Speakers at Inman Connect New York on Tuesday urged MLSs to adopt new datasets and make sure to share them in ways that are useful to agents and consumers.

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Multiple listing services are databases at their core but have yet to fulfill their potential when it comes to incorporating new datasets and sharing them in ways that are useful to agents and their clients, according to panelists at Inman Connect New York on Tuesday.

“MLSs and data — it’s a love story,” panelist Frank Major, chief technology officer of Bright MLS, told attendees in a session called “The Data Evolution: How Advanced Data Sets Will Bring New Value to the MLS.”

Major said Bright is currently trying to figure out how to marry structured data — the usual facts about bedrooms, bathrooms and square footage, for example — and unstructured data, such as photos and virtual tours.

The MLS wants to turn unstructured data into structured data that can be searched by consumers, he said.

Pictures are the “runaway favorite” data type for consumers the industry offers, according to panelist Joe Rath, director of industry relations for brokerage Redfin. He noted that 80 percent of Redfin visitors engage with pictures, whether a listing is on the market or not.

Panelist Jonathan Klein, founder of PropTech Consulting, noted that new media, such as virtual tours, can be a challenge for MLS integrations with tech products.

“Virtual tours, they’re not all created equally,” Klein said. “It can be somewhat of a challenge to make sure they render correctly. Visibility is really important and syndication is really important, especially for the tech providers. You have to understand the politics, the relationships, the technology systems, the specifications.”

The panelists emphasized that MLSs should be open to incorporating new datasets. For example, Redfin recently added energy cost estimates and down payment assistance programs information to its website. MLSs can also use artificial intelligence to offer data on the direction of sunlight in specific rooms or on a home’s appliances or to validate square footage, Klein noted.

“The idea that data is power is king,” Major said.

He noted the decision-making impact data access can have for consumers, using an example of a seller who wants to sell for the same amount as a comparable home in the same neighborhood, but whose agent can use data to point out that that comp includes several updates that the seller’s home doesn’t have.

Rath said MLSs could work together to offer “more complete property information for our customers. You shouldn’t have to log in to see it. It should be available to the public.”

Major pointed to new AI tool ChatGPT as an example of a tool that takes vast amounts of information and turns it into actionable insights and suggested that the industry should be offering consumers similar tools to answer questions, such as what the total cost of ownership of a property is and how expensive it is to live in a particular neighborhood.

“Right now you can do that with enough time and effort, but providing that information as needed, on demand, it’s going to change the game and we’ve got to be ready for it,” Major said.

“Our knowledge workers of the future really need to focus on how they leverage these tools to make sure they continue to be subject matter experts,” Major added.

Moderator Denee Evans, CEO of the Council of MLSs (CMLS), asked if there was a dataset that every MLS should have.

“I would say an open 3D platform that’s truly open to everyone,” Klein said.

“Not just open to buyers and sellers but also tech companies and that has 3D tours for every listing.”

MLSs should keep track of the lifecycle of properties, not just a point in time when a property is a for-sale listing, Rath and Major said.

Major added that MLSs should also be looking at removing boundaries around data.

“The consumers of this data don’t have those boundaries,” Major said. “If we don’t solve that problem someone else will.”

But before MLSs can make a good decision about which new datasets and technologies to incorporate, they need to understand and weaponize their data, Sam DeBord, CEO of the Real Estate Standards Organization (RESO), told attendees in the session “How MLSs Can Leverage Tech to Offset Data Challenges.”

Sam DeBord

“You need to be able to talk to multiple technology vendors and see what the view of your data looks like from that more holistic perspective,” DeBord said.

“What does my data look like coming out of this platform? Why does it look this way on this website? Why does it come out of this API looking differently? And then have a conversation with your management team, your brokerage leadership, about what that data really looks like. That’s the first step.”

The second step is to make sure that different tools can talk to each other to offer consumers a seamless experience, according to DeBord.

“What we’re calling weaponizing your data is making your API fully loaded with the full value of your data so all those other technology tools work,” he said.

The data that MLSs can now pull together doesn’t just involve the transaction anymore, but also pre-transaction elements, such as lead generation and post-transaction steps like offering home valuation analytics for renovations, DeBord noted.

AI tools can also add more information to MLS datasets and automatically flag issues, such as fair housing violations in listing descriptions, he added.

Email Andrea V. Brambila.

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Inman Connect | MLS
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