For a few years now, industry leaders have been working together to address data problems, producing almost two years ago a solution concept called “Upstream.” Not long after that, the WAV Group was asked to consult on the technical side of the development of the project. Our non-disclosure agreement has prevented us from saying much about it. However, now we are very pleased to be allowed finally to share some information about the concept. In an announcement this week, UpstreamRE, LLC, the standalone company that will direct the effort, announced that it is deep into serious negotiations with the National Association of REALTORS, exploring ways to leverage the significant assets and capabilities of NAR’sRealtor Property Resource unit to support key components of Upstream’s functionality. At the NAR Midyear meetings, the NAR Board of Directors approved $12 Million in funding to support Upstream and AMP development projects for Realtors Property Resource. UpstreamRE, LLC will now consider using some RPR services combined with other vendor services for the project.
Upstream is not an MLS!
Real estate firms across America have obstreperous data management problems. Three of those problems include the disorderly replication of add/edit; the replication and inconsistency of data formats; and the challenge of perfecting Copyright. These challenges that face firms are interrelated in many ways.
[ Definition: Obstreperous – noisy, difficult to control, unruly, unmanageable, disorderly, undisciplined, rowdy, disruptive. ]
The Solution for Duplicate Add-Edit
When a firm acquires a listing, there are many actions that often take place before that listing is placed in the MLS. For example, firms likely create a transaction in their back office system that allows expenses such as sign services, photography service, staging, or other expenditures to be ordered and tracked. Franchise firms are also required to enter the listing into the franchise system for accounting. Although some of the larger MLSs have created a new status for tracking this pre-listing data management need, most do not.
The duplication of add/edit in multiple databases is problematic. Nobody wants to experience the repetitive data entry for a variety of reasons. Chiefly, duplication of add-edit causes increased labor expenses and is prone to errors. Moreover, managing edits in multiple systems requires significant training and support.
The very best add-edit solution in the industry has been developed by MLSs. WAV Group supported project Upstream by creating a specification for an MLS quality add-edit solution. It includes usability solutions, like pre-populating the listing from tax record sources. It also includes listing integrity solutions to prevent errors in data entry. Most importantly, the construct supports the RESO Data Dictionary standard and field level business rules.
The specification for Upstream add-edit is the same specification used in MLSs across the nation: Data Dictionary compliant, public record auto population, and MLS rules compliant. Today, RPR does not offer add-edit functionality, however the new funding by NAR will allow them to add this to their roadmap. UpstreamRE will need to consider waiting vs. licensing an existing solution already in production.
The Solution for Replication and Inconsistent Data Formats
Overlapping market disorder has plagued real estate forever. It has caused firms to enter and maintain data in multiple MLSs. Firms are also operating a wide range of back office data management systems, including franchise data management solutions. Replicating data is the process of storing the same information in multiple databases. It’s expensive and wasteful. Different data base formats also create incremental costs whenever systems need to share data. It requires data mapping and aggregation. Again, it’s expensive and wasteful. Firms participating in Upstream will individually manage their data in a common format and in a common database.
Realtors Property Resource is the largest single data repository for listing content in the nation. It would make perfect sense for Upstream to leverage that Realtor member benefit to store and normalize listing records, agent records, office records, firm records, employee records, and customer records. And, who knows what other significant synergies might real estate practitioners benefit from in the future as a result of this logical collaboration.
“Upstream always has been about making practitioners much more efficient in the handling of their data, thus lowering the cost, time and effort they spend,” said Craig Cheatham, secretary of the UpstreamRE, LLC Board. “And, brokers will be able to regain much better control of that data, for which they ultimately are held responsible.”
RPR could provide project UpstreamRE with a head start that would allow participating brokers to get a head start on pulling their data together. RPR also has a lot of additionally useful data that was not contemplated by project UpstreamRE but could be a way to augment a firm’s data.
The Solution for Data Distribution
Project Upstream recognizes the incredible lack of efficiency in data distribution. Upstream will solve this problem by providing firms with a single data distribution dashboard to send their data wherever they want – an MLS system, a franchise system, a technology vendor, or even a publisher. The broker, and only the broker will be in control of where its data goes.
Today, RPR does not have a data dashboard solution that would meet the needs of project UpstreamRE. UpstreamRE will need to use one of the many commercial data distribution applications or work with RPR to evaluate their development capabilities in this area. The image below shows how UpstreamRE and RPR might be integrated.
About the Organizers
Project Upstream has the support of The Realty Alliance, Keller Williams, HomeServices of America, LeadingRE, RE/MAX, Realty Executives, Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices, Realogy, NRT and many others. All of these organizations have contributed and enormous amount of staff resources to insure that Upstream will serve the common, but independent, needs of all real estate brokers.
Upstream is not a broker data sharing solution. Each broker will only see and manage its own data. They have no access to any other broker’s data. Upstream would not make decisions about the real estate data it holds.
Upstream has completed their RFP process and is working directly with selected vendors for the technology components.
Upstream has developed governance that allows small, mid-sized, and large firms with representation on the Board of Managers. Participating firms will elect their representatives after the participants are divided into these three groups by the number of data sets they store in Upstream.
Upstream is not intended as a profit center, and will operate like a mutual benefit corporation.
Since NAR’s Board of Directors vote to support the cooperation proposal on May 16, Upstream and the National Association of REALTORS will work toward a final, detailed agreement that will specify the best roles for NAR and its resources within the project. Upstream’s founders have indicated to me they are extremely grateful that the national trade organization for real estate is poised to deliver this strong support for for all its members that will deliver enormous value.
Craig Cheatham is the official spokesperson for Project Upstream