Dale Ross, the founding CEO of Realtors Property Resource (RPR), a wholly-owned, for-profit subsidiary of the National Association of Realtors (NAR), will retire on May 1 and Jeff Young (pictured above) will assume the reins of the controversial organization in his current position as the company’s COO.
RPR, based out of NAR’s Chicago office, has cost NAR nearly $180 million since its inception but has never made a profit. The company provides a comprehensive parcel-based database of more than 166 million properties and data tools to all of the nation’s 1.3 million Realtors at no additional cost, but only 12 percent of members use the database regularly. The vast majority of the nation’s nearly 700 multiple listing services have partnered with RPR, feeding the firm more than 95 percent of the active listing data in the U.S., according to NAR.
Ross has been with RPR since its beginning. A former MLS executive, he was chairman of the original advisory council formed in 2008 to create a proof of concept for RPR. In 2009, NAR tapped him as the newly-formed company’s CEO. At the time, Ross estimated that the business would break even by 2012, and eventually generate $60 million to $80 million in annual revenue by selling data analytics to lenders and government agencies. After covering RPR’s operating expenses, all profits — originally projected at $8 million for 2013 — would go back to NAR to repay its capital investment. That plan failed to pan out.
More recently, RPR has caused a stir in the industry in regards to its role as the technology vendor for a broker data platform called Upstream. That platform, which RPR is in charge of developing, is now nearly two years behind schedule and isn’t being built in-house, according to Inman’s previous reports. (Inman reached out to Upstream CEO Alex Lange for any updates on the initiative’s progress, and will add comments here as we get them).
Moreover, some of the members of the NAR board of directors who voted to fund the Upstream project say they did so because they thought Upstream would only be for Realtors — an impression fed by Ross’s statements to the board at the time of the funding vote, which are now disputed by NAR (but not by Ross himself).
Ross retires in advance of NAR’s midyear conference in May. Young, who joined RPR in 2009 as senior vice president, will remain COO, a role he took on in 2015 to supervise the “non-development” aspects of the company, including RPR’s broker, commercial, association and MLS programs, training, customer support, marketing, budget and administrative systems, NAR said in a press release Thursday.
Young will also take on the additional title of general manager and assume responsibility for all RPR activities, the trade group said. He will, as Ross does now, report directly to NAR CEO Bob Goldberg, who is also chairman of the RPR board of directors.
Asked why Young is not being named CEO and if NAR plans to name a CEO in the future, NAR spokeswoman Sara Wiskerchen said via email, “We don’t think it’s appropriate to publicly discuss personnel decisions, but Jeff is highly respected and has proven himself as a leader and strategic thinker and is very capable to lead the organization.”
Young will focus on creating “a more dynamic culture” at RPR, meaning he will “assess its internal structure, practices and staff to identify better processes and efficiencies in serving members and delivering the best value and tools,” Wiskerchen said. He will also work on ways to better share information, data and tools between NAR and RPR to provide increased value to members, she added.
NAR also expects Young to turn his attention to more effectively and efficiently serving members, “so there will be a greater future focus on member adoption of tools and resources, and finalizing the Upstream LLC product that we are under contract to deliver to brokers,” Wiskerchen said.
Young will also dig into “creating further cost efficiencies” in terms of its operations and staff, the trade group said. NAR suspended RPR’s Advanced Multilist Platform (AMP) program in February, resulting in a headcount reduction of 20 at RPR and about $7 million in savings through 2019.
RPR’s deal with Upstream appears to have guaranteed the company’s continued existence and kept the majority of its funding from NAR intact. In a live stream on April 5 on NAR’s proposed dues increase, Goldberg acknowledged RPR is “an expensive product,” but that as the vendor for Upstream, RPR needed to remain in its core form.
“While we’re involved with this Upstream project, and we’re going full-bore to make that a successful launch, RPR needs to be in the form that it is today. We cut that cost to about $19 million, $18.8 million [per year], from the $24-plus million,” he said, noting that all RPR salaries had been frozen as part of the cost-cutting effort.
NAR Treasurer Tom Riley added that RPR’s expenses had been cut “as much as we can and still meet all our legal obligations.”
Asked how much NAR is proposing to spend on RPR in 2019, Wiskerchen said, “We don’t think it’s appropriate to share proposed funding figures for RPR or other NAR specific programs before they are shared with our board of directors and members, but we’ve already shared that RPR will receive more than 20 percent less funding in 2019 than in 2018.”