NEW YORK — Data sharing among multiple listing services is not a bad thing, but it may not be the best solution for all parties involved, said David Charron, president and CEO for the Washington, D.C., area Metropolitan Regional Information Systems Inc. MLS.
The MLS data-sharing model may need some tweaking, Charron said during an MLS “Consolidation and Data Sharing” panel at the Real Estate Connect NYC conference on Thursday.
“We’ve got 900 multiple listing services all doing essentially the same thing, so there’s got to be greater efficiency,” Charron said. “Data sharing, quite frankly, doesn’t do anything to improve that efficiency.”
He also said, “It drives convenience, but it doesn’t drive lower costs. It doesn’t give the broker the information he or she needs to work multiple markets, at least as it’s currently defined. I think the data-sharing model will evolve to begin to address some of those things.”
He also said, “The state of data sharing is such that it is a stepping stone and it allows everybody time to catch their breath, live to play another day.”
Data sharing between MLSs in contiguous markets typically means that properties will be exposed “to the entirety of the market,” and data sharing of property listings held by MRIS’ 60,000 participants with a couple of market areas to the north or south “may not be the best use of our dollars,” he said.
“So if there’s a way to do that and only have it impact those individuals who need information, who want information in both those markets that might be something that’s interesting. You need to make sure when that information is shared — just as you would with any other site — you need to make sure that content is under your control, and don’t cede ownership rights to any third parties.”
Common Internet display and advertising rules can be an important bridge to cooperation among contiguous MLSs, Charron said.
MRIS is owned by 25 shareholder associations and governed by brokers, and MLS officials “are in discussions with lots of contiguous markets right now about various forms of data sharing and/or information consolidation,” he said.
Data sharing is like “training wheels” for MLSs that seek to collaborate, said Martin Carpenter, a RE/MAX Realty Plus broker in New York who leads an MLS advisory group for the New York State Association of Realtors. “Data sharing is the place to start.”
Carpenter said that the advisory group is beginning a “road show” across the state on Tuesday to gather input from leaders at local Realtor associations about opportunities for MLS cooperative ventures.
Greg Robertson, a panel participant who serves as executive vice president of sales and marketing for real estate technology company eNeighborhoods, said data sharing is a sort of compromise for MLSs that want to maintain local control while placating brokers’ desire to access data from other market areas without the need to join multiple MLSs.
A more widespread adoption of Real Estate Transaction Standards, also known as RETS, and other standards have definitely enabled more widespread sharing and consolidation in the industry, said Charron.
National Association of Realtors officials in November approved a new rule that requires all local, regional and state Realtor groups to adopt RETS by June 2009.
Panelists discussed the announcement by several online real estate companies last week, among them Trulia, Zillow and Yahoo!, that those companies and others will be adopting a new RETS-compatible data standard to assist real estate brokers in submitting a single feed of property listings data to multiple Web sites.
Ultimately, that move is potentially a “huge and wonderful thing” for the industry because it represents a group of companies “playing, at least ostensibly, by our rules of engagement.”
He also said, “Hanging onto the data is not going to be the winning hand for us.”
The Gateway, a proposal for a national and possibly international real estate data repository that a National Association of Realtors advisory group is pursuing, is also a “great idea” for the real estate industry, Charron said.
It may have the most success if it rolls up existing RETS-based initiatives into a single platform, though he acknowledged that this could be a “problematic and challenging process.”
Robert Eychner, a panelist who has served as president of Manhattan MLS, said that Scandinavia has successful created a sort of gateway in which every property is listed in a database.
“Is it necessary? I don’t know. It’s been very effective in Scandinavia — it’s a proven product,” he said.
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