All multiple listing services that are owned or operated by state, regional or local Realtor associations must adopt a common data standard for the exchange of real estate information, known as the Real Estate Transaction Standard or RETS, by June 2009.

A National Association of Realtors Internet Strategy and Technology Work Group noted that Realtors “are competing for consumer contact with outside entities holding an important competitive edge,” citing the example of the development of “tools and practices that leverage their own internally developed data standards.”

Consistent standard for computerized real estate information “will ensure that MLS participants will be able to develop and implement best practices within their businesses,” according to a report presented to the national group’s board of directors last month.

The work group reported that RETS adoption by all MLSs — including Realtor-affiliated and unaffiliated MLSs — stands at about 63 percent, and that all major MLS vendors support RETS interfaces.

Directors last month approved the new MLS policy that makes RETS compliance mandatory at Realtor association-owned or operated MLSs by June 2009. The new policy also provides that those MLSs keep current with new releases of RETS by upgrading to those versions within a year of introduction.

RETS standards were launched by the National Association of Realtors and other industry groups in 1999. A governing organization called the Real Estate Standards Organization was formed earlier this year, and last month the first RESO board of directors was appointed.

The board’s CEO is expected to be announced in the next two months, and the other 10 members on the board include representatives for MLS and technology vendors, and for MLSs. A series of RETS work group meetings were held from Dec. 5-7 in Miami to discuss technical and governance issues.

Mark Lesswing, director of the National Association of Realtors’ Center for Realtor Technology, who attended the meetings, said the fact that most MLSs have already voluntary adopted RETS “is more of a validation that common practices are already out there. This is the direction of the industry.”

Technology is not a barrier to RETS adoption, Lesswing said, and most vendors that are not using RETS for some clients “have the ability to — they just have to turn it on. It’s available, it’s just not being used.”

An enhanced version of RETS, called RETS 2.0, is expected to be launched well ahead of the June 2009 mandatory compliance deadline, he said. Representatives for broker companies are expected to play a bigger role in RESO going forward, Lesswing said, as up to this point it has been mostly vendors and MLS representatives participating in the process.

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