A conversation on real estate brokerage opportunities with Bill Fowler, Senior Director of Industry Relations at Compas
The United Nations (UN) is an international organization that was created to promote peace and security. Amidst a variety of belief systems across the nations of the world, and its goal is to create cooperation and harmony among its members.
“RESO is the UN of real estate,” says Bill Fowler, Senior Director of Industry Relations at Compass. “It’s the most important organization in the industry right now, because we can all get together – competitors and people that we maybe don’t agree with fundamentally on big issues – and have conversations that are outside of the normal boundaries that keep us apart.”
Fowler spoke with us about how RESO data standards can help with the expansion of brokerages like Compass and about the challenges that he and others in the broker community still face today.
At the top of that list of RESO benefits is “a platform to have a discussion” about data services and data policies. “This [RESO] is a room where we can be ourselves and be true and honest and not have to worry about what happens outside of that room,” said Fowler. “What RESO can do is provide an atmosphere of cooperation.”
With approximately 17,000 agents across the U.S., Compass has become the country’s largest independent real estate brokerage in a relatively short period of time.
Compass is self-described as both an innovative residential real estate firm and a technology company. Using proprietary software built by their own engineers, designers and strategists, their intent is to make searching for and selling real estate more intelligent and seamless.
Using a modern data transport like the RESO Web API is critical to advancing real estate technology, said Fowler. “A lot of the developers that Compass has hired come from places where API is standard and has been in use since the inception of the technology.”
According to Fowler, the universal adoption of the RESO Web API can fuel more rapid growth.
Tech-forward companies have been asking for a modern API and full data sets for years. Yet dependence on legacy technology like the outdated Real Estate Transaction Standard (RETS) has diverted attention away from making the upgrades necessary to fully fuel Web API services.
“When we walk into a new market, we would prefer to use an API,” said Fowler. But the reality is that the Web API hasn’t been fully implemented or “doesn’t quite have the data that we expect.” In those cases, said Fowler, “We’re just gonna get a RETS feed, and we’re gonna run with that.”
“We know we have to stop,” he confessed. “Real estate has happened to be the place where RETS is just the language, and we all understand that’s something that needs to change.”
Meanwhile, Compass continues to push for more API adoption, and Fowler shared how he thinks it would be easier to innovate using MLS data.
“The MLS Board of Directors room is the place where everything either stops or goes,” said Fowler. “We as a community need to look at this much more collaboratively. It’s not that the MLSs don’t want to give us what we want. It’s not that they’re actively trying to stifle business. It’s really that they’re only doing what they’re allowed to do.”
What needs to happen to foster change?
“The menu of services needs to change, and we can do all of those things together,” said Fowler. “Pointing the finger at the MLS repeatedly, I think, is not doing anybody any good. It’s companies like Compass and the MLSs working together to see that when we order off the menu, that we have the options that we need.”
Working together to achieve a common goal sounds familiar, like maybe something that the U.N.’s Dag Hammarskjöld, Kofi Annan or António Guterres could get behind. If RESO is the place where differing ideologies come together to solve common problems, then it’s important for its leaders to engage directly in these issues with people like Mr. Fowler.