- MLS data exchange tools such as Trestle can provide significant savings for tech companies looking to gain access to multiple feeds for innovation, but gaining permission from individual MLSs still presents a roadblock, and some vendors already have an aggregation system in place.
Opening its doors to tech companies yearning for a single, combined, standardized data feed from multiple MLSs, real estate data company CoreLogic launched its data marketplace, Trestle, to vendors this week.
Trestle will function as a “one-stop shop” where brokers and real estate technology companies will be able to request access to aggregated data from MLSs as well as several additional datasets offered by CoreLogic.
The tool will allow MLSs to set up data feeds to brokers and tech companies; manage data contracts, fees and payments; and track usage of their data through administrative controls, CoreLogic said. The cost to play stands at $75 per MLS data feed per month.
By saving brokers, MLSs and tech vendors time and money, Trestle may help speed up tech innovation and get the real estate industry closer to “plug and play” tools that can be used by any agent or broker whose MLS complies with real estate data standards.
So far, 98 multiple listing services representing about 500,000 subscribers have signed up to offer their listing data via Trestle. Some, but not all, use a CoreLogic MLS system such as Matrix.
But a data exchange tool needs both distributors and recipients, so this week’s launch is where the rubber meets the road: Will tech vendors bite?
Doing the math
W&R Studios co-founder and Vendor Alley publisher Greg Robertson brought up the issue of Trestle attracting existing technology providers in a podcast interview (Listing Bits) with CoreLogic exec Kevin Greene.
He asked Greene: Why should someone like me switch to Trestle?
Because it could be “a significant savings,” Greene replied. Currently, some tech companies he’s talked to have multiple staff members managing data licensing agreements with each MLS, paying the licensing fees, and handling the data feed aggregation, he noted.
“They have a considerable amount of overhead to manage that and they’re actually really excited about [Trestle],” he said.
CoreLogic will charge each tech vendor $75 per MLS data feed per month and some MLSs may choose to monetize their data by charging an additional fee, according to Greene. But the fees will come in one bill, he added.
Robertson did some “back of the envelope” math. If a tech company wants data from 200 MLSs merged into one feed, that will cost the company $15,000 per month.
“That’s the equivalent of a yearly salary of $180,000 for a person. I don’t think any company out there has one guy that’s making that happen for them,” Robertson said.
“This is going to help me with contracts, the technical, the hosting. Yeah, you might have some takers out there. Some people can do that math and say, ‘hmm, this could make a lot of sense.'”
CoreLogic is investing nearly $3 million into Trestle, which is why it’s charging tech vendors the $75 monthly fee, Greene said.
“Obviously, you’ve got to have a return on your investment — we are a publicly-traded company,” he said.
Moreover, that fee is a better deal compared to other aggregation services out there, he added.
The MLS data will either be distributed in the form of an API (application programming interface) or a Real Estate Transaction Standard (RETS) feed. Both will be compliant with standards from the Real Estate Standards Organization (RESO), which is what makes the merged feed possible, according to Greene.
From manual to automated
The inefficient, clunky process for obtaining data feeds from many MLSs is legion in the real estate industry.
First of all, every one of the 750 or so MLSs across the country licenses its data differently. But this is what usually happens, according to CoreLogic spokesman Steve Cook of WAV Group Communications.
“[M]ost have someone who gets a phone call or email requesting access. They then send them a form. They review the form and then send a license agreement with payment information, ” he told Inman via email.
“They then need to approve the agreement and process the payment. They may include a broker authorization form and some even have many more work flow items!”
With Trestle, the process is more automated, according to Cook.
“MLSs can now turn on and manage data without contacting CoreLogic — it’s instant and fully in the control of the MLS,” he said.
MLSs will be able to choose which data fields to share with each vendor and how often to update those fields, thereby controlling how fast consumers get the data, he added.
“Bottom line is that MLSs will no longer need to manage data flow on their servers manually, saving them time and money,” Cook said.
MLSs typically deal with hundreds of vendors. WAV Group sees about 400 vendors per MLS system, though some, such as Miami MLS, deal with 1,700, Cook said.
“With Trestle, we expect to have about 2,500 total vendors across the entire industry connecting to Trestle. It is much more efficient,” he said.
“Miami may switch all 1,700 over to Trestle over time. There would be no reason to fund or maintain their parallel distribution servers in the long run,” he added.
But it’s not one-click shopping
When CoreLogic first announced Trestle, it described the process this way: On Trestle, MLSs would spell out their requirements for different levels of data access. If the tech firm agrees to an MLS’s requirements, the firm would fill out an online agreement and request the data from the MLS. The request then goes to the MLS.
At that point, either the MLS agrees to the request or negotiates an agreement on its own. CoreLogic won’t manage the negotiations, but will distribute the data according to the permissions laid out in the agreement.
In his podcast, Robertson pointed out a part of the current process that Trestle doesn’t fix: actually getting permission from the MLS to use the data.
“Does Trestle have plans to overcoming that obstacle? Because it doesn’t matter if I can get an app up and running in two days if it takes me nine months to get permission to be there,” Robertson told Greene.
Greene noted that CoreLogic does provide default data licensing agreements that MLSs can choose to use on Trestle. For those that want to use their own agreements, Greene acknowledged that being able to get MLS data in one click will likely take time.
“We’re going to get to that [type of] platform, maybe with the advent of APIs. If they start having more APIs out there, it might be that one click,” because an API allows MLSs to have more control over the data, Greene said.
If vendors instead want a RETS feed, then MLSs might continue to require them to be approved by their tech committee and board of directors, he added.
“Having a storefront can speed up the process. Is it perfect yet? No, but it is a platform that we can help move the industry towards that,” Greene said.
Too late to the direct MLS feed party?
CoreLogic doesn’t yet know how many vendors have signed up for Trestle since it debuted on March 21, according to Cook.
This year’s Swanoepoel Trends Report, created by real estate research and management consulting firm Swanepoel T3 Group, questioned whether Trestle would be widely adopted by existing technology vendors that already have access to MLS data. Many such vendors have spent years developing their own aggregation systems.
“While, on the surface, unified data feeds for vendors appear valuable, most of the significant software vendors in the industry have already invested in direct MLS feeds and currently aggregate their own data,” the report said in a chapter comparing data management platforms.
“These unified feeds will be most beneficial to multiple-MLS market brokers who want to start working with their data directly, or to new companies that have not yet invested in aggregating MLS data.”
Here are the next steps for Trestle, according to CoreLogic:
- CoreLogic will launch Trestle’s e-commerce platform in May
- rokers will be able to request data feeds from Trestle in July
- brokers will be able to syndicate their data to third parties using Trestle in the latter half of the year
- Trestle will likely be available to all of CoreLogic’s MLS customers in 300 markets by the end of the year