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Greg Sax and Richard 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. The goal of the series is to humanize the tech side of the industry, fun included.

This week, we caught up with Richard Renton, CEO at Triad Multiple Listing Service and the Treasurer of the RESO Board of Directors. We talked about money, financial management and managing for change. Enjoy!

Q1: You have been the RESO Treasurer for several years now. Do our numbers instill confidence that we can continue to accomplish great things at our current pace of change and why?

Richard: I do think that our numbers can continue to establish a strong working base at RESO, even through some mergers and acquisitions in the business that have combined some dues-paying members.

Consolidation is occurring all around our industry right now, so we’ll have to continue to be mindful of that, but I am encouraged by our approach toward other types of members that benefit from data standards, like associations, brokers and commercial real estate practitioners.

I am especially excited by our growth with technology companies and in markets outside of the U.S. Global standards are even more important as investment in real estate across borders will continue to grow.

Being able to translate a global data dictionary just makes good business sense, which ultimately benefits consumers. To quote Art Carter, the CEO of the California Regional Multiple Listing Service and someone I have the utmost respect for, “The MLS is the greatest gift real estate professionals have given to consumers.”

Our goal at RESO is obvious. We want data standards to be the norm, and we want them to make real estate easier as a business function. We want to be a stable part of the industry. I firmly believe that we’re doing that.

If you join RESO with an open mind to achieve something specific, you really can.

But we’re not an ATM. There are a lot of great ideas out there, but they need to be vetted before we can spend a lot of time and money building a product or service. With meaningful help from volunteers, we can create something of value to the industry.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that membership really matters.

Q2: At school, you studied accounting and worked as an auditor in the early part of your career, so being the RESO Treasurer is clearly not a mistake. Is it safe to assume that you use that training from your early life to this day as CEO of Triad MLS, and can you say something about how important financial management and literacy is in today’s MLS landscape?

Richard: Well, I was an auditor of people, not numbers, but I’ll chart my path for you.

I started in Health Care Delivery Information Systems. During that time, I got certified as a Microsoft System Engineer, albeit on Windows NT 4.0. I continued certifying in Windows 2000, but what I learned about managing money came from the school of hard knocks. I learned to do certain things in order to survive, haha.

Financial management is such a big part of the adult experience, and it helps to start early. I came into real estate as a database management person, but I had a broad scope of experience to draw from up to that point.  

If I could spend eight hours a day in spreadsheets, I could tune up my logic in all things math. Spreadsheets were at the core of most everything we did.

RESO: They kind of still are.

Richard: Right! From that work, I could easily read a Profit & Loss Statement, which is basic to business management. So as my career progressed, I got into more volunteer leadership with that backbone. A Board of Directors position at CMLS [Council of Multiple Listing Services] and the RESO Treasurer position were not far off from that base of entry.

As for my own career in real estate, within one year of being the tech guy, our association executive quit and the association wanted to hire me. I said I was more valuable where I was. They hired someone that didn’t last; so I took the job, much to the joy of all the staff and leadership, which made the transition process easier for sure.

None of us run our companies by ourselves. Without that great team behind me, it doesn’t happen, period.

But I still wanted to be on top of the numbers. It’s up to the MLS to be responsible for their money, and we have to be cognizant of the fact that without the REALTOR® subscribers, we don’t exist.

Q3: You have been the CEO of Triad for nearly 20 years. What do you see as the most important issues facing MLSs in the next 20 years?

Richard: I believe that it will be relevance.

Aside from any legal reasoning for change, the MLS approach to technology is sound. And what we are bringing into the mix with AI is wild and exciting.

I am cautiously optimistic, but it’s a lot for our people to take in. It’s Skynet stuff, man, haha. My subscribers are worried and protective of their data, but it’s coming. Change has been and will remain afoot, just at a much faster pace.

But I believe that there still needs to be a central repository of data for local listing input, and it has to be managed using RESO standards for the benefit of the consumer – with the likes of NAR [the National Association of REALTORS®] or CMLS managing other aspects of the business.

The MLS plays a huge role in that, as through our business rules and processes, we ensure that we have the most accurate source of real estate-related data in each of our markets. RESO standards provide the dictionary to a set of global standards that all can benefit from.  

We’re all consumers. Do you want to be scammed? Do you want to buy swampland ripe for development in a world without appropriate standards? Of course not.

Knowing that those standards can make it easier for someone anywhere in the world to view relevant properties and see the most up-to-date and accurate information is such an important aspect of what RESO and the MLS does.

In my market, we have three local associations that cover a lot of people. It took some time to create a compliance policy that governed how data could be entered into the MLS, but we did it.  

We learned from the past, when each association managed rules enforcement separately, even though we were a “regional” MLS. It is this compliance policy that ensures the consistent monitoring and enforcement of MLS rules and regulations.

The bottom line is that without the MLS in place – with its compliance around data standards – it’s the Wild Wild West.

Having said that, compliance has never been as important as it is now in the post-settlement environment. Having a solid data set built on RESO standards, and the framework of the MLS, allows us to consistently adapt to growing change in the industry.

With the advancement of AI, voice-recognition software and other newer technologies enhancing real estate, we’ll want to remain aware that standards continue to play an important role. This is now a reality.

How we use that technology – safely and ethically – will ultimately determine whether or not we face a Skynet Terminator scenario.

From that, “The future has not been written. There is no fate but what we make for ourselves.”

It’s my guess that, “We’ll be back!” And standards will provide the infrastructure to get us there!


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