Real Estate Brokerage Data: Understanding IDX and Data Standards

Data-driven technologies have already redefined — and will continue to redefine — the way real estate brokers and investors approach their businesses. The evening-up of traditionally inaccessible market information has allowed all real estate professionals the ability to increase the precision of their efforts, and to find and close deals that might have remained hidden in a pre-big data world. With all of this new data coming to light; there’s a little-understood development (led by RESO) that’s driving the adoption of data standards across the industry.

A brief history of IDX and data standards

Internet Data Exchange (IDX) refers to the capability of a Multiple Listing System (MLS) to display its listings online and across multiple websites via syndication. Originally, exchanging real estate data was done over FTP protocol, which had many inefficiencies. In 1999, the National Association of Realtors (NAR) and other industry groups launched the Real Estate Transaction Standard (RETS) to provide “a common language so that computers can more easily transfer real estate information, such as MLS data, to other computer programs or websites.” Although the implementation of the protocol has allowed for some standardization of the data, the field names of the underlying datasets (created by each individual MLS) vary widely between the different markets.

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By March of 2002, the Real Estate Standards Organization (RESO) was officially created as a working group in conjunction with NAR. RESO then provided each version of RETS along with RETS Certifications for vendors and clients. In November 2011, RESO was officially incorporated as an independent, not-for-profit trade organization, and no longer part of NAR.

In 2016 and again in the summer of 2018, RESO launched, with the help of the WAV Group, nationwide surveys of real estate brokers to learn more about the challenges that brokerages and their owners face with data management today. Through these surveys, RESO was able to gather valuable insights about the challenges brokers deal with when trying to ingest and manage MLS data.

In April 2017, the RETS Workgroup was sunset by RESO, and they announced that they will no longer be providing future versions of the RETS standard as of July 1st, 2018. This paved the way for the RESO Web API, and version 1.0.3 was officially ratified on December 19th, 2017. The goal of this new standard is to provide “a more open data approach using the widely-adopted RESTful (REpresentational State Transfer) technology in use by many industries today … to encourage and promote access to real estate information directly from web, mobile, social, and other HTTP-based applications.”

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What does this all mean for brokerages?

As you may know, technology vendors receive data feeds from MLS organizations, and supply the data in those feeds to the data warehouses and APIs and pushed into their real estate intranet and brokerage websites used by brokers and their agents. Historically, creating software to handle these feeds has been complex and often time-consuming. An example might help: at one point RESO had identified nearly 30 different ways a single, common field (a listing’s MLS Number) was named in various MLS feeds they used. For a company dealing with these data feeds, such as TRIBUS, it meant that new code needed to be written to account for all of these different naming conventions. Multiply that by the on-average 150 data points in each MLS feed, and you might get an idea of how inefficient and error-prone that process could be. Thankfully, RESO’s push for the adoption of data standards is making this process much easier!

Ideally, these changes will all support the goal of making sure that real estate brokerages have control of their own data and where it’s sent. Every real estate brokerage technology that interfaces with MLS data – your IDX websites, your apps, your marketing technology, your CRM — all benefit from the efforts of RESO. It can also help reduce future technology costs, and speed up your ability to expand into new markets.

RESO’s Vice Chair, Michael Wurzer, describes the future of the real estate industry when all websites with MLS feeds have complete data with both standard and localized fields. He acknowledges that, “It does require change,” but is ideal for the consumer. He also adds that the real estate industry doesn’t need to “rush through the process” to achieve this “great long term goal.”

Calvin LaDue is part of the Concierge Support department at TRIBUS. He works to provide helpful and easy-to-understand support for TRIBUS products, and strives to forge meaningful client-focused relationships to ensure customer satisfaction and loyalty. Previously, Calvin provided enterprise-level support for a large research university in Madison, Wisconsin, serving its population of over 100,000 faculty, staff and students. In addition to contributing top-tier technical support for TRIBUS, Calvin offers an education-first approach to new client on-boarding and training.
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