Data Data Data. Does it matter? Should it?

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Inman Connect New York | January 29 - February 1, 2019

This week marks the first iteration of Inman’s News Data Summit.

What’s the Data Summit?

“Inman’s Data Summit is an intimate conference experience that will bring together leaders from the world of real estate data for two days to connect, share ideas and outline the future of listing data and syndication.

Over the course of the event, you will engage with your peers and keynote speakers from the leaders in the industry, including CoreLogic, LPS and many members of MLS Associations. Join key influencers from major brokerages, data syndicators, MLS’s, associations and technology providers that have a role in real estate data.”

So it’s about (primarily) listing data and syndication.

My question is, does the average agent really care about this? Honestly, I’d like to know. Most agents are (or at least should be) busting their butts “in the field” trying to make a living – helping people buy or sell a home.
Of course part of said agent’s job in selling a home is marketing it. This sounds like a “duh moment”, but allow me to …. expand a bit.

Few will argue that one of the primary components in marketing a property is exposure.  And in this day and age, the Internet has become a significant player in getting listing exposure. According to the 2010 NAR Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers, 89% percent of home buyers search for homes on the internet.

And where do they find these homes on the Internet?

Perhaps one of the large national listing aggregators – Realtor.com, Zillow.com, Trulia.com and the like. Maybe on a smaller national player, or a site like CraigsList.  Maybe your Multiple Listing Service has a public facing web site.

Or, if you happen to work for a national franchise ala RE/MAX, Century 21 et al then your listings are on those franchisors sites, and they command a fair amount attention from consumers perusing the net looking for homes.

And of course there is your own site(s) and/or your brokerage’s site.

The internet is littered (sometimes literally…) with places to post listings, all under the hopes and dreams of some qualified buyer finding the home of their dreams.

But What If?

What would happen if some of these sites went away? Or if rules were imposed that limited their ability to display real estate listings? And maybe, just maybe, some rules and regulations could be adopted or modified that would enable your listings to be propagated to more web sites.

Yep, all of the above are going on. Right now.

As a member of the National Association of Realtors (NAR) Multiple Listing Issues and Policy Committee, as well as a member of various committee workgroups designated to review and revise MLS policy surrounding things like indexable listings, RSS feeds, IDX (Internet Data eXchange) in social media, and “franchisor IDX”, I’ve had an up close and personal look inside these issues.

Having talked to many agents and brokers about all of these “data issues” I have noticed people generally fall into three camps:

1)    Those that understand most of the underlying issues and have taken a lot of interest in the surrounding discussions.
2)    Those that have heard about the debate, and that’s really as far as their interest goes.
3)    Those who are oblivious to everything surrounding syndication, RSS, indexable listings and franchisor IDX.

I can see how many (and I do think it is many) people don’t fully understand the intricacies of these issues. Heck, I’ve spent hours in meetings and discussions on the matters and don’t understand everything. It’s complicated; the existing rules are lengthy and written in somewhat arcane and convoluted language.

Should You Care?

Listing syndication, “control” of the data, all of this is important stuff. It could impact the way you as a practicing agent do business. Do you need to understand how your data gets syndicated? Probably not. Do you need to control where your data goes? Quite possibly. Can you personally influence the policy makers? Maybe, maybe not.

I cannot tell you whether or not you should care, or voice your opinion in the on-going debate. If you want to learn more of the details, there are several resources. Google is a great place to start (search for “Franchisor IDX”, “NAR MLS Policy” and the like). You can see this post for more information of the NAR MLS Committee’s actions at the 2011 Midyear Legislative Meetings that I wrote shortly after Midyear, and Inman Next contributor Maura Neill just published a terrific article, Data Syndication – What is All the Fuss About.

If you are reading this in all likelihood you are a real estate agent. Your job is to help home buyers and sellers though often difficult real estate transactions. Personally, I think it’s a good idea to stay abreast of issues like these. How involved you get in the discussion is up to you. At a minimum, familiarity is probably a good thing. Whether or not these discussions and potential policy changes directly impact your business remains to be seen. Maybe they will, maybe they won’t. Only time will tell.