A National Association of Realtors advisory group is moving ahead with plans for a national real estate data repository that would include comprehensive information for all categories of property, including residential and commercial properties and vacant land.

Such a system could serve as a building block for a nationwide MLS, said Gary Thomas, chairman of the MLS Future group and a former president for the California Association of Realtors trade group — but not without formal approvals.

The advisory group, formed in early 2006 to rethink the form and function of the multiple listing service system, has left the “dream stage” and is working toward the “reality stage,” Thomas said Saturday during a presentation to the National Association of Realtors board of directors.

Properties in the repository could be flagged by status, Thomas said, such as whether the property was for sale or for lease. “The information that would be contained in this database would be comprehensive; it would be relevant; it would be accurate; it would be objective; (and secure). It would have official and unofficial information in it. It would be able to be annotated, supplemented and corrected by the professionals who utilize it,” he said.

This data repository would be fully owned by participants, he said, and would have “a standardized data structure so that when you’re looking at the records — no matter whether you’re in New York or California — you would be looking at the same data records. It would have consistent business rules across the entire system.” Participants would be responsible for rules monitoring and enforcement at the local level.

Access to the repository could be through local or regional providers. “It could be your local MLS; it could be an association that could then have the front-end that you wanted, or it could also have the participants going direct,” Thomas said.

Thomas noted that the MLS Future group doesn’t have any control over MLS corporations, and the first step in the process is to work with consultants to draw up a business plan for the creation of a gateway for the repository.

“Could it lead to a national MLS? It could. Would it be immediately? Absolutely not. Would it be done without your approval? Absolutely not. It would not force any MLS to go out of business — we don’t have the right to do that. What we are asking you to do is allow us to go ahead and put the business plan together … to (facilitate) the creation of this gateway, so that then we can bring it to you and you can make a decision whether you want to go forward,” Thomas said.

Dale Stinton, CEO for the National Association of Realtors, also referred to the national repository plan in his address to the NAR board of directors, and he suggested that other companies are already building similar systems.

“Imagine a world where a national repository of real estate information on every parcel of property in this country is cataloged, that is contributed to and enriched on a daily basis to make it the number one real estate go-to site in the world for property information. Now imagine us not doing it. Imagine somebody else doing it,” he said.

Many other companies, including companies from outside the industry, “are working on it as we speak. They will get there. This isn’t a matter of how, it’s a matter of when,” he said. “We have to do it better than them. We will always do it better than them because we have Realtors on the street talking to consumers, and we have MLSs and other key players coming to the party delivering information no one else can get. So we can’t be the only one, but we can be the best one.”

Stinton added, “A national repository of information is coming and we have to be the one to do it. Is it a national MLS? No. It is a national repository of information, which could lead to things like that. We’re not going to shirk away from the fact that those things can happen, but we think the most important thing is to get in the game and make sure that we have addressed the need to have a national site with the information on every parcel.”

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