t an MLS but he hopes it will become an MLS. Something like that. The PAG report, of which I’ve seen a paper but not a digital copy (sorry, no link), says that the Gateway is not intended to replace MLSs.

Of course, this contrasts with the much stronger language coming out of the California Association of REALTORS and its call for a single MLS in the state, acknowledging right up front that the goal is to eliminate the existing MLSs. Though I do not agree with the conclusion, at least CAR is being clear in their intent. What is NAR’s intent with Gateway? Am I just missing something that this seems so muddied and unclear? Given the importance of this issue for so many involved, shouldn’t this be crystal clear?

I’ve written previously about the MLS regionalization efforts going on in California and elsewhere, and I wonder how connected those efforts are with NAR’s Gateway project? From where I sit, they don’t seem too connected, currently. Rather, each of the regionalization efforts seem to be pursuing independent paths, which seems inefficient if NAR actually is planning to spend membership money on a national MLS. I do know that many of the regionalization efforts are focusing on RETS and helping to define payloads, which is great, but is NAR’s Gateway on board with RETS, too? In what way? Who is NAR’s Gateway representative to the RETS community?

All of the answers to these questions may come in time and perhaps I’m just overreacting to the claim in the RealTrends article that, “The service should fully launch later this year. After building the tool for brokerage firms, we will be building a similar tool for sales professionals and sales teams. More and better business information will be the result. This is the most momentous venture in the Association’s history.” I repeat, is this claim accurate or not? That’s the real question and I’m just one MLS vendor looking for answers. Regardless of what the intent is, an excellent first step is to communicate that intent clearly, so that everyone is talking about the same thing and can judge the merits accurately.