Florida’s largest multiple listing service, My Florida Regional MLS, has moved to a new server with an eye on offering third-party vendors standardized real estate data in real time, a change that could make it easier for vendors to develop streamlined “plug and play” tools for the MLS and its brokers.
MFRMLS, which has more than 35,000 subscribers, changed its server at the same time it transitioned to CoreLogic’s Matrix platform in May. The MLS’ immediate need for the server, Contact, from real estate data software firm Bridge Interactive Group, was to power the listing data feeds its sends to about 500 vendors daily.
“We manage a large number of data feeds, and needed a tool that was fast and efficient to set up, and allowed us the flexibility to easily define different feeds according to the needs of our data recipients,” said Merri Jo Cowen, CEO of MFRMLS, in a statement.
The MLS handles a variety of data feeds, including Internet Data Exchange (IDX) and Virtual Office Website (VOW) feeds; broker back-office feeds; custom feeds; direct feeds to Trulia and realtor.com; syndication feeds to ListHub and Point2; and feeds that include only a sample of data for new products in development.
“The benefit of using the Bridge product is the opportunity to tailor the feed to the different provisions of a particular license for content,” Cowen told Inman News.
But MFRMLS doesn’t just want to push data out through feeds — it eventually wants to use an application programming interface (API) to offer vendors the specific data they want in a standardized format and in real time.
The nation has more than 800 MLSs, most of which keep their data in their own idiosyncratic formats. Generally, if a vendor wants to use MLS data to power its product — be it a search application, a comparative market analysis tool or anything else that could make a real estate transaction more efficient — that vendor must download an MLS’ entire database and code its product to fit with that specific MLS’ data definitions.
And if a vendor wants to partner with more than one MLS, it has to repeat that entire process over again, diverting time and money that could instead go toward making a product better. An industry nonprofit, the Real Estate Standards Organization, has been developing data standards to try to overcome those hurdles, including the RESO Data Dictionary and a new Web API that MLSs can use to deliver data to vendors in one standardized format.
“Put ‘em together and you have as close to ‘plug and play’ as you can get,” said RESO Executive Director Robert Gottesman.
An API allows product users to send real-time data queries to MFRMLS’ server and receive an immediate response rather than having the vendor host the MLS’ database, Cowen said.
“The advantage is less copies of our database and also more flexibility for developers, as they do not have to store, update and protect our members’ listing info,” she said.
“There is no difference to the user, but an API opens the door to more innovative uses with less of an investment for developers and allows us to better track where data is going.”
MFRMLS chose Bridge’s Contact server because the MLS wanted to move sooner rather than later to using API technology, and the server will help facilitate that, Cowen said. There is no date set yet for the API’s launch.
“I am personally very excited about the RESO’s development of an API, but to implement this technology will also take planning, as it will impact vendors and brokers in different ways — it is absolutely on our horizon, though,” Cowen said.
With the addition of MFRMLS, Bridge’s Contact server is currently being used by eight of the 10 largest MLSs in the country, according to Bridge Interactive Group.
Earlier this year, California Regional MLS — the largest MLS in the nation — said it would use the server to implement a feature long sought by brokers, RETS Update Transaction. The feature, currently still in development at CRMLS, will allow brokers to upload listing data directly from their own back-end office systems to the MLS.
That means CRMLS and other MLSs where the feature has either been deployed or is in the works will be able to accept listings from a secretive project that’s rumored to be a national listing database backed by The Realty Alliance, a nationwide network of large real estate brokerages.
MFRMLS doesn’t currently use the Contact server to import listing data from other back-end systems directly into its MLS system, but it something that the MLS would “absolutely” consider, Cowen said.