Last week at the NAR Mid Year conference, NAR agreed to fund Upstream with another $9 million, while the company also announced a pivot in their function. Upstream, a listing management tool, being built by the REALTORS Property Resource of RPR and owned by brokers, changed their immediate course of development by saying it would now take listings from an MLS, instead of forcing itself to be upstream of the MLS.
Upstream envisioned itself as place where all listing entry and maintenance would happen for the brokers who choose to use the product, but for a variety of reasons, it now looks to initially position itself as a broker data management tool instead of a broker listing data management tool.
This comes after a couple of years of two competing products – Upstream developed by RPR and Bridge Compose owned by Zillow – have been working to create products to solve two of brokers most notable needs – duplicate listing entry and data management.
What This Means for Cape Cod Real Estate
CCIMLS has been extremely proactive in researching this technology. One of our business plan initiatives has been to solve what our members have said is the most significant and time consuming task they do on a regular basis – entering a listing in multiple MLSs, and management of that data by brokerages that are in multiple MLSs.
While it is simple in concept to create a single point of entry, it gets complicated based on custom data fields, business rules and accommodating the unique needs of Cape Cod real estate agents. For a single point of entry solution to work, it must contain all the fields and rules for all the MLSs the member is in. This means that not only would the single point of entry need to accommodate all CCIMLS needs, but would also need to integrate the vastly different fields that the other MLSs require. For example, at least one of the MLSs that some members are also members of does not have a field called ‘Village.’ This means if you enter a listing in CCIMLS and send the data to another MLS that does not have village as an accepted field, the member must go in to the other MLS and re-enter the listing it be accepted. To underscore the magnitude of this project, some of our members are also members at least 5 different MLSs in the region, all with a host of custom and required fields, all different from each other. Taken together, these business rules make it harder than it would initially seem to create a single point of entry between MLSs.
This is why companies like Zillow and RPR have been looking to create products for brokers to use that implement all of these business rules, MLS fields, and any other data a broker may wish to collect about a listing. This data can be as granular as is if a sign needed on the property, who is the attorney is for the seller or other data a brokerage wants to collect on the transaction).
Two products have emerged in the marketplace to sell to brokers. From what I am hearing, they will be offered at a very reasonable price to brokerages to solve these needs. Those products are Upstream and Bridge’s Compose product.
Exploring the Products
Upstream is a company that was created by large brokerages and franchises around the country. They teamed up and put out a Request for Proposals, and found that the National Association of REALTORS’ Realtors Property Resource (RPR) was the best partner to build their product for them. They also got NAR to sign on to fund the development of the product.
Upstream was created in concept to be the place brokers and agents enter and manage their listings. However, as we said, last week, Upstream announced it will move more to being a broker data management tool. In my opinion, this is due to technology difficulties, the recognition agents do not necessarily want to go outside the MLS infrastructure for data entry and management, and their strategy in working with the MLSs.
Read one take on Upstream’s new product: Upstream’s Return to Earth
On the other side of the equation from Upstream is Bridge Compose. This product was initially created about 10 years ago and was recently by Zillow last year. Zillow, which owns other real estate technology tools such as Dotloop and Retsly, is working on developing a data input and management tool for brokerages. While Bridge Compose has launched in a couple of markets, it has been slow to gain full acceptance as it is using RETS servers to transport the data to the MLS.
Essentially, the issue is that MLSs and other data services are moving away from RETS and towards applicable programming interfaces (APIs) as the real estate industry standard. APIs are widely used by web developers and apps such as Facebook, Twitter, Amazon Cloud Services and others. While this is a good move for the long term, the rub is that the Real Estate Standards Organization has not yet passed standards for transporting real estate data through an API to an MLS database. Those standards are being feverishly worked on. Once those standards are finalized, we may actually see technology catch up with the industry needs.
Whether a broker uses the Bridge or Upstream product (or any other that may come out), will be up to the individual brokerage and not an MLS decision; however, it will be incumbent upon the MLSs working with these tools for implementation.