The Gateway, a real estate information portal envisioned by a National Association of Realtors advisory group, has been re-branded — at least temporarily — as The Real Estate Channel.

The Gateway, a real estate information portal envisioned by a National Association of Realtors advisory group, has been re-branded — at least temporarily — as The Real Estate Channel.

An interim report of NAR’s Gateway Presidential Advisory Group, released in late March at the blog site of David R. Phillips, CEO for the 1,200-member Charlottesville Area Association of Realtors in Virginia, states that The Real Estate Channel, or TREC, "will enable the real estate community to continually expand the breadth, depth, immediacy and power of trusted real estate information available to Realtors."

The interim report sheds more light on previously announced plans to study the feasibility of a national — and eventually international — property database with richly detailed information about all types of properties, including for-sale properties.

A "Statement of Inevitability" at the top of the report states that "consumer-focused real estate Web sites are gathering more and more information," and "without convenient, immediate access to information to analyze/interpret for their clients and customers, Realtors will no longer be at the center of real estate transactions."

The Real Estate Channel and its acronym, which are working titles subject to change, will provide access to a national database of property information, be "based on the collaborative efforts of Realtors and the real estate community, including (multiple listing services)," drive the development and implementation of data standards and definitions, expand the scope and content of information available to real estate professionals, and will afford economies of scale "to purchase information needed to populate its database," the report states.

This "community" described in the report is defined as "MLSs and local and state associations of Realtors."

Realtors and MLS participants and subscribers would be eligible to participate in TREC, according to the interim report, and "TREC is not an MLS. TREC is established on the premise that MLSs are the primary providers of property data, though TREC may have other sources of data as well."

Participation by MLSs is encouraged but not mandatory, the report also states. "Those MLSs that participate agree that the information they provide will be available to all Realtors and MLS participants and subscribers," and participating MLSs must be compliant with the Real Estate Transaction Standard, an industry data standard that facilitates real estate data exchange.

TREC will be an additional source of Internet Data Exchange (IDX) feeds, according to the interim report: IDX feeds allow MLS broker participants to share property information with other broker participants for display at their Web sites. "MLS participants have the choice of getting their IDX feeds directly from the MLSs they participate in or directly through TREC.

The interim report states that TREC is not a national MLS, that non-Realtor real estate professionals will in some cases have access to TREC, and that the public will not have access to property data through TREC.

Property owners can not opt out from having their property included in the TREC database, as TREC "is not an MLS and is not an advertising vehicle," the interim report states. "Information from the TREC database will not be publicly available on the Internet as are listings on MLS ‘public sites’ or the Internet sites of third-party aggregators."

Also, TREC will not bypass local MLSs and take listings directly from brokers, and accessing TREC will not involve offers of cooperation or compensation — which are cornerstone functions for MLSs.

Inman News has reported that the advisory group had earlier considered public access to some information.

Gary Thomas, a Southern California RE/MAX broker who has led the advisory group, said during a November 2007 NAR meeting that NAR’s contract with Realtor.com operator Move Inc. prevented the association from pursuing an online platform that would allow consumer access, though "we’re hopeful that we can somehow get that set aside or get involved in that more deeply. We’re recommending that something be drafted so we can accomplish that."

"TREC will be run by an NAR-owned subsidiary with an advisory board comprised of real estate broker-principals and other key members of the real estate community," the report states.

At his blog site, Phillips of the Charlottesville Realtor group stated that there are still a lot of unknowns about TREC, though the interim report "makes it clear that the intent of TREC is NOT to be a national MLS or have a public access point (other than Realtors). These two clarifications will ease the fears of many local MLS systems and Realtors who were worried about the Gateway project."

He added, "For others, the idea of a national MLS is appealing and they are still thinking that eventually TREC will become a national MLS, but they are keeping quiet about the prospect for now. I think there is some potential for TREC — not stuff currently being discussed, but other outcomes that are not in the report."

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