National Association of Realtors officials have called upon Realtor.com operator Move Inc. to provide consulting and technology services for a proposed nationwide property information database project.

The proposal has changed names several times during its evolution — from its origins as the "Gateway" to "The Real Estate Channel," the "Library/Archive," and its latest title as the "Realtors Property Resource."

Move Inc., a publicly traded company, operates Realtor.com through a contract with the National Association of Realtors.

A stated goal of the Realtors Property Resource effort is to offer its members a comprehensive source of property information that is an alternative to information that is already publicly available from various third-party vendors.

A May 6 white paper describing an earlier iteration of the proposed project states that there is an "information gap" between "content available to consumers and reliable information to Realtors and proposes "a property- or parcel-centric national library or archive that has robust and useful information on virtually every property in the U.S." including residential and commercial properties and vacant land.

Last week, during a NAR conference in Orlando, Fla., Dale Ross, chairman of the advisory board for NAR’s Realtors Property Resource, said that Move Inc.’s involvement in the project "is critical to leverage existing technology, data collection, proven processes and other built-in efficiencies with NAR."

He added, "Move Inc. presented a prototype system demonstrating the ease of use and quick response time in conducting a complex search of 80 million properties."

The advisory board for the Realtors Property Resource, which has 22 members, met for the first time on Sept. 23 in Chicago — that group is building on the work of a NAR "MLS Future" advisory group that was created in 2006.

"We’re going to build hopefully the largest database in the country of tax and assessment information," said Ross.

While some NAR members have raised questions about the potential impacts of the proposal on MLSs — such as the possibility that the plan could become a national MLS system — Ross dismissed such worries.

"Is this going to be a national MLS? The answer is ‘no.’ I have been involved in building an MLS and I really don’t want to do it again," said Ross, an NAR director who 15 years ago founded Metropolitan Regional Information Systems Inc., now the largest MLS in the nation with about 60,000 subscribers.

But a national MLS could become a reality, eventually, he offered. "I believe there probably will be a national MLS … this is not going to be (it). This is not the intent," he said.

MLSs could possibly feed property data into the Realtors Property Resource, such as information on for-sale and recently sold properties, though "no one’s going to take data and use it without people’s permission."

Also on the table is whether information about properties that are offered up for sale by owner, and information about insurance claim and loss history on properties, could be included in the database. There is the potential to resell information from the database to the public, Ross also said. "That’s something we’re going to look at."

The advisory board will make recommendations for a "proof of concept" of the project, with a working proof of concept in time for NAR’s next major meeting in May 2009, Ross also said.

The project could be paid out of NAR dues or reserves or offered on a monthly subscription basis. "We don’t know how the model is going to work, yet," he said.

One possible business model would be to collect all tax assessment data in the nation and offer it up to multiple listing services, he said. And there may not be a need to reinvent the wheel in collecting the data.

"There are probably three or four vendors in the field who collect this type of data. We are talking to all of them," Ross said. There is the possibility of entering into joint ventures or purchasing data outright.

The goal would be to offer members the ability to click on a property address to uncover detailed information for that property, "whether it is a permit to put up a new fence … all the way back to Lord Baltimore when he granted that property," he said.

An estimated 150 million properties could be wrapped into the database project, Ross said.

***

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