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’s interview is with Jay Pepper-Martens, CTO for the San Francisco Association of REALTORS® (SFAR). We talked about creating partnerships with competitors for the greater good, remote work in organized real estate and attending German Krautrock concerts. Enjoy!
Q1: The Northern California data share project and its seven MLSs working together toward the elimination of duplicate listings in the region is an amazing undertaking. When did it start, how is it going and has anything come up during the process that has you rethinking the future of the MLS?
Jay: Analysis on the project began in 2016 with development starting a year later. It was launched in February 2021.
We are always rethinking the future of MLS with regard to the industry, but we feel like this solution provides for each MLS company to maintain its autonomy while providing agent choice – where they can decide which MLS helps them provide the best service to consumers. Our goal is to create a network that allows agents to be efficient, precise and economical to the benefit of their clients.
Q2: It is probably not widely known that you serve SFAR from Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, in Canada. I highlight this, because RESO is a fully remote organization, and my biased opinion is that we crush. As the pandemic continues to wane, people are being called back to offices again. What are your feelings about remote work vs. office-based work in the real estate industry based on your unique experience?
Jay: I moved to San Francisco in 2013 and was still living and working there primarily through 2019 when my title was MLS Director. Shortly after I moved my permanent address back to Canada, the pandemic hit. During the pandemic we hired a new MLS Director, Hud Bixler, and he now handles more of the onsite needs of SFAR.
For the last year as CTO, remote has been working wonderfully. I do still go to San Francisco frequently, usually for two-plus weeks every other month or so. We’ve got a really great rhythm going between our CEO Walt Baczkowski, MLS Director Hud and me.
Interestingly, before the pandemic hit, I had transitioned SFAR’s internal services to mostly SaaS or cloud-based in order to allow me and senior staff to be less reliant on being physically in the office. This ended up being a fortuitous decision, because it facilitated a complete transition to remote in less than 48 hours when that became a necessity on March 14, 2020, when the city of San Francisco basically closed everything.
All that said, some member services require staff to be present in person, so we are endeavoring to keep staff in the office in order to meet those needs. But the conclusion is that SFAR is committed to continuing with a hybrid work environment in order to provide the best experience for staff and members. Staff are in the office two or three days per week in person and are remote the rest of the time.
Q3: Among the many concerts I have attended, the randomness of attending the Kraftwerk concert during the 2015 CMLS conference in Kansas City is among my best stories. Basically, I saw their name on a marquee while on a walk, bought a single ticket, put on some 3D glasses and never stopped smiling during the entire show. As I was leaving, who do I see but you and Nina Dosanjh, Chief Technology & Strategy Officer at Vanguard Properties and RESO Broker Advisory Workgroup Vice-Chair! How did you two also find your way to that show on that particular night?
Jay: Nina’s husband, Onkar Dha, is an electronic music aficionado, and I am, or at least was, an electronic music DJ, which means Kraftwerk is part of our vernacular. So when we discovered they were there at the same time when Googling “Kansas City shows” on those dates in 2015, it became obvious that we had to go see them.
It was a fantastic show. There were a lot of lasers! I still have those 3D glasses. I sometimes wear them in my basement when playing on my DJ kit, and I also have lasers!