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Greg Sax and Mark Bessettby G. Sax, Head of Communications, RESO

Welcome to “Three Questions,” an interview series that introduces you to real estate industry professionals, their businesses and how they interact with real estate standards with a goal of humanizing the tech side of the industry, fun included.

This week’s interview is with Mark Bessett, Principal of SmartCode FX and the longtime chair of the RESO Universal Property Identifier (UPI) Workgroup.

As we begin 2024 with a keen eye on international expansion of real estate data standards, it is fitting to chat with one of the architects of the first RESO product to be carried overseas when Mark spoke about the UPI in Malaga, Spain, in 2019.

Q1: The UPI follows in the footsteps of RETS, the Data Dictionary and the Web API as a successful product launch with RESO roots. While it’s been exciting to watch more companies and MLSs explore how to make it a reality within their systems, we learned a couple of years ago by way of a survey, that many people still didn’t really understand it or how to use it. Is there still more that we can be doing to get it rolling across the country and world?

Mark: Absolutely. We need to have some education materials, like a solid FAQ. I would love to have RESO’s help with that kind of endeavor toward marketing and promoting the full value of the UPI.

There are segments of property data all over the place, and the only thing that makes them coherent is the UPI. Consider something like AVMs [automated valuation models]. You just don’t know where a property is definitively without a UPI.

Q2: With help from the Distributed Ledger Workgroup, MLSs and MLS vendors, we have been actively diving deeper with the UPI and UPI Registry proof of concept and things like geography and government records. If we were to focus on one or two projects over the next year or two, what is most important? 

Mark: The county metadata effort that we’ve undertaken is a key piece to eliminating ambiguities. Any authoritative source of parcel data that includes subcounties [e.g., cities, towns, townships, boroughs] we want to be universal and immutable.

Our research shows universality to about 99.97%. That sounds impressive – and it is, given that our initial goal was to have it be greater than 90% – but we want that to be even higher.

Our current endeavors to improve the formatting and to introduce a dictionary of sorts for counties with ambiguous “property IDs” should improve that to be greater than 99.999%. With help from CoreLogic, ICE, CRS Data and others, this will be achievable this year.

The UPI Registry is a novel and innovative tool that is still close to my heart. I see that filling several key concepts in the industry. One is certainly data coherence and a resource to validate as a community.

But perhaps even more importantly, it also works as a marketplace where data can be advertised to consumers. I have been asked to build this, and since we are now seeing an increase in UPI interest and adoption, this is really viable now. This is where RESO can shine.

Q3: How do you go from an aircraft and spacecraft specialist working for the likes of the U.S. Army, NASA and Lockheed Martin to the wonderful world of MLS technology?

Mark: Believe it or not, building rockets is straightforward. Math determines all that.

I worked on classified projects for space-based reconnaissance – spacecraft in orbit and ground systems. It was a lot of fun, but there was frequently only one customer, NASA and their Orion space program or other three-letter organizations.

I was impressed by customer-focused, highly agile innovation in the commercial technology world, and I moved to Microsoft. I worked within a broad spectrum of industries, from transportation, the U.S. Air Force and government, manufacturing, retail, large cable networks, banks and financial systems, healthcare and others.

But here’s the thing: After bouncing around all of these backbone industries, I came to find that the problems were way more the same between them than they were different.

So my perspective changed because of that experience, and it gave me the wherewithal to not get bogged down in one thing. Due to my experience, I was always going to have an opportunity to work on interesting problems no matter where I landed.

I started in the real estate industry with Arizona Regional Multiple Listing Service (ARMLS) as a consultant. They had just bought a property records company, and Matt Consalvo was great to work with. He actively encouraged us to innovate as we built probably the first property-centric, MLS listing resource in 2013.

Three or four years after that – 2013 to 2017 – we integrated this data in a manner where tax and listing records were all combined to support mobile-ready advanced searches, farming, AVMs and CMAs [comparable market analyses], and we just kept expanding.

ARMLS is an FBS shop, so I met FBS President and CEO, Mike Wurzer, who was and is practically synonymous with RESO. He convinced Matt to have me lead the UPI Workgroup, and that is where I became more involved with RESO.

The workgroup is also where I met Rob Larson from CRMLS [California Regional Multiple Listing Service] who was super great to work with and who recruited me to work at CRMLS where I later became the CTO and led their software development team to build out a whole suite of innovative technology.

So many people came to me for technical advice, that I now consult across the industry. I still love innovation and, at this point in time particularly, innovation is critical!

In the end, being a rocket scientist has really helped!


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