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Real Estate Big Data

Why brokers and agents must understand real estate data standards



real estate data standards

If you have never thought about how important data standards in the real estate industry are, here are some questions for you:

  • Have you ever been able to list and sell a home while typing the listing address (and other information) less than a dozen times?
  • Have you ever made the transition to a new MLS system only to have to set up all of your prospects all over again?
  • Why can’t you have someone build you a mobile app that leverages all the information in the MLS – listings, clients, saved searches, financial worksheets, etc.?
  • If you belong to more than one MLS, why do you have to enter the listing into each system separately?

Most brokers and agents just assume that the situations described above are just “how things are,” and that there’s no way to make things better. They are wrong. Believe it or not, brokers and agents can play a part in making things better. It all comes back to understanding how real estate data standards work.

Real Estate Data Standards

Data standards define a uniform technical method of moving information between computer systems. In the real estate industry, this standard is called RETS (the Real Estate Transaction Standard) and is managed by an organization called RESO (the Real Estate Standards Organization).

RETS has been under development since 1999. It isn’t even close to “done” because for most of those years no one was managing the process, and RETS development was driven almost entirely by the part-time effort of volunteers such as myself.

It is only in recent years that RESO was formed and professional project management was put in place to manage the volunteer effort. This has radically accelerated RETS standards development; if the industry puts more funding into RESO, it may be possible to hire more staff to make the process go even faster.

The Current State of Real Estate Data Standards

Most real estate systems “speak” a version of RETS that is only capable of moving listing information and MLS subscriber information. This makes it impossible to move some of the information types, such as your prospects’ information, described earlier.

Adding to the problem, there are over 850 MLSs in the U.S. and Canada today, and each has its own unique data fields. For example, Hawaiian MLSs have “lanais.” Moreover, each MLS has unique ways of describing fields that are common to all MLSs. For example, one MLS might have “ListingContractDate”, and others might have ListingDate, DateOfListing, ListDate, ListingContractDate, or AgreementDate. Some MLSs will even have entirely different ways to describe the same thing. Imagine one MLS describing tree coverage as light, medium or heavy wooded, and another describing it in terms of % coverage. There are hundreds of similar examples. All of this makes it challenging for someone who wants to write one program or create one website to use data from multiple MLSs.

While many people in the industry are frustrated that RETS isn’t further along, keep in mind that when it comes to web standards, it took the Web standards organization (the W3C) more than 10 years to release a new version of HTML (version 5). RETS has come a long way in that same timeframe. Still, it’s okay to want RETS to move faster and fulfill its promise, solving the kinds of issues described earlier in this article.

Standards Adoption is Key

Thankfully, RESO volunteers are working to solve the problems described above. The new “data dictionary” provides standardized ways to refer to data covering a wide variety of data types: property (including media and listing history), membership, office, contacts, saved searches and open houses. That’s not every type of data one might want to move from system to system, but it’s getting there.

BUT, while the improved standards have been created, they haven’t been adopted by MLSs and other tech companies.

What Can YOU Do About It?

You can make sure your MLSs and other software providers know that you understand about data standards and you want them to make standards adoption – and integrations based on them – a priority. By telling them so, you can get all the benefits of the rapidly evolving standards.

Some MLSs might say, “We’re dependent on our MLS software vendor to do that for us,” and they are telling the truth there. Nonetheless, the vendors won’t move faster until their MLS customers tell them it’s a priority, and your local MLS won’t do that until its subscribers tell it in turn that standards are a priority. So again, it comes back to you.

Also, if you have a bit of technical skill or even just knowledge of the data, you can get involved with RESO to add your efforts to that of other volunteers’. And, if you have some financial resources, you can join RESO as a member (as I have, putting my money where my mouth is).

For more information about real estate data standards, visit

Matt Cohen has been with Clareity Consulting for over 17 years, consulting for many of the real estate industry’s top Associations, MLSs, franchises, large brokerages and technology companies. Many clients look to Matt for help with system selection and negotiation. Technology providers look to Matt for assistance with product planning, software design, quality assurance, usability, and information security assessments. Matt has spoken at many industry events, has been published as an author in Stefan Swanepoel’s “Trends” report and many other publications, and has been honored by Inman News, being listed as one of the 100 Most Influential Real Estate Leaders.

Real Estate Big Data

How a COVID-19 vaccine could upend the housing market (again)

(REAL ESTATE BIG DATA) COVID-19 completely changed the trajectory of the housing market, but the promise of a vaccine could pull it back around in another direction.



A house at dusk with lights illuminated, favored by housing market.

According to CNN Business, “the coronavirus pandemic dramatically changed the landscape of the housing market.” In many expensive urban housing markets, such as Manhattan and San Francisco, vacancy rates are high as people are moving to the suburbs; rents are low in these markets because workers are free from their office jobs.

When combined with low interest rates, this is putting a higher demand on homes in less populated markets. Many people are watching the real estate market closely as vaccines on the horizon promise a return to normal. How could the housing market be affected?

Homeowners still want to work from home to enjoy their sanctuary

The coronavirus reminded people how important home life was. Working from home eliminated commutes and gave workers back some of their time. Even with all the complications of working from home, buyers are looking for homes with a big backyard and space for a home office.

In the Dallas market, starter homes are high in demand. In urban markets that are more expensive, second homes in the rural areas are popular.

People should return to urban areas

As the vaccine gives Americans a return to normal, people will return to the big cities. CNN Business reports that the vacancy rate in Manhattan is 6.14%. Median rental prices are down almost 15% over last year.

As the pandemic comes to an end, it may be a renter’s market until the Fortune 500 companies bring people back to work. A vaccine could also lead to non-US buyers returning to the market, which would make the market more stable.

The vaccine could reverse mortgage rates

Some economists believe that the interest rates will continue to decline, but others suggest that a vaccine could switch the trend. Even so, Marketwatch predicts that many homeowners will still refinance as rates go. Homes will still be in demand, leading to a surge in the housing market.

In fact, a vaccine could mean that more homes will go on the market. Homeowners who hunkered down to ride out the pandemic could be more willing to host open houses and make a move themselves. A vaccine could contribute to supply, which will help buyers get better deals.

The Austin market is strong

Residential sales in the Austin area have increased by 31.5% over last year. Prices have also surged. The median price of a home in Austin’s city limits was $435,000 in August. Sales are expected to slow as supply dwindles. Inventory is limited because people are choosing to stay in their homes. Competition for homes on the market is high, driving prices even higher.

A vaccine is promising for the real estate market

A vaccine should even out the market, but without a crystal ball, it’s hard to know what will happen. Record sales in the Texas market certainly weren’t predicted to be an outcome of a pandemic. It will take time for the economy to level out and for people to get back to work in the entertainment and restaurant industry. How the vaccine impacts the market may depend on location, just as it always has.

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Real Estate Big Data

Austin real estate will still be hot post-COVID, just different

(REAL ESTATE BIG DATA) While Austin real estate has gone through some changes in the pandemic, commercial and residential markets are still hot with no signs of slowing down.



Austin real estate shown in the skyline of the Texas city.

The Austin, Texas real estate market looks set to be just as hot post-COVID-19 as it was before the coronavirus pandemic—though it may look a little different.

In October, the Austin Business Journal convened a panel of experts to discuss the future of real estate in the Texas capital. These included Sean Bukowski, the owner of the Bukowski Law Firm, Investors Alliance Inc., President Diana Zuniga, Affordable Central Texas CEO David Steinwedell, Presario Ventures Principal Darin Davis, and Sabot Development Managing Partner Jim Young.

Despite COVID-19’s adverse effects on the economy, the residential real estate sector has continued to remain hot, with industrial space booming as well.

According to the Urban Land Institute’s annual report, Austin is the second-best real estate market in the country going into 2021, though it did hold the top spot in the institute’s previous reports. That doesn’t mean the Austin real estate sector has come away completely unscathed from the pandemic, however, as leasing seems to be an area of concern.

“In terms of leasing, leasing just came to a screeching halt. We had several good prospects for our building — it’s 123,000 square feet and by April everybody was just on hold.” Zuniga said, “A few people now are stirring but the transaction volume overall, if you read the reports, is really down.”

Downtown offices are also feeling the current effects of the coronavirus. Zuniga stated that the latest surveys found office buildings downtown to be “running at 20% capacity” at the moment. This would affect not only the businesses who are leasing downtown area buildings but the restaurants and retail spaces who make a large part of their revenue from the office crowds. Although many experts on the panel believe that the sector will rebound, it will most likely be with different companies that are there currently.

“The downside is that it’s likely going to be with a lot of different players than it was before.” Bukowski said when asked about the downtown area, “Because we represent a number of music venues, for example, and they’re not coming back anytime soon and probably not going to make it, unfortunately.”

Exactly what things will look like in Austin when the COVID-19 pandemic is over is anyone’s guess, but things are certainly shifting across the country—and Austin might not be immune.

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Real Estate Big Data

As remote work explodes, workers flock to second cities

(BIG DATA) As remote working becomes more normalized, workers are choosing where they want to live, so second cities are changing the landscape.



Fall leaves on a white and red house, living in second cities

Over the summer I had to move out of the SF Bay, my home and a famously high-rent hotspot. Life there had never been cheap, but the economic crash at the start of the year had made it nearly impossible to stay. (Not to mention the yearly wildfires were pretty inconvenient.)

It’s strange to admit, but going to a suburb on the other side of the country was easier than trying to continue living in my home city.

I’m not alone in feeling that way. Plenty of other workers in the digital sector are making the same choice, leading to the emergence of ”second cities” where predominantly white-collar workers have been moving to comfortably work from home.

Remote work has evolved from a once-privileged exception to practically being a hot business trend, and the merits have been widely embraced across industries where remote work is possible. In a study performed by UK employment firm Robert Walters, 86% of employers across 31 countries replied that they intend to keep their remote workforce in some capacity. In other words, the second city is here to stay.

Economics lecturer Michel Serafinelli suggested to The Guardian that cities will become less congested, high costs of living will begin to balance out, and skilled workers will be more widely distributed as a result of this transition.

Minnesota is one state that’s counting on these “second cities” to continue flourishing. By investing high speed broadband infrastructure, it hopes to attract wayward telecommuters to come live there and boost GDP.

So the flight from metropolis seems bound to continue, at least among certain workers. Based on 2018 statistics from the US Bureau of Labour, Black and Hispanic men in particular disproportionately work in the service sector, where just 1% of jobs can be performed remotely.

2020 has marked a major turning point for the US housing economy. In areas like New York, Seattle, San Francisco, and Los Angeles, residents have protested unaffordable rent for decades. Yet gentrification has slowly but relentlessly escalated, driving costs-of-living sky high and displacing long-term local residents. California has actually been slowly losing residents to this process over the last four years, saying goodbye to just under 200,000 in 2018 alone according to MSNBC.

Bloomberg City Lab breaks it down like this: “From the Bay Area and Los Angeles, Phoenix and Las Vegas are typically the most popular destinations. And New Yorkers showed a tendency to move to Florida — a state that had 22,000 more users looking to move there in the third quarter than leave.”

The effect is so dramatic, it may have had an impact on this year’s election results.

In other words, these second cities aren’t exactly new. And if this year is any indication, they are only going to grow in influence in the future.

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