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Whether it is for affordability reasons or lifestyle choices, one in three U.S. citizens rents. That is a huge market for MLSs to consider exploring for their subscribers.

Including rentals in the MLS delivers more value to consumers by creating a legitimate and proven source of truth for listing data, which, in turn, unlocks more revenue opportunities for agents.

As rentals are an increasingly important component of the housing landscape, they have been underserved within MLSs, which typically have accounted for less than 10% of available rental inventory.

Without accurate, complete data, it is more difficult for MLS members to service more than 30% of the population, and it is impossible for the MLS to be the go-to repository for rental listings. Rental software companies, MLSs and MLS providers are looking to change that.

At the RESO 2023 Fall Conference, two unique groups were welcomed to discuss their approaches to integrating rental listings into the MLS with standardized rental data to help increase the volume and speed of listing activity for rentals.

Michael Lucarelli, CEO at RentSpree, and Tom Morgan, RESO Board Member and Chief Data Officer at Bright MLS, served up “Rental Data Fueling MLS Efficiency.” | WATCH VIDEO (12:51)

Richard Gibbens, Executive Director at Southwest MLS, Tyler Decker, Director of Product Management at FBS, and Shawn Keller, VP of Technology at Rental Beast delivered “Accelerating Rental Listings into the MLS via Webhooks.” | WATCH VIDEO (24:22)


RentSpree and Bright MLS

The Spark
Bright MLS is a large MLS covering six states in the U.S. Mid-Atlantic (Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia) and the District of Columbia that supports more than 100,000 real estate professionals.

RentSpree operates rental software in the U.S. that helps connect renters, real estate agents and landlords to simplify the entire rental process, from listing to lease.

Bright MLS and RentSpree have been working together for the past four years on better accommodating rentals within the MLS. Part of that effort has been fleshing out what fields are necessary within the RESO Data Dictionary via the Rental Subgroup.

Standardized fields increase the value that the MLS can provide when it comes to rentals. Consider what’s in a rental price vs. a “for sale” transaction, like whether or not there are pet-related costs – something a homeowner doesn’t need to consider.

In addition to pet restrictions, other factors include lease term, move-in costs, amenities (e.g., parking, storage), concessions and rental insurance requirements.

Capturing essential information up front during the integration of RentSpree and Bright MLS data reduced unnecessary steps for these organizations. Using standardized fields fast-tracked the integration.

Another key component of the RentSpree/Bright MLS relationship was Bright’s proprietary Listing Assistant.


Michael Lucarelli, CEO at RentSpree; and Tom Morgan, RESO Board Member and Chief Data Officer at Bright MLS

Michael Lucarelli, CEO at RentSpree; and Tom Morgan, RESO Board Member and Chief Data Officer at Bright MLS.

Listing Assistant
Listing Assistant is a data-driven user experience that allows Bright subscribers to use historical data to reduce the time it takes to create a listing, regardless of property type, thus improving data quality.

Listing Assistant was created after subscriber feedback and data analysis consistently showed that listing entry is one of the most time-consuming (and least loved) parts of the transaction.

The result of bringing Listing Assistant to market has been massive. Depending on the system, more than half of all required fields can be populated with the tool, depending on the property type and available records. After launch, average listing creation time across all property types decreased by 29% (from 52 minutes to 37 minutes).

Listing Assistant also simplified property data search, allowed for easier data comparison and reuse, and made for simpler prepopulation with a set of minimum required fields, making it easier to add complex data without manual entry.


The benefits of bringing rental data into this framework has been lucrative for Bright MLS.

Rentals as a percentage of overall residential listing volume increased by 24%. Nearly 80,000 rental listings have been added to Bright MLS since launch, with 10% year-over-year growth in listings being transformed into transactions.

According to RentSpree, 17,300+ Bright subscribers use their application, and an additional great sign for the rental market is that this growth has been organic. Without a lot of campaigning, subscribers are joining the fray through word-of-mouth or viral engagement.

By all accounts the partnership has been a success. A strong workflow is in place that allows agents to easily create listings and use the RentSpree application that was made available to them.


Rental Beast, FBS and Southwest MLS

The Spark
Southwest MLS uses Flexmls by FBS as its core technology. In 2023, they introduced Rental Beast as the add/edit system for rentals. Rental Beast and Flexmls are now both options for rental search for homes in the Southwest MLS service area in and around Albuquerque, New Mexico. Representatives from all three companies explained how they got there.

Southwest MLS set out to solve for Craigslist (and other marketplace) scammers while also creating a central source of truth for area consumers, making their members real estate experts beyond residential for sale listings, generating business in down markets and increasing MLS subscriber count.

The outcomes have been phenomenal, including critical technology improvements to core MLS systems, significantly more rentals available to members, a sizable increase in member-driven rental listings and more property managers joining the MLS.


Richard Gibbens, Executive Director at Southwest MLS; Tyler Decker, Director of Product Management at FBS; and Shawn Keller, VP of Technology at Rental Beast.

Richard Gibbens, Executive Director at Southwest MLS; Shawn Keller, VP of Technology at Rental Beast; and Tyler Decker, Director of Product Management at FBS.

Southwest MLS has had a long and healthy partnership with FBS, right down to data mapping, so in building their partnership with Rental Beast, they brought that same level of relationship building to the table, and it ended up paying huge dividends.

They also talked with property managers before signing on with Rental Beast, asking them if the model would work with their own business objectives.

They learned that property managers didn’t need a lot of the fields available in the Data Dictionary and were missing fields they did need. Through the RESO Rental Subgroup, a list of more useful fields related to things like move-in costs and pets began to form.

“When you listen, you pick up champions along the way,” said Gibbens. “Then they take that MLS value proposition and pass it on for you, so you’re not having to do all the leg work.”


The Build
The first order of business was to build a fast and secure data exchange between Flexmls and Rental Beast to allow the updates of listings added or edited within the Rental Beast platform to be propagated into Flexmls in near-time.

In the past, Southwest MLS couldn’t overcome dual data entry, with property managers entering their listings into several different systems used for things like managing leases, rental applications, payments, etc. Expecting that property managers would enter data into the MLS as well was a nonstarter.

But Rental Beast captured all necessary data and provided a website for member and nonmember data in a single place, offering consumers a central source of truth. Even though there were significant mapping challenges, Rental Beast already had integrations with key property management software systems.

From there, Southwest MLS and FBS worked on how to get non-FBS MLS data into their MLS to support search. Similar to data shares, they had to make sure that Rental Beast and Flexmls systems worked together seamlessly.

It was determined that real-time data sync is significantly easier than traditional scheduled batching of updates. The partners set out to use best-of-breed technologies and industry standards, including a built-for-the-future design. The group debated between RETS, XML and the new RESO webhooks standard.

Webhooks are http requests that are automatically triggered by an event in a source system and sent to a destination system, sometimes with a payload of data, providing a way for a source system to talk (by the aforementioned http request) to a destination system when an event occurs and, thus, sharing information about the event that occurred at that moment.

With webhooks, the traditional model is turned upside down. Instead of the consumer starting the conversation, the producer of the data starts a conversation.

The group decided on the webhooks RESO standard to allow for less busy work with lower server load versus other transport methods. In this instance, “push” tech looked superior to polling. Better yet, webhooks seemed capable of improving data transfer beyond rentals.


How the Integration Works

  1. Listing is input or updated within Rental Beast add/edit
  2. Trigger is fired that creates a push notification to FBS with Rental Beast ID and security token
  3. FBS validates the notification
  4. Upon validation, FBS makes an API call to Rental Beast with the token and asks for listing info
  5. Upon validation, Rental Beast returns the listing info to FBS
  6. FBS parses the data payload and updates the listing within FBS
  7. For new listings, an additional API call is made by FBS to provide Rental Beast with the MLS ID

opens in a new windowTechnical Architecture


Technologies Used


Before Rental Beast, Southwest MLS averaged about 100 rental listings per month. Now it’s over 12,000 listings, a massive increase in the amount of data available to members.

At least 16 property managers have joined Southwest MLS, which may not sound like a lot, but consider that rental input is still in soft launch and not aggressively marketed to nonmembers. As with the RentSpree/Bright MLS effort, growth has come from word of mouth, and the effort has brought in thousands of new listings.

For rentals, the new tech stack has enabled faster, predictable onboarding to the point that Southwest MLS is looking at integrating new construction properties next.

In addition to improving their business solutions at home, Southwest MLS is proud to be paving roads for others to drive down later. With the development of a faster and more predictable way to track data changes, Rental Beast can serve a broader number of MLSs, making this kind of data and these products more accessible to more people.

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