Upstream

Upstream Goes Both Ways

by Victor Lund on April 27, 2017

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April 10th marked a big transition for Upstream RE, the broker driven effort to develop a data management system for all firms. As you may know, there are three components to Upstream – data input, data storage, and data distribution. It is also important to remind you what Upstream is not – it’s not an MLS, not a consumer site, and not a data share. Upstream is a replacement for the independent efforts of all 86,000 real estate brokers to manage their customer records, agent records, firm records, vendor records, and listing records. The big transition is two-way sync with MLSs. One of the challenges to the early stage thesis of Upstream was that it only spoke to the MLS one way. Data entered into Upstream would be pulled by the MLS or MLS(s). There was no flaw with this original thesis; it was a stylistic choice that had many merits like a single interface, flexibility to offer non-MLS fields, accommodation for other data sets that the MLS does not manage, and so forth. There is also a philosophy that supports the best practice for copyright management. All of that aside, real estate works from the MLS out today. The data in the MLS is the heartbeat for brokers and agents representing consumers. The MLS has evolved over decades and will continue to be the most important distribution destination for a firm’s records. Evolving the connection between the MLS and Upstream will serve to strengthen the role of both Upstream and the MLS. It’s better in abundant ways. From a data perspective, the forward-looking relationship between Upstream and MLSs will be similar to an MLS data share. Today there are cross market and cross platform data shares between all vendors – CoreLogic, FlexMLS, Rapattoni, Black Knight, and others. The bi-directional data flow between these systems works just fine, and Upstream will be just another data share. For a long time now, our industry has witnessed the war between those who want a national MLS and those who believe that such a system is absurd. Regardless of where you opine in that battle, you must agree that MLSs that “talk” to each other will have the same practical result as a large regional or national MLS without the sacrifice of local determination and service. Moving forward, firms participating in Upstream will have the choice of entering data into the MLS or […]

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Upstream is Already an Awesome Tool for Brokerage Firms

by Victor Lund on January 31, 2017

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Brokerage firms and franchises across America are already in the data management business. There are 85,000ish firms in America and each of them struggle to manage their information in one fashion or another. Upstream may be most simply understood as a solution that harmonizes data management into a single solution that is 100% controlled inside the firm, like Google Drive. Given the fiduciary responsibility of firms to comply with real estate law and MLS business rules, Upstream takes special care to provide a platform that delivers assurances that a firms practices are supported. I was invited to participate in their first CIO/CTO webinar this morning and I am so impressed by the pace of development. Broker Control In Upstream, broker control over information is defined in two ways – Access and Entitlement. Upstream provides the firm with the ability to issue a Token that authorizes access to data. Entitlement is the ability to authorize who has privileges to manage the data. For example, some firms give control to the agent, others give control to some agents and not others, some entitle administrators, and others entitle managers. Upstream supports any entitlement process that a firm defines. Moreover, Upstream provides a firm with a switch to issue or rescind data access in real time. Custom Data Management Support In our industry, there is a combination of standard structured data formats that live alongside the custom needs of a firm. Upstream supports both. Data management is shaped by the requirements of the sum of applications that the data is distributed to. For example, data distribution to an MLS has a set of requirements, whereby distribution to a CRM application, Accounting software, or Transaction Management solution has different needs. Because of the variability of needs of each software solution today, firms find themselves hand entering inforamtion again and again and again. Moreover, they are also updating the information over and over, and are removing information over and over. This is a tremendous headache for firms to harmonize their data across so many applications. Upstream fixes it all, from a single location. Moreover, it provides your software partners with an easy integration source that works not only for your firm, but other firms that are using that software vendor. Vendor Support Real estate firms are managing their software vendors in a “many broker” to “many vendor” method today. In reality, if there is an issue […]

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2017 Growth forecast concept

2016 has been a great year for real estate. On many levels we see the entire industry rethinking. Giving credit where credit is due – this is an initiative that was powered by the National Association of REALTORS® – but morphed into many other things. Consolidation 2016 saw the most rapid consolidation of MLSs and Associations in history. WAV Group worked on many of them. The common drive is the notion that there are “too many MLSs and Associations.” But what we learned from deeper investigation through services reviews and satisfaction reviews is that there were “too many ineffective MLSs and Associations.” As Californian’s often remark, there are not too many winemakers in California, there are too many that make bad wine. In 2017 and beyond, organizations need to take broker and agent satisfaction more seriously. Associations and MLSs that put a bad wine on the table and expect their members and subscribers to drink will quickly learn that they are obsolete. The real estate industry is at war with well funded outside companies that intend to disrupt it. Areas of the country that do not provide outstanding services to brokers and agents will see disruption first. Consolidation 2.0 – it is worth mentioning the largest consolidation effort in America – Bright MLS – the new company founded by the bundling of Trend MLS, MRIS, and about eight others to create the Nation’s largest MLS. In this case of consolidation (and there are many other examples), a number of great MLSs with exceptional services and subscriber satisfaction are joining together to reimagine how they can serve brokers and agents even better. It is not just the approach of economies of scale – as you will see in the coming year – its about providing an MLS service that is far different, and far better than any other. This is a group that is highly strategic and highly skilled. Their future is indeed, Bright. RESO – Real Estate Standards Organization Perhaps the leading indicator of failing MLSs in America is RESO Data Dictionary compliance. To pass compliance, the MLS must format a data feed that uses an industry standard for the fields and field names. This is not hard folks. Out of more than 720 MLSs, there are still 50 that are not in compliance. These organizations had two years to plan and implement. And now they are more than a […]

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Time For Brokers To Clean Up Online Profiles

by Victor Lund on December 1, 2016

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Real Estate Agent and Brokerage Profiles Online are a mess. Specifically, agent and broker profiles on the broker website, Zillow, Realtor.com, and Homes.com are naturally in disarray at this time of year. With transaction volume low during December, it is a very good time to clean everything up. Most brokerages audited by WAV Group consulting average 10% inaccuracy, which reduces lead generation and undermines a firm’s online reputation. Start With Data Collection It is a relatively easy task to collect the data necessary to update profiles. Start with your offices. “Offices have identities,” says Marilyn Wilson, partner with WAV Group. “When we audit brokerage firms we find that companies who have moved offices rarely put forth the effort to remove the old offices from Association Data Bases, MLS Data Bases, Brokerage websites, and syndication websites,” according to Wilson. There are services that can do this for you. WAV Group has resources that can automate the process on major search sites like Yelp, Google, and others. But the syndication sites require more effort, typically requiring the broker to log into the publisher site to make corrections. Agent profiles are the heavy lifting. It is vital that you collect the profile image of all of your agents, detail their contact information, and help them curate a reasonable bio of at least 250 words. Here is a quick guide for 5 Best Tips to Create a Powerful Bio (Sherry McCormick) Audit December is a great time to audit your syndication websites. Look not only for agent and broker profiles, but you may also want to measure the effectiveness of the sites where you syndicate. “If you are going to share your property listings with third party websites, you should do so with intention,” says Victor Lund, listing syndication specialist with WAV Group. Here are a few things to consider” Does the website adhere to the fair display guidelines (see fairdisplay.org)? Do you get leads from the site? Test it – inquire about one of your listings on each site to see if the lead is produced in your lead management system. Review the terms of use. Many brokers may not be aware of the terms, especially the liabilities related to listing content and copyright. Check the agent profiles for every agent in your company. If they are incomplete, you may be missing out on leads and lead conversions. Document “It is a good idea […]

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Zillow Group Buys Bridge to Go Upstream

by Victor Lund on August 16, 2016

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Zillow Group announced the purchase of Bridge Interactive, making them the provider of listing input in a number of MLSs, and the data distribution manager in many others. In some ways, Bridge Interactive is like Upstream, but not a competitor. Bridge is about helping brokers solve data problems and may become a conduit that more easily permits Upstream to allow brokers to deliver listing content to MLSs. Throughout the process of developing the Request for Proposal for Project Upstream, the technology workgroup evaluated many technology offerings. At the end of the day, there were three pieces to the Upstream puzzle that needed to be put together – Listing Input and Management; Data Repository; and Listing Distribution. Listing input and management is the hardest par, as is it includes the ability to handle the sophistication of an MLS system. Many technology firms have ample Data Repositories so that is not the hard part. Listing distribution is pretty common and not hard either. A stand-alone solution for listing input is rare, most MLS systems have this component baked in. Atlanta-based Bridge Interactive developed a specific application to solve the problem of overlapping market disorder for MLSs, whereby a single listing would go into two or more MLSs. As a case in point, the Atlanta, GA area has two MLS offerings – FMLS and Georgia MLS. Bridge Interactive allows brokers to enter a listing once into Bridge Interactive and publish it in both MLSs, as well as capture additional fields required by the broker. The hard part is supporting the business rules of an MLS or multiple MLSs and resolving them into a single user interface. Zillow Group has had the pieces to Upstream with the combination of Postlets for listing input, their massive data repository, and listing distribution, through both Postlets and Retsly. I would expect that their data repository is equal to or greater than most any data repository in our industry. It certainly is massive and seems to have no trouble with the largest concurrent real estate load in the world. But Postlets was developed for a simpler type of data input – namely input for syndication. Today, Postlets has been re-deployed as the Zillow Rentals Manager and is no longer used for listing input. With Bridge Interactive, Zillow Group has improved their capabilities in listing input significantly. Moreover, they have acquired the team from Bridge, who are among the sharpest in our […]

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SAN FRANCISCO, July 28, 2016 /PRNewswire/– Reflecting the strategic and operational importance of eSignature and Digital Transaction Management (DTM) across the real estate, property management and mortgage industries, thought-leaders Alex Lange from UpstreamRE, Bob Goldberg from National Association of REALTORS®, and Jeremy Crawford from the Real Estate Standards Organization (RESO) today added their expertise to the xDTM Standard Association’s advisory board. The xDTM Standard provides in-depth guidelines and best practices that Digital Transaction Management vendors should address to create a trusted online environment for their customers, including data ownership, transparency, security and the ability for data integration across applications. This is especially important in the real estate industry, given the standard includes requirements that personal information is used only for the purpose it was intended. This aligns directly with brokers’ and agents’ priority that the data collected be used appropriately and only in a manner to which brokers and agents have consented. “Standards are integral to the health of the real estate industry – they lay the foundation for improved collaboration between parties and promote efficiency in real estate transactions,” said Jeremy Crawford, Executive Director at the Real Estate Standards Organization (RESO). “We’re pleased to bring our real estate expertise to the xDTM Standard advisory board, and we’re looking forward to working with the group to ensure the right levels of privacy, validity and security are in place for all our members who use eSignature technologies.” The appointment of these new members is testament to the real estate industry’s importance as one of the earliest adopters of eSignature and DTM technology. And it comes at a time when the xDTM Standard Association is seeing increased interest from the sector to ensure improvements in technology can benefit brokers, agents, buyers, sellers and everyone involved in the complete transaction – from listing to close. “All digital transactions – especially real estate transactions, which contain some of the most sensitive and time-sensitive information – will benefit from the xDTM Standard,” said Alex Lange, CEO, UpstreamRE. “UpstreamRE is thrilled to join the xDTM Standard Association advisory board and further the work of the body to foster trusted digital transaction environments that allow for choice, privacy, flexibility, security and control – critical elements for brokers, agents and their clients.” More than 300 companies already endorse the xDTM Standard – with several prominent Board of Governors including individuals from SAP, BASF, Dow Jones, News Corp, Visa, Intel, Hewlett Packard, FedEx, NBC Universal, DocuSign, the United States Postal Service, BuckleySandler, […]

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Upstream Agent Record

by Victor Lund on October 22, 2015

Many assume that Upstream is only about listings. In fact, there are six database categories that are contemplated for the application that solve a lot of problems for brokers of any size. The Need For A Single Agent Record Depending on the brokerage, the Agent Record – their office address, office phone, bio, headshot, cell number, social media profile, et. al. Agent Records are used in a lot of applications across the brokerage. Here is a partial list, but a common list for a brokerage of 1 agent in 1 MLS market. Broker Website/Agent Website MLS MLS Consumer Site Mobile App Virtual tour CMA Flyer/Marketing Accounting System Realtor.com/Zillow Group et al Newspaper/Magazine et al Drip Marketing Lead Management Buyer Listing Notifications Franchise/Network Agent Ratings Contact Management System Transaction Management Document Management Digital Signatures For an agent to update their profile across all of these systems is cumbersome. For a brokerage to try to manage the identity of their agents in all of these applications is even worse. Consider the added complexity of multiple offices, multiple MLSs, and in many cases, multiple marketing solutions. Brokers and agents die the death of a thousand cuts when it comes to managing disparate databases. It is equally problematic for technology vendors who want to launch or migrate users. With Upstream, any broker can add/edit their data in one system – and permit any vendor to access their data records from one system. It’s simple, elegant, and necessary. This solution will be available in Q1 for certain Alpha markets. If you are a vendor who is interested in getting access to the Upstream API as it becomes available, please send an email to Victor Lund – victor@wavgroup.com. We are beginning the process of developing application requirements. If you want to get an overview of Upstream – download our Upstream Report here.

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Upstream Revealed

by Victor Lund on October 15, 2015

As many of you know, WAV Group has been working with a group of brokers and franchises for more than a year on a project called Upstream. Today, Upstream is a corporation with one of the strongest board of directors in our industry. It has been an honor to work with the board along with the CIOs and CTOs of their corporations to define the Upstream application and talk to enterprise level technology firms who have the capacity to deliver such an enormous solution. Until now, very little information has been shared openly across the industry. Until the company’s governance was established, the application specified, and a vendor sourced – there was little to say. Upstream has been theoretical. It is about to become operational. We have created a report onUpstream that you can download and share. Please feel free to contact me with any questions. victor@wavgroup.com Download the complete report on Upstream here.  

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Project Upstream Revealed

by Victor Lund on May 14, 2015

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 […]

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