• Zillow Group hosted an all-night "hackathon" to spur real estate software innovation at its San Francisco offices last weekend, with real estate data powered by its Retsly subsidiary.
  • The event sparked 33 new ideas from 150 developers working on data from three MLSs from Canada, Hawaii and Arizona.
  • More annual hackathons are likely to follow from Retsly, most likely in San Francisco and New York.

The Zillow San Francisco headquarters was a jumble of sleeping bags, air mattresses and cans of Red Bull last weekend as 150 developers, mainly from the West Coast, worked overnight on data from three MLSs in the zip.code hackathon organized by Retsly, the Zillow Group-owned real estate software company.

Retsly, based in Vancouver, had a team of 12 at the event, helping developers get to know their platform. The groups worked on the data from three MLSs — one in Canada, one in Arizona and one from Hawaii — emerging on Sunday with 33 new real estate software ideas.

“It is too early to tell what, but I would not be surprised if something came out of it,” said Retsly co-founder Joshua Lopour on Monday.

“We were really encouraged that so many people showed up and stayed the entire night. It’s always wonderful what happens when really smart people are let loose and get to work with MLSs (data).”

A range of ideas

One idea, which was a category winner, came from a group that designed a program to help people with disabilities find accessible property, designing the software along similar lines to Walk Score.

A Re/Max tech team led by Dan Troup in Michigan, meanwhile, created a tool for agents and brokerages to understand their listings on and off the market.

Another interesting idea came from Propertybase, which created a route to several open homes based on times and then added suggestions of other open houses along the route.

“The judges from the MLSs and the brokerages were just excited to see what young, smart people can do given the opportunity,” said Lopour.

“We hope to make this an annual event,” added Lopour, possibly making it bi-coastal. He said they’d host them in New York or San Francisco — “the tech hubs.”

‘Why has no one thought of that?’

“We had people judging who have decades of experience, like Greg Robertson from W&R Studio and Jeff McConathy, VP of Engineering from Trulia, asking: ‘Why has no one thought of that? That’s a really good idea,'”Lopour added.

Lopour is determined to keep the conversation going after this event between all the main players.

“Inside the Retsly platform is a communication pool where brokerages and MLSs can communicate directly with developers — these developers will have a direct line straight to the MLS executives,” he said.

A participant’s perspective

Meanwhile, Nathan Joens, part of a team from Iowa State University, a senior in community and regional planning who’s specializing in real estate, came away with the strong view that real estate data should be openly available more often.

“If you can build these types of products in 24 hours with three MLSs, it’s overwhelming to think of what you could do with 800 MLSs,” he said.

“One of my favorite parts was the two founders of Retsly were just walking around and helping us understand the platform,” added the student, who is hoping to start up his own business before he graduates.

“I am interested in bridging real estate and GIS technology. I don’t think too many companies have adopted that yet,” he said.

Email Gill South.

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