The Realtors Property Resouce (RPR) is likely the most important technology story of the last few years. And it will probably be the most closely watched story for the next couple of years too.

What is the the RPR? Brian Boero from 1000Watt Blog sums it up nicely.

The NAR has taken over certain technology assets of Cyberhomes from LPS (formerly known as FNRES) in order to bring its RPR (Realtors Property Resource) project, as well as its consumer-facing play, HouseLogic, to market. To do this, they have created Realtors Property Resource, LLC – a wholly owned subsidiary of the NAR.

This is huge. A national database of over 140 million property records – eventually enhanced by property status (on or off market) data from MLSes around the country. A suite of tools built to allow Realtors to access and share this data with their clients. Even a stab at knocking off those pesky computer-generated Zestimates with a new RVM or “Realtor Valuation Model”.

This is huge. Rob Hahn,  calls it a “Coming Civil War” and a shot across the bow at the local MLSes — and it’s certainly is a bold move.

But ultimately RPR is an attempt (last-ditch?) for NAR to stay relevant to its membership – since the savviest of them have long been questioning the need for a national association.

Consumers can find reams of property data on any number of real estate search sites these days. Brokers and agents have a number of low-cost tools at their disposal to build a rich and compelling online experience. And most importantly these two groups can now connect in much more meaningful ways through social media.

As Jim Duncan, writing on Agent Genius, succinctly put it; “NAR recognized the need to be competitive“.

But frankly, I will be happily surprised, if the NAR/RPR can out innovate the innovators. While they have assembled quite a team behind the project, I worry that a monolithic enterprise like this will ultimately be doomed by legislative paralysis.

For NAR/RPR to truly take a run displacing the current status quo – they need to adopt the mindset of their free-market competitors. Do something really disruptive. Here’s a few ideas:

  1. “Powered by NAR” – Build an API that will let engineers across the country to piggyback off of this data mine and build a thousand variations of the HouseLogic interface. Ask only for reciprocal link and acknowledgment of the source.
  2. Offer a challenge like the Netflix Prize – A $1 million prize for the team that can take the base RVM algorithm and improve it.
  3. Go open source – take a subset of the Cyberhomes code and release it to the world under a GNU General Public License – let the developers go wild and help improve the experience for all.

RPR is an important first step for NAR to take – but I’d like to see them go even further.

It’s time for a really big leap to restore the faith.

Update: You can now watch the introductory webinar in its entirety.

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