RESO standards enable new tech companies to offer more robust and scalable products than they otherwise would have without standards.
Perchwell CEO Brendan Fairbanks presented evidence of this concept during the RESO 2023 Spring Conference while talking about how proptech startups can use standards to overcome integration and scaling challenges. | WATCH VIDEO (15:17)
Perchwell launched in New York and currently operates the de facto MLS of the Real Estate Board of New York (REBNY), known locally as a Residential Listing Service (RLS).
New York is a system-of-choice market, meaning that multiple front-end products plug into a common, shared backend database. Perchwell began as one of those products.
Making sense of all that data was a huge undertaking, and building a compelling product on top of that was daunting. Meanwhile, different vendors were using different fields for basically the same concept.
Now that Perchwell is the backend for REBNY, Fairbanks is glad that they found the “RESO religion” early in the life of the company and product.
According to Fairbanks, two of the most critical roles of the MLS are 1) to describe the attributes of a listing with the highest fidelity and 2) to communicate that listing information as widely as possible.
Absent a data standard, MLS vendors have tended to modify their data model, change fields and adjust lookups on an ad hoc basis. Contradictory lookups start to appear when “just this once” logic starts to take hold.
As a vendor, Fairbanks understands the temptation. In a vacuum, ad hoc changes are the quickest way to any given request. The problem is, at scale, things quickly get complex once the contradictions expand within your data model.
When the same concepts are treated in different ways for different clients and then you lay an application layer on top of it, it becomes difficult to make the necessary changes to clean things up.
“It becomes a real quagmire,” said Fairbanks.
He added that Perchwell has been tempted to make “just this once” changes while converting older data structures in other markets, but he knows that it leads to a bad place.
“I have to assume that there is plenty of innovation that doesn’t happen because of underlying data issues,” said Fairbanks. “Either because a team has to devote a ton of resources to solving these problems that shouldn’t be there in the first place or a team might say, hey, this just is not worth the brain damage.”
That is why every transition that they do now involves a transition to the RESO Data Dictionary. This policy, he says, is better for the MLS, is great for all systems and helps them scale with less effort.
As a philosophy, Perchwell believes that the most successful MLSs are the ones that encourage a modern tech ecosystem. A big part of that is going to be the data layer.
Fairbanks stated that the MLS should be the central data hub because that is the way to cultivate a tech ecosystem and how to encourage interoperability among different technologies.
He thinks it’s incumbent on MLS tech platforms like Perchwell to do the legwork – to source and structure all the data that needs to be underlying that ecosystem.
From a product perspective, the nuances, differences and tailored products of localization are the name of the game, he continued. Innovation is easier if the MLS is at the center of an evolving and developing local ecosystem. “This should have always been a strategic goal of MLSs,” said Fairbanks.
Flexible and scalable features built for configurability help with listing/transaction search, add/edit functionality and market analytics, to name a few.
A standard allows for the addition of business rules and business logic on top of the layer of standards fairly easily, no matter what geography you are in. Standards help the localized, customized user experience.
What is available and what is relevant across markets can be different. Perchwell, for instance, never would have been able to offer different analytics and functionality without standards, according to Fairbanks.
Every piece of Perchwell’s product has been enabled and enhanced by sticking militantly to the idea of a common data standard throughout the product.
According to Fairbanks, a standard helps everyone in the ecosystem. It helps vendors build a scalable and more localized product.
It helps third-party vendors who are plugging into the system by letting them know what to expect. Knowing that they will be able to get data in the same format from various MLS platforms allows them to build and tailor their product as they see fit.
If the standard is the same across the country, continent and world, then vendors can effectively build one version of a product that works anywhere as opposed to something that they need to do too many times for each and every market.
The ultimate beneficiaries of standards, concluded Fairbanks, are the agents, brokers and professionals that get access to products that help them do their jobs better and grow their businesses.