The past week has been an intensified microcosm of Upstream’s industry relations progress. Education has always been one of the initiative’s most important duties. So when a leader as widely respected as Realogy’s Alex Perriello questioned the necessity of “bifurcating” listing distribution, it poured gasoline on the chatter fire.

  • Brokers will be ready to adapt to a changing future with a flexible, powerful management tool in Upstream.
  • There are vested interests that benefit from confusion over Upstream's message.
  • The struggle for power pits broker versus MLS, and MLS versus NAR, when all should be united for progress relative to outside forces.

When Realogy’s widely respected Alex Perriello questioned the necessity of “bifurcating” listing distribution this week, it poured gasoline on the Upstream chatter fire.

Assertions that Realogy’s franchise network now didn’t support Upstream were quick, even though many of Realogy’s companies took on lead roles in the development and beta testing of Upstream (including one of its largest Coldwell Banker franchises).

Education is about ideas. The idea that Upstream birfucates listing input and stifles innovation might be better received by a certain sector of the MLS crowd than a broker gathering.

The process is already so multifurcated that many brokers input listings up to 12 different times just to get every system on the same page. It’s difficult to understand how a single input database that delivers feeds to each of those outlets makes the process more complex.

Adding to the conversation, a new MLS technology was recently announced and immediately touted as an alternative to Upstream. Paragon for Brokers (P4B) is a simplified tool that allows brokers to input their own back office data (along with listing data) in one location and distribute it.

It works for brokers whose MLSs are already on Paragon. But bolting an accessory software piece onto an MLS is not what Upstream does.

P4B is as close to Upstream as an aircraft carrier is to a cruise ship, but it’s another chance to cloud the conversation for those who wish to avoid the change that Upstream would bring.

Distracting smoke and mirrors

Catchy media headlines are expected, but it’s disheartening watching industry participants turn stories like these into misinformation. There are viable arguments against Upstream and its potential for success, but they seem to be the exception.

Many observers either still don’t understand Upstream’s scope, or are seeking to undercut it by promoting misinformation.

These recent developments have created more opportunities for naysayers to add confusion. When a portal, MLS, vendor or other entity makes a move that slightly overlaps with the venture, there’s a segment of the industry ready to turn on the fog machines.

It’s as if there’s a Venn diagram that sets off an alarm each time Upstream’s circle touches any other business model, chirping “time to spread confusion!”

And this boils down to an uncomfortable truth in our industry: There are those whose power and influence are greater in a world without Upstream. There are those whose value may be diminished in a world with Upstream.

They’re casting shadows as long as they possibly can on the initiative. The tension creates an unfortunate situation that pits broker against MLS, and MLS against the National Association of Realtors, when we should be united in our pursuit of progress relative to outside forces.

Starting over with a clean slate

A very smart person recently told me that Upstream’s strategy is one of idealistic data purity. It was not meant as a compliment. The overwhelming discord and disjointed nature of the industry is almost celebrated by some — an atmosphere to be accepted as is.

That’s probably a pragmatic approach, but it’s the slow lane to more of the status quo. We should ask for more. Upstream will continue to face critics in public and in the shadows. That shouldn’t deter its proponents’ drive.

There are brokers, nationwide, who will benefit from Upstream’s ability to reduce their costs of data input, normalization, delivery and storage. Instead of another set of Band-Aids, it delivers a cure for the mish-mash data delivery system the industry now employs.

Upstream will continue to face critics in public and in the shadows. That shouldn’t deter its proponents’ drive.

Brokers can acquiesce to the confusion tactics, or stay focused on the question we asked that led to Upstream’s creation:

“If we could start over today with a clean slate, how would we manage the data differently?”

We can start over. How we do it depends on leadership’s ability to withstand the voices hoping to bend their will.

The only certain thing is that outsiders will continue to change our industry. Upstream can deliver the power and control that brokers need to be ready to react to that change.

That is an idealistic goal, and it’s one worth the pain of pursuing.

Sam DeBord is managing broker of Seattle Homes Group with Coldwell Banker Danforth and President-Elect of Seattle King County Realtors. You can find his team at SeattleHome.com and SeattleCondo.com.

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