Tech leaders Christian Sterner and Branick Weix share how controlling the dissemination of rich data is the key to MLSs relevance and survival.

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Much like other segments of the industry, listing tech leaders are exploring ways to help agents disperse and consumers easily access photo, video, floor plans and 3D tours — all of which have become increasingly important during the pandemic.

Christian Sterner | Credit: LinkedIn

“We have to package this data up in such a way where it’s mass applicable, right?” WellcomeMat co-founder and CEO Christian Sterner told the Inman Connect Data Track crowd. “There’s a parallel company in the music business that essentially has achieved what we’re trying to achieve in real estate, Gracenote.”

“They are the database system that recording studios and artists use to manage album names, track names, and all the relevant artwork for albums and tracks, and Gracenote essentially powers the music experience on iTunes, Pandora, Spotify, etc.,” he added. “Our message is really to like the protocol level of real estate, which in our view is the [multiple listing service] is that we need to package up this media for mass application.”

Sterner and Aryeo co-founder and CEO Branick Weix said the real estate industry is missing out on access to crucial data and insight because there’s no “real estate Gracenote” to centralize and streamline how rich media (e.g. photo, video, floor plans and 3D tours) is dispersed to MLSs, portals, IDX sites and other platforms consumers use for their home search.

“I mean, photos have been around for a while but it’s still very hard to move photos throughout the industry,” Weix said. “Our biggest support ticket every single day is agents calling in looking for help on how to unzip their ZIP files and upload them to the MLS.”

Branick Weix | Credit: LinkedIn

“It’s kind of comical, but it’s also pretty telling of the importance of that and some of the fundamental things that people are still struggling with,” he added. “Then we look at all these other types of media, 3d tours, videos and floor plans — companies are starting to go around the MLS to get that content out.”

“I talked to three different 3D tour companies this week that are all working to get feeds directly up to the portals to display that content. So this is happening one way or another.”

Beyond the content itself, Sterner said there’s valuable insight in EXIF data, which provides information such as when and where a photo was taken or a video was recorded.

“There’s so much built into media files, just by nature of like, getting access to that [EXIF data],” he said. “When you search your photos whether it’s in like Google Drive or your iCloud, how are you doing those searches? It’s because the data already exists about these photos, it knows what’s in the photos.”

That information, Weix said, could power a home search process that’s less about the concrete details of a home and more about lifestyle.

“You’ll see more portals starting to do this, and a couple have already done this especially in other countries, [launch]  lifestyle-driven searches,” he explained. “So instead of just searching geographically by address, I just want to see in kitchens with these types of layouts in this geography for this neighborhood.”

“Especially as people spend more time in their home, I think they’re gonna be looking for those things,” he added. “I mean when you go look around at a house in person, you don’t really care that there are three bedrooms and two bathrooms. You’re wondering, where are those bedrooms? What are those bathrooms look like? What is the layout? I think that is going to be much greater emphasis on that going forward.”

The duo said MLSs are missing out on a huge opportunity to streamline the rich data dissemination process, especially as consumers are finally embracing a more digitized real estate transaction process.

“I mean, imagine going on Zillow without photos or content,” Weix said. “So let’s start with the basics. Let’s make it easier to get all the content together. Let’s get rid of ZIP files. No one should have trouble getting content.”

“Long story short, distribution sets media free. If you produce a mechanism for distribution, you will get the data,” Sterner added. “Let’s get the data first. Let’s build the libraries because all kinds of applications can be put into place once you have it.”

“For agents, all they care about is reaching consumers. Let’s give them a mechanism to do that.”

Email Marian McPherson

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