MLS & Associations

Real estate tech developers invited to ‘plug in’ to access data from 100,000 agents

FBS' Spark API platform lets information flow freely between authorized systems

Real estate agents can spend a lot of time entering and re-entering their contact and listing information into multiple apps and tools they use to do business. Real estate tech firm FBS has come up with a solution it hopes will help the nearly 160,000 agents and brokers who use, or will soon use, the firm’s multiple listing service platform.

FBS has launched “Light it Up,” an initiative that calls on tech developers to configure their apps and other products to the company’s Spark APIs (application programming interfaces) and thereby gain access to the listing and contact information of the more than 100,000 agents currently using FBS’ MLS system, Flexmls.

The Spark API platform allows authorized MLS members and developers access to MLS data standardized according to the Real Estate Standards Organization (RESO) Data Dictionary, which includes standardized terms for the most common descriptions of property characteristics used in the industry.

The platform enables listing and contact information to flow freely between authorized systems in real time, FBS said.

Currently, FBS has two Spark APIs, one for listings and one for contacts. FBS hopes Light it Up will boost awareness of the contacts API in particular, which allows agents to sync their contact information between tools and “really enhances the agent’s workflow,” FBS spokeswoman Kim Prior said.

“Imagine an agent entering contact information into Flexmls and then, having that information instantly synced to all of the products they use during the transaction” she said. “That’s what Spark does — it makes the life of the developer and the agent easier. That kind of efficacy is unseen in our industry.”

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Contact data syncing will go both ways, so agents who, for instance, get their CMA tool, customer relationship management (CRM) system and marketing products from the Spark Store will be able to enter their contact information into any one of those products or Flexmls and have that information sync to all.

Listing data will also sync between systems, but must first be entered into Flexmls in order to ensure compliance with MLS rules.

“For many product developers and agents, this level of interoperability is a dream come true,” Prior said in a statement. “Agents enter the data one time and all of their authorized products ‘light up’ with that information, making life easier, and saving time, energy and the errors that can inevitably occur when data is being entered multiple times in multiple systems.”

“For developers, their product becomes integrated into the agent’s central workflow process; access to it and use of it feels organic and effortless.”

Once developers configure to the Spark API for listings, they can access listings from more than 100 MLSs under a single terms of use agreement with no upfront cost.

“That’s a massive improvement from the current and common method of developers securing data license agreements from each MLS and most of the time, paying an ongoing upfront fee for that data … [and] then, having to maintain the data on their own servers,” Prior said.

“The Spark API saves the developers time, money, ongoing investment and resources while enabling faster and more robust development on a RESO standards-built API.”

Developers will also be able to expose their API-compatible products via FBS’ Spark Store, a real estate app store currently live in about 120 MLSs. Products agents purchase in the store are easily accessible within their Flexmls system.

The store currently offers about two dozen products under several categories, including marketing, custom blueprints, comparative market analyses (CMAs), Facebook apps and mobile, among others. While at least three-quarters of the products use the Spark listings API, none yet use the Spark contacts API.

In July 2013, FBS launched Ignite!, a marketing system designed to promote the Spark Store and its products to MLS members. Prior said the program itself was successful, though agent engagement and adoption is still a work in progress.

“Agents are bombarded with offers and solicitations all day long. Add to that the ‘store’ concept is a new one,” Prior said.

“We’re asking agents to change a buying habit, to look somewhere else and execute a purchase in a way that’s entirely new. So, we’re realistic about expectations and happy for the incremental success we’re having, but there’s certainly room for improvement.”

FBS has been focused on its new MLS customers this year, but plans to renew efforts to boost adoption in 2015, Prior said.