Could this Be the End of IDX?
For some time now, The Realty Alliance has been working on a project called Project Upstream. There has been much speculation on what Project Upstream is and what it will do. We are now starting to see all the pieces fall into place with some recent changes in NAR policy. On May 16, 2015, the Board of Directors for NAR approved a relationship between NAR, RPR and UpStream RE, LLC. Upstream LLC is the company formed by Realty Alliance partners to move forward with that project. The relationship between RPR and The Realty Alliance is strange, since many of the brokers that are members of The Realty Alliance have not been big fans of RPR up to this point.
What is Project Upstream/AMP?
Project Upstream is the strategy for gaining control of a broker’s listing data. That strategy needed a technical platform for listing input, database and distribution. As of present, it has been very challenging to get a system to INPUT into an MLS, although getting data out was easy. AMP is the system that NAR is funding (being built by RPR) which will become that listing input system, property database and distribution mechanism. Once a listing is in AMP, a broker can then send that listings to the MLS, other broker sites and third-party aggregators. Some brokers could opt out of IDX at the MLS level, but still get their listings on other brokers websites and anywhere else they desire. They will be using the new RESO MLS Data Dictionary for data conformity, all the while maintaining ownership of the listing data. For the NAR/RPR explanation of exactly what this system does, check out the video below.
A Little Background
To fully understand everything that is going on requires that you take in some history. It has been known for a long time that many “well capitalized brokers” (some of which are Realty Alliance members) around the country did not like the fact that they lose control of their listing data once uploaded to the MLS. Technically, the data becomes property of the MLS and the broker then gets their data back in the form of a RETS feed. In many instances, the MLS would syndicate their listings, even if they were not on board with the syndication destinations.
A Loss of Control
The Realty Alliance has been making some moves on equalizing that balance of power. For instance, just recently they were instrumental in getting Sold Real Estate Data in IDX Feeds, which would let brokers display Sold Data just as Zillow and other third-party aggregators do.
It’s important to note that many larger brokers were not exactly on board with RPR, as they saw RPR becoming a nationwide MLS and further degrading their simple control over their listing data. RPR has denied that claim since day one. At the end of the day, RPR takes listings (directly from the MLS) puts them into a huge database, and gives participating agents access to those listings with a slick set of tools on top. Sounds a lot like an MLS, doesn’t it? So, what’s missing? Yes . . . it’s a data input side! Guess what just got passed. 🙂
To Recap What Just Happened…
With the recent vote of approval by the NAR Board of Directors, they have approved a data-entry system for the brokerages using the RPR Advanced Multilist Platform–AMP for short. The system will give brokerages a single place to input their listings, then those listings could be distributed to websites, MLS’s and of course straight to the broker’s website. I would not be shocked if the final version provides a time delay, letting listings first appear on a broker site prior to 3rd party syndication, possibly allowing for different information to be sent to each. Having the data originally input into ARM avoids the loss of ownership of the listing data when getting the listings BACK from the MLS via a RETS feed. It’s also worth noting that in that approval, NAR has authorized an additional 12 million dollars (out of operating reserves) to pay for this project. As of now, RPR has struggled to make money and has been a money pit. As of now, RPR has cost NAR over 106 million dollars and has needed to allocate new funds for 2015 and 2016. RPR had only generated a total of $586,000 in revenue up to the end of 2013. They have not reported any new revenue numbers (can’t imagine why).
So Why Would Realty Alliance Partner With RPR?
So, if some brokers have been worried about RPR becoming a national MLS, why would they partner with RPR to build the missing link? If I had to take a shot in the dark, I would say its because RPR is paying for the build out of the technology (remember that 12 million dollars). With the financial struggles of RPR, this is their last ditch hope of staying afloat by getting the backing of some of the bigger players in real estate. It also serves the brokers by giving them back control of their listing data and gives them much more control on where their listings are displayed. Some might play hardball and distribute their listings to the local MLS and their “partner” brokers, but opt out of IDX, which is how most listings get displayed on local broker websites.
What Are People Saying?
Everyone involved had nothing but positive things to say about the venture, but I think some REALTORS may be questioning what’s really happening. I had a chance to speak with Craig Mirambell, Jr., of Mirambell Realty and the President of GSREIN, the largest MLS in the state of Louisiana, and this is what he had to say:
NAR had an incredibly tough time convincing MLSs around the country to join RPR over the last several years. So much so that RPR was fizzling and running out of funds. What better way to save a struggling entity then to throw 12 million dollars at it and announce the initiative to the board of directors only hours before the vote. Clearly this joint venture was not thought of during the week leading up NAR Legislative (MidYear), so it sure leaves a lot of Realtors scratching their heads, asking what the real motive is in seeing this collaboration pushed in such a short time, and please don’t try making me believe Upstream is onboard to promote a single front end source for all listings.
So What’s Going To Happen?
That is anyone’s guess. We ARE going to see AMP get built, and we are going to see Project Upstream come to fruition. Will RPR finally become that national MLS? Will larger brokers put the squeeze on smaller brokers by opting out of the local IDX feed? Will the world come to an end by a super-massive asteroid? Who knows? Big money is moving around, and it’s all but guaranteed that with the talk of the Broker Owned Portal, RPR, ARM and The Realty Alliance, big changes are coming when it comes to online real estate.
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