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by G. Sax, Director of Growth Management, RESO

Greg Sax and Ninve JamesWelcome 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 Ninve James, Senior Vice President of Residential Brokerage Services and Products at the Real Estate Board of New York (REBNY). We talked about bringing standards to New York City, the importance of creating vertical standards for multilevel buildings, portals and (friendly) rivalries. Enjoy!

Q1: New York City is not a typical MLS market in that there is no citywide MLS. Yet REBNY has embraced standards that speak largely to the MLS community. Can you explain why this has been at the crux of your evolution in organized real estate?

Ninve: REBNY’s Residential Listing Service (RLS) is New York City’s listing system, powering listings on behalf of 590 member firms and more than 12,000 agents.

With the RLS administered by REBNY, the market’s leading professional association, New York City offers a hybrid, next-gen listing service.

In my role, I oversee the RLS, Residential Brokerage Services and Events, and Professional Development. For instance, I oversee the team that manages more than one dozen dedicated committees and boards that are related to governance, membership or the geography within our five-borough footprint.

Being one of the most important markets in the country, we constantly strive to provide the best service for our members by continuing to evolve our technology offerings. We adopted RESO standards so we can speak the same language as the tech vendors that serve our members.

The analogy that I use frequently is that RLS went from playing music on cassette tapes with RETS to streaming music with the RESO Web API.

If music represents listings, and you want to go back to a different song with RETS, it takes time to go back. You must rewind the tape to just the right point, and things can go wrong.

But when you are streaming music, it is on demand. Our members expect that from us as an organization, so using RESO standards is an extension of that.

Q2: You have talked about the need for “vertical” standards for buildings, like how a residential tower may allow pets or have laundry facilities but a specific unit within the building may not allow pets or include laundry.

In places like the Universal Property Identifier (UPI) Workgroup, we have also delved into the many ways in which a unit can be described and labeled. How can we best attach standards to buildings and their individual units?

Ninve: In a vertical market, the building is the foundation. Then you add the sales and rental units that live within the building.

So, if you want to apply an ID system, the building has its own unique ID and then each unit within it.

This is why it is important – my main objective, really – to get a Building Resource added to the Data Dictionary. MLSs like MRED, Stellar MLS and MIAMI REALTORS®, along with technology companies like Membio and Planitar, have reconciled their data fields along these lines, and 150 of them overlapped. We can dig into that, talk about it more and build a meaningful standard.

This is important, because moving over to RESO Add/Edit depends on having a Building Resource for an organization like REBNY, as this is how our data has historically been organized in RETS. It is all dependent on the Building Resource getting standardized and adopted in RESO. The metadata must be clear for that data to be mapped accurately. Members and consumers also need this to be clear downstream.

Additionally, a Building Resource will create ease of use. On average, there are 95 units in a building in New York City. Each time a unit comes up for sale or rent, agents must enter information about the unit and the building. A Building Resource creates better efficiency, and we are pleased by the progress that we are making in that direction.

People want to know everything there is to know about a building. They want to see all the details – recent sales, building features, unit features, etc. Many of these details should only have to be entered once. Not having that ability creates a bad user experience.

Q3: You spent 17 years amidst the portals of and Trulia. How has that experience translated to REBNY?

Ninve: Whether you are trying to sell or buy a home, consumers demand transparency by having the most up-to-date and accurate data at their fingertips.

In my tenure at REBNY, we launched Citysnap, the first New York City consumer portal by the industry, for the industry. It is exclusively powered by our data, the RLS, catering to New York City’s real estate search needs.

The RLS is the only listing service in the country with a building resource, an additional layer of data that is demanded by NYC agents, brokers and consumers. By having a Building Resource adopted by RESO, other listing services that have high-rise housing in urban areas can also adopt it and evolve by improving the experience for real estate practitioners and consumers. REBNY is proud to collaborate with RESO to lead the way.

Overall, I want us to move away from only thinking portals. I want to think about the entire ecosystems of technology providers that provide service to our members, agents and brokers across the country. If we can provide data in the same language that the entire industry has adopted, it is a win-win for all.

Q4 (Bonus Question): You went to UCLA. Do you maintain ties to your alma mater, and why do you think it is one of the least favorite schools among RESO staff that are also college sports fans?

Ninve: Sam [DeBord, RESO CEO] went to USC? I have nothing against USC Trojans. Campus life was always interesting around the time of the big game. All I will say is that we used to have Trojan voodoo dolls for rivalry games.

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