With new apps and services launching all the time, the Real Estate Standards Organization (RESO) says it is critical for the industry to establish common rules for handling data. Jeremy Crawford recommends thinking of RESO like Bluetooth, a technology that was adopted by both Apple and Samsung.

Multiple listing services (MLSs) often provide 10 or more tech products to their members, while brokerages are churning out proprietary technology and apps of their own.

All of these tools are ultimately designed for a common end: helping inform or facilitate real estate transactions. Yet the differences in how these products handle data has made it more pressing than ever for MLSs and real estate tech developers to adopt the common set of data standards provided under the Real Estate Standards Organization (RESO) Data Dictionary and Web API (application programming interface).

Otherwise, all of these helpful tools will remain fragmented, creating a thicket of apps for agents and consumers that can’t integrate, and are liable to represent data in potentially contradictory, even confusing ways, they said.

“It’s the United Nations of real estate technology,” said Compass industry relations rep Bill Fowler about RESO, where competitors come together to set ground rules that can benefit the industry as a whole.

Speakers discussed new initiatives from RESO including the development of a database of unique identifiers for property parcels; exploration of how “distributed ledger” technology, such as the blockchain that underpins the digital currency bitcoin, can be applied in the industry; and how data should be organized around teams. They also encouraged professionals to provide input on how RESO can continue to refine its standards.

Currently, it can be hard for technology vendors to properly track and organize property data due to issues such as localized parcel identifiers.

In New Jersey, for example, 30 townships use some of the same parcel IDs, leading to a situation where different properties have the same IDs. That can pose a challenge for technology vendors.

To solve the problem, RESO is building out a database that assigns a unique ID to every property that vendors can use to avoid running into such problems.

The database would be thorough in that it would cover “air” parcels that, when purchased, could theoretically allow a developer to build a bridge over a building with a different owner, said RESO CEO Jeremy Crawford.

A working group at RESO is also probing the potential of distributed ledger technology to create new industry efficiencies. Enthusiasts have proposed using blockchain, the most well-known distributed ledger technology, for everything from virtual deed transfer to fractional ownership of real estate.

RESO is also trying to figure out how to accommodate the growth of real estate agent teams within its data standards.

One question when it comes to organizing team data is how to attribute productivity statistics to different team members. If a three-member team closes a transaction, who gets credit?

“If you’ve got input [on this matter]” and other data issues posed by teams, “bring it to RESO,” Crawford said.

At the end of the day, RESO can create a world where agents do not have to log into the MLS and a multitude of different tools to run their businesses. Its APIs could create interoperability that makes everyone’s lives easier.

Crawford said to think of RESO like Bluetooth, a technology that was adopted by both Apple and Samsung, which “sue each other everyday.”

“Apple and Samsung sat down together just like you all do at the RESO table to find a way to make consumers’ lives easier and to focus on innovation — all companies that are major competitors take their competitive hats off at the door,” Crawford said.

Crawford noted that RESO will host two conferences this year to collaborate on data standards, and he encouraged Connect attendees to send him ideas about the best ways to organize real estate data.

Email Teke Wiggin.

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