For years, W+R Studios co-founder and CEO Greg Robertson has attended real estate industry conferences and heard speaker after speaker condemn those who didn’t update the way they got data from multiple listing services (MLSs).
“I was just getting frustrated,” Robertson, whose company makes real estate software that MLSs purchase for their agent subscribers, told Inman.
MLSs and real estate technology vendors have been using the Real Estate Transaction Standard (RETS) to transfer data from the MLS to the vendor for two decades.
But RETS is old and it’s proprietary to the industry, so developers who wish to work with MLS data must take the time to learn to use it, slowing down the development process.
The nonprofit Real Estate Standards Organization (RESO) stopped supporting RETS a year ago in favor of a new standard, the RESO Web API, which uses a global protocol for product development familiar to technologists around the world so they don’t have to spend extra time learning to use it. But although the Web API has been around for years, many MLSs still did not use it, prompting a crackdown from the National Association of Realtors last year.
When W+R Studios, whose flagship product is comparative market analysis tool Cloud CMA, reached out to MLSs to see if they could work together to use the Web API, the company found that they weren’t ready — hence Robertson’s frustration. He felt tech vendors were being unfairly blamed for holding back the industry.
Undaunted, six months ago W+R Studios began the process of making all of its products, the Cloud Agent Suite, compatible with the RESO Web API. Today, the company announced it had achieved that goal and, moreover, it would no longer accept data from new MLS customers via RETS — only through the RESO Web API.
Robertson said to his knowledge, his company is the first vendor to no longer accept new RETS feeds.
W+R Studios has spent a lot of money developing its platform to ingest RETS feeds and all 320 of its MLS customers use RETS, but the company wanted to show the change could be done, according to Robertson.
“We’ve always wanted to try to help move the industry forward. We wanted to set an example for everybody else,” he said in a phone interview.
“This is hopefully going to make making products easier. Hopefully [developers will] make more products and [that would] mean more choices for agents going forward,” he added.
Already, one of W+R Studios’ MLS customers, the Austin Board of Realtors’ MLS, has used the RESO Web API to integrate with W+R’s Cloud Agent Suite of software tools (Cloud CMA, Cloud Streams, Cloud MLX, and Cloud Attract).
ABoR’s MLS uses CoreLogic’s Trestle product to feed data to W+R Studios, but if an MLS wants to use Zillow’s Bridge Interactive or FBS’ Spark platform to feed W+R Studios data through the Web API, the Cloud Agent Suite is compatible with those tools as well.
“By committing to this new standard, the team at W+R Studios has shown a tremendous amount of leadership,” said Sam DeBord, CEO of RESO, in a statement.
“Serving brokers, agents, and consumers with the best possible tools and insights requires the industry to continually upgrade its technology. W+R Studios is investing in RESO standards and lighting the path for others to follow.”
W+R Studios will continue to accept RETS feeds from existing MLS customers because of existing contracts, according to Robertson. In those cases, switching to the Web API would be “their decision,” he said.
“While implementing RESO’s Web API is a no-brainer for new vendors, existing vendors who have spent time, money and resources on platforms designed for RETS are going to be slower to adopt,” said Jon Druse, engineering director at W+R Studios, in a statement.
“We think by being one of the first not to accept new RETS feeds, we can push all vendors forward and help usher in the future.”
In order to help vendors do that, W+R Studios has made open source libraries written in the Ruby programming language available to other vendors through RESO, including a library for connecting to RESO Web API servers.
The company created the libraries to “contribute to the community” so that vendors “don’t have to start form scratch,” Robertson said.
“We’re hoping this is going to encourage other people to do the same thing. If there’s a fear that it’s too difficult or it couldn’t be done, we’re saying it can and here’s some tools to help you do it,” he added.
Some MLSs have already started turning off their RETS servers and more are set to do so in the near term. “If you’re thinking about the future you’ve got to be on [the Web API],” Robertson said.
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