Data Standards

data standards

“Data is the new oil.” For some, this phrase rings true with data as an extremely valuable resource to be captured and protected. To others, tired of the ad nauseam conversations about data, it may sound like another shiny substance that greases every industry speaker’s presentation.

Why does it actually matter to the average practitioner? As I wade through the industry’s technology conversations, it’s clear that many have gotten so lofty that they seem removed from the concrete value we’re providing via technology to brokers, agents, and their consumer customers.


Why should brokers and agents care about data standards?

Brokers simply ask: “How can we provide more value to our customers, and build more profitable businesses?“

“When we spend this much money and time focused on data, why does a consumer still have better tools than the average industry professional?”

Your apps, websites, and MLS interfaces have been band-aided together. Consumers have better technology in their hands than the professionals do because technology companies have spent billions of dollars normalizing disorganized industry data for them.

Meanwhile, the foundation of internal professional technology across the real estate industry is like a scene from the Tower of Babel. Thousands of MLSs and brokers who all speak different languages internally struggle to communicate with one another clearly.

It’s a mess. It doesn’t have to be.

If we want better technology that provides more value to your customers, all of your tools need to speak a common language. Your technology vendors need to know it’s a priority. They support data standards, but they need their customers to tell them it’s a priority.

This is why the Real Estate Standards Organization (RESO) was created. Industry collaborators from MLS to broker, agent, and consumer software providers have come together to provide that common language standard. This is the Rosetta Stone for technology that allows your apps and systems to be smarter, faster, and less expensive.

Standards don’t remove the unique, local flavor in any marketplace. Rather, they use a common data language to ensure that a seller in Seattle can list a property and the buyers in Charlotte and Chicago can receive accurate data about it. The “bonus room” in Seattle might be a “great room” in Chicago and a “FROG” (finished room over garage) in Charlotte. The locals can call it what they want. The technology knows what it is when a common data standard is used to define it.

Similarly, a broker in Kansas City should be able to hire a technology company in San Francisco to create an app that works across every market in the nation. When data standards are used across all of these markets, the technology is built faster, more robustly, and at a lower cost. When there are no standards, it can take months to normalize the disparate data from different markets.

If you’ve been frustrated with the time it takes for new technology to come to your brokerage or marketplace, there’s a good chance your technology partners are struggling with non-standardized data. When your apps and transaction management platforms and CRMs can’t talk to each other, it’s likely there hasn’t been a standard adopted to make that happen.

Open data standards are the basis for the World Wide Web. A common language is used by astronauts to fly to the International Space Station. The common standard model is used by the smartest and most successful people and companies in the world.

So the next time you hear RESO, you’ll understand why real estate standards are so important to raising the technology foundation of the industry. We’re all competitors in this business, and will continue to be. By agreeing to a common set of standards as a starting point, though, we improve everyone’s ability to deliver value to consumers and professional customers.

Data standards are the rising tide that floats all boats. We are an industry of professionals focused on delivering quality consumer experiences. It’s a necessity that we focus our technology partners on ensuring RESO standards are at the core of their development of any tools or systems. Our businesses, our bottom line, and our credibility with consumers demand it.

Sam DeBord

Sam DeBord
Sam DeBord is CEO of the Real Estate Standards Organization (RESO), VP of Government Affairs for Washington REALTORS®, and NAR President’s Liaison for MLS and Data Management.



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