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3Qsby 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 Katrin Newel, VP of Business Innovation at the Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver (REBGV). We talked about coming into real estate from outside the industry, opportunities in data, resistance to change and measuring success in bringing standards to international markets. Enjoy!

Q1: SAP, IBM, CRM, API. Lots of 3-letter acronyms in your work history, but not a whole lot of MLS until you got to REBGV. What brought you to the wonderful world of real estate, and how is it going so far compared to what you expected?

Kat: I was recruited. I did not enter into the real estate industry because of real estate. I entered because of the opportunities and challenges in an interesting business vertical.

I understood the magnitude of the challenges and the opportunities for innovation, and I am loving it because no day is the same. I see opportunities everywhere I look.

RESO: What in particular?

Kat: Honestly, the work we can do with data from different angles, the stories we can tell and the things that can be productized. It is enjoyable to discover market trends that nobody else can see.

We have some CRE [commercial real estate] products, and by looking at the data available to us, we can see the shift in CRE from less than 2 percent vacancy to more than 10 percent. We can see the increased number of listings versus the reduced amount of demand.

I see a huge opportunity for my organization to take an industry lead by focusing on innovation.

There are RESO-based opportunities as well.

For example, after the economic crash of 2008, multinationals shipped to Asia, but the finance/banking industry wasn’t standardized there. So then the industry started to standardize, and now fintech is alive and thriving.

The same thing happened in the shipping industry. Maersk and Citibank spearheaded new standards worldwide after 2006.

If you break down barriers and build bridges with a standardized data set, the better we can be at creating innovative products.

Q2: You clearly have a rich history of technology experience. While real estate has a lot of great things going for it in the tech arena, we take some hits as an industry for being behind in tech. Do you think this is deserved? Why or why not? 

Kat: Our members want their lives to be easier, and I would love to do that in their day-to-day work. But they have limited time to adopt change.

I think the industry is behind because of the way change is viewed. There are differences in understanding about what “change” is and how you bring it about effectively.

Real estate hasn’t always had the opportunity to move faster. But over the past two years, things are kicking into gear a lot faster than they were when I started in the industry.

And there is a different focus, depending on where you look. For some, it’s introducing new tools. For others, it’s changing their MLS, which can be a daunting task.

The most important thing that we focus on at REBGV is the betterment and professionalism of the industry. Whether we do that through innovation and technology enhancements is an opportunity that needs to be explored.

Q3: You are a Canadian, but you originally come from Denmark. RESO has been making a greater effort to play on the international stage. Knowing what you know about Canadian vs. U.S. markets and European vs. North American markets, do you think we can succeed at bringing a RESO model to the world?

Kat: It depends. The optimist in me says yes, but we have to define success. We have to realize that there are nuances between markets and models in many different countries.

Like the United Kingdom is operated by solicitors. The majority of the transaction goes through the solicitor – similar to a brokerage – where the REALTOR® is more of a quarterback or air traffic controller in North America.

When I was at IBM, I worked on a postal product as a consultant. Something as simple as finding an address is completely different around the world. So we’re back to talking about data standards.

We can succeed if we define what success is. Is “success” a brokerage in South Africa adopting the Data Dictionary? Maybe that is too limited in scope, but we also have to take into consideration that not every country has a portal like Zillow and

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