Where Does RETS Fit in NAR's Strategic Vision?

Mar 31, 2010 Michael Wurzer

Here at HAR’s Real Estate Information Symposium, we were treated yesterday to a speech from Dale Stinton, NAR’s Chief Executive Officer.  Dale provided what he said was an unprecedented public review of NAR’s long-term strategic plan.  I didn’t get everything written down Dale said about the plan (though Rob Hahn may have), but it included several of the initiatives NAR has talked about recently, especially RPR and HouseLogic.

One thing that Dale didn’t mention at all as part of NAR’s strategic vision, however, was the Real Estate Transaction Standard (RETS) or data standards.  I’ve written before that I think RPR is full of potential, but it specifically isn’t focused on addressing the very real efficiency and competition problems caused by a lack of implemented data standards in the industry.

In discussing this with a few people after the conference yesterday, the two themes that emerged for why NAR doesn’t talk about data standards as a strategic initiative is that it won’t sell to the members and NAR can’t be seen as forcing MLSs to a common data format.  I can understand both of these issues.  Data standards are boring.  More importantly, most agents, brokers, etc., are actually astonished to know that the data is different in every MLS.   When they hear that isn’t the case, they’re shocked.

I’d suggest that this shock is exactly the thing that should be leveraged to sell the need for data standards to the industry.  Admit the problem, and put some energy toward fixing it.  The Cove Group of MLSs has shown interest in fixing it.  Mark Lesswing, NAR’s CTO, has expressed interest as a skunkworks project, and it would be great to see data standards be a bullet point on Dale’s next set of slides for NAR’s strategic vision.

Dale is a compelling and passionate advocate for REALTORS, and the NAR is being well-served by his passion and vision for the future.  If Dale also were to include data standards in his passion and vision, the mountains would begin to move.   Without that top-level backing, however, it may be time to move standards efforts into a new organization.