Great Vendors Embrace Rules

by Victor Lund on November 22, 2011

There has been a lot of conversational concern about companies that enter into new verticals of data management and service offerings. Four such instances were announced this year.

In every case, the vendor has been virtuous and adhered to contracts and data use rules. In each of these cases, many feared that data could be misused or abused. But, thus far, there have not been any discoveries of inappropriate behavior.

RPR and LPS (with a little RED)

LPS was one of three companies that provided strategic value for powering the data aggregation needs of the REALTORS® Property Resource (RPR). LPS stores MLS data for more than 200 MLSs around the Nation. At the time, they were also among the leading technology companies in terms of IDX coverage with more than 300 markets served for their rDesk Platform. Moreover, they are a leading provider of Tax Solutions. Recently, LPS spun out its data aggregation unit to a new company called Real Estate Digital (RED) who is a sub-contractor to LPS supporting the RPR contract.

MOVE was another consideration for RPR. They have more than 99% data coverage for IDX data, and also have VOW data in many markets to power their Top Producer product. CoreLogic, like LPS has a combination of hosting the largest amount of MLS data, largest Tax Services provider, and an IDX/VOW leader with Agent Achieve. In the end, LPS won the RPR agreement on the merit of being the best fit for RPR. As far as I know, there has not been any misuse of data.

Zillow buys Diverse Solutions

Zillow, an online publisher of listing data does qualify to receive or use IDX or MLS data. They could if they were a licensed real estate broker, and a participant member of the MLS – but they are not. As such, they are not able to use IDX feeds on their website. As such, like all publishers, they struggle to maintain listing accuracy on their website. They rely on feeds from a variety of sources to get the content they publish.

Trulia, also a publisher, launched a program this year called Trulia Direct Reference. Willing MLSs can provide Trulia with a data feed to help them correct data inaccuracies that come in from feed sources. Some MLSs participate, many others do not.

The fear that some have with Zillow purchasing Diverse Solutions is that they could use the IDX feed to clean their data without asking. This is an unfounded fear.

What you have with Zillow is the post IPO need to convert investor dollars into revenue. They will accomplish this by growing revenue on Zillow, and acquiring companies. Investors did not put money into Zillow only to have it languish in their bank account. They expect Zillow to put it to use. Zillow has a keen opportunity to offer a wide variety of services to agents and brokers. Chief among them are Advertising, IDX, Websites, Virtual Tours, CRM, CMA and others. You need only to look at the breadth of MOVE to understand a model for diversification of services offered by publishers.

MOVE purchases Threewide

MOVE operates Realtor.com, the longest standing national consumer property search portal. They compete with hundreds of similar portals including leading sites like Trulia, Zillow, Homes.com, Homefinder. These Realtor.com competitors rely on the data feed from Threewide’s Listhub platform for the bulk of their data. Listhub powers syndication across more than 100 MLSs and most of the top Franchises. You can only imagine the fear felt by their competitors when MOVE purchased the company. MOVE became the OPEC of listings.

Many believe that MOVE realized that there would be no end in sight to competition. Understanding that, they purchased Threewide to gain a foothold in a foundational technology infrastructure for all publisher websites. Since the purchase, they have not behaved badly, or done anything that would injure any of their competitors.  By all accounts, they are a good citizen vendor.

CoreLogic launches AppraiserSuite

AppraiserSuite is a software solution that combines MLS and public record data in a single online platform for Appraisers. When they announced the launch of the products, the first reaction of MLS was fear and concern. “Will Appraisers cancel their MLS subscriptions?” The answer is absolutely not. Only appraisers who are members of an MLS may have access to the product. What AppraiserSuite really does is bolster the role of the MLS in providing useful services to appraisers in a way that the MLS system does not today. The role of today’s MLS software is to serve the real estate agent, not the appraiser. Now, with AppraiserSuite appraiser professionals have a tool developed for them.

Good corporate citizens

What these case studies demonstrate is that companies can bridge verticals of service offerings without offending contracts, rules, and regulations for data use. Competitors can work together for the greater good. As an industry, we are great watchdogs, and have solid agreements to align and preserve the proper use of broker data. These companies are operating with integrity, and in every case – they have more to lose than to gain by breaching the trust relationship that they have built in the industry.

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