MLS systems aren’t known for being pretty. Real estate agents often complain that they should be as well-designed and easy-to-use as the websites and mobile apps offered to consumers by third-party listing search portals such as Zillow and realtor.com.

  • Rapattoni Corp. has redesigned its MLS map search to allow agents to complete more tasks from the map interface.
  • The new map search is Google Maps-based and incorporates Street View and Google's address search.
  • The new search is part of a broader overhaul of the MLS platform's design.

MLS systems aren’t known for being pretty.

Real estate agents often complain that they should be as well-designed and easy-to-use as the websites and mobile apps offered to consumers by third-party listing search portals such as Zillow and realtor.com.

MLS system provider Rapattoni Corp. is tackling that challenge head on for the 110,000 agents and brokers that use its platform.

The company has rolled out a new Google Maps-based interactive search tool that allows agents to complete tasks within the map search itself without having to click from page to page.

“We’re trying to make things look and flow the way that modern applications do,” Brian Tepfer, Rapattoni’s executive vice president and chief technology officer, told Inman.

“Right now everything has this traditional linear user experience. When you take an action [such as] searching for property details, you have to go from page to page to page and then click back.

“Linear workflow is a 10-year-old way of doing things.”

Screenshot of Rapattoni's interactive map search

Screenshot of Rapattoni’s interactive map search

What the new map search does

MLS systems are for more than just searching listings. But tasks often start with a search.

The new Google Maps-based search allows agents to:

  • Draw a search area of their choice
  • See live listing results display as they move the map
  • Access listings through interactive pins
  • Revise their search criteria, view listing details and manage checked listings through collapsible side panels without leaving the map interface

“On our legacy map search, it didn’t allow you to do all those features from within the map search itself,” Tepfer said.

Brian Tepfer

Brian Tepfer

“Everything within the map search is [now] interactable from within the map itself. It gives the users a more consistent and robust experience.”

When asked what makes Rapattoni’s map search different from that of third-party tools such as Zillow and realtor.com, Tepfer said, “It’s real-time MLS data, so it is the most accurate data right from the MLS.

“And it’s a more robust search than [agents] could get on realtor.com because of all the tools that the MLS provides.”

From the map search, agents can complete any number of tasks, including adding to their “Carts.”

Carts are like folders, according to Tepfer.

They store saved searches for different areas and for specific clients and allow agents to take certain actions, such as creating a comparative market analysis (CMA), compiling listing detail reports, emailing listings, running market statistics and exporting data to Microsoft Excel or other third-party tools, he said.

The new map search features responsive design that adapts to the size of a user’s device and it is available in the desktop MLS, the mobile Edge MLS, and the new Rapattoni MLS Mobile App for Apple (iOS) and Android, the company said.

Rapattoni has been working on the map search for most of the past year with the aim of delivering a consistent user experience between desktop and mobile and employing modern web technologies such as HTML5, Tepfer said.

“We don’t want to let our MLS system stagnate. A lot of the user experience among MLSs looks pretty antiquated, so we wanted to push the envelope,” he added.

How Google Maps makes this different

Most MLSs and real estate vendors use Bing, not Google Maps, for their map search, according to Tepfer.

That includes Zillow, he said. (Realtor.com uses Google Maps.)

Using Google Maps instead of Bing allowed Rapattoni to incorporate Google Street View into the search, Tepfer said. Google Street View gives users a ground-level look at a home as well as at neighboring properties, which could help agents answer questions from buyers about specific locations.

Rapattoni also incorporated a Google address location search in the platform. This allows an agent to type in a number or the beginning of a geographic location and have the search pull up all of the possible listings that match, Tepfer said.

Screenshot of Rapattoni's interactive map search

Screenshot of Rapattoni’s interactive map search

Google’s mapping technology also tends to be more up to date, according to Tepfer.

“They tend to be more current with their imagery. It’s more accurate,” he said.

“[Google also has] a wider range of APIs to allow us to enhance the product further.”

Other enhancements the company is planning to incorporate include heat mapping and parcel layers. Heat mapping would allow agents to highlight, for instance, how many sold listings are in an area, Tepfer said.

The parcel layers will include public record information such as tax records, school district information and flood zones, he said.

Part of a wider makeover

The company updated the appearance of its MLS platform earlier this year, making its home page responsive and giving it what the company called “a clean, sleek look.”

“[We] redid all of our colors and everything else. We basically gave it a facelift,” Tepfer said.

Rapattoni MLS new home page

Rapattoni MLS new home page

The new homepage allows agents to move around the modules that connect to the MLS-integrated tools they use.

Rapattoni also spent much of the summer enhancing the speed, performance and the reliability of the MLS in general, Tepfer said.

And the new map search “is an entryway to what our new look is going to be,” Tepfer said.

Rapattoni plans to update the user interfaces of its IDX (Internet Data Exchange) portals by December and of its client portals by the second half of 2017, he said.

“We’re trying to make them more modern so our clients can represent themselves better,” Tepfer said.

Email Andrea V. Brambila.

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