by G. Sax, Director of Growth Management, 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, we caught up with Catharine MacIntosh, the Founder and CEO of Listed and the vice-chair of the RESO Interoperability Workgroup. We talked about building a first-of-its-kind map of industry relationships, expanding real estate data standards into Canada and a love of company names. Enjoy!
Q1: One of the things that you are working on in the RESO Interoperability Workgroup is an industry map of how the real estate business transaction and the people involved in it are interrelated. Conceptually, it’s a huge undertaking. What are the benefits of such an exercise, and what kind of meaningful product can come out of it that will advance the industry?
Catharine: Without a map, everyone comes to the table with their own perspective in mind. When they see a map – with other people on it and what those people may need – the picture becomes clearer. Pain points can be more readily solved when people hear other perspectives. A subsconscious layer of activity beyond their own scope is revealed, and solutions can more readily come from that fresh viewpoint.
In a recent conference breakout session about the topic, we had people in attendance that covered stakeholders from large MLSs, small MLSs, downstream consumers and vendors, and non-real estate stakeholders with industry focus more toward tax, public data and automated valuation models (AVMs).
It was truly eye-opening – not just for me but for the people in the room – and we will continue to build upon new and growing knowledge to help the map take shape.
Q2: RESO has a strong foothold in the United States and has worked harder in recent years to have more presence in Canada with the help of key contributors like you and through organizations like Ontario’s Municipal Property Assessment Corporation (MPAC) and the Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA).
At this point, there are only a handful of RESO-certified Canadian MLSs. What do you think it would take to create a more complete standards requirement across Canada?
Catharine: For one, the Interoperability Workgroup and Industry Map will be available to help there. I’m not sure if MLSs understand how compliance will help their broker members.
The Universal Property Identifier (UPI) is a good example of a standard that could really help Canadian MLSs. It is a tool that will immensely help with data deduplication across MLS systems.
The UPI standard began as cutting edge and then evolved to meet the current MLS industry data situation, which is divergent and dissimilar between MLSs.
The greatest power CREA could have right now would be to promote the UPI. They have the advantage of getting the IDX feeds from all the MLSs. I know that IDX has listings in duplicate and triplicate for places like Hamilton, Toronto and Oakville. Without a UPI, it just sits there in triplicate as three different listings.
These listings could theoretically be displaying different prices for hours on end as one feed lags behind another feed’s price change.
As a downstream vendor, we can’t synthesize a UPI ourselves without an MLS verifying an ARN [Assessment Roll Number] in Canada – because it’s an unverified data string. The address is also an unverified string of data that could be input incorrectly by the agent or admin – like the wrong address, all 000s or the street name spelled wrong, or an incorrect street abbreviation or postal code, etc.
Without at least two verified data points, we can’t create a UPI on our own. We’re dependent on an MLS providing these verified data points, or they could generate the UPI and share it with vendors.
Coming up with a modern standard to solve these issues is vital for data integrity. Without data integrity, the average consumer will experience duplicate listing data and data inaccuracies.
Q3: You recently rebranded as “Listed.” Your former business name of Real Estate Dot Love was unconventional in a buttoned-up industry like real estate. Did the old name resonate with your clients, and what spurred the change of identity?
Catharine: When we first looked at what was broken in real estate, we saw that everyone was finding a way to take a slice of the consumer pie before even knowing what consumers wanted.
Consumer interest was being served last. We wanted to flip that. We created a consumer-first application for agents. We literally cut away the dot-com from real estate and replaced it with dot-love.
We asked ourselves, “What would love do?” We decided that it would understand the consumer first in a way that felt so good that the agent would serve that experience to them, then prosperity and money would follow. We would support, not disrupt. Love would realign interests throughout the selling and home-buying process.
And it worked in spades! We never had to ask agents why they needed us. They were and continue to be invited by their clients. We don’t have to go to brokerages; agents are using it and asking for it, so it goes upchain to them.
We may have changed our name, but the love remains implicit in what we do. We wanted something that fit nicely in an app store. Shorter names just work better, and Listed has proven to be a better brand name by that measure.
But the love remains everlasting and underlying.