When Greg Robertson talks, people listen. If you’ve heard the co-founder of W+R Studios speak at a real estate conference, you know he can be blunt. His frank and pragmatic nature has made him a successful, respected, and much-loved industry leader.
Robertson’s company’s latest bold announcement is lighting the path for others to follow. In June, W+R Studios, creator of Cloud Agent Suite, announced that it would no longer accept RETS (Real Estate Transaction Standard) feeds for new MLS integrations. Cloud CMA and all other products in the Cloud Agent Suite are now only accepting new feeds via the industry’s modernized data sharing standard: the RESO Web API.
W+R Studios has proven to be an industry leader in developing software solutions that leverage MLS data to improve and streamline fundamental real estate needs for brokers and agents. These products range from robust CMA reports to lead gen landing pages, lighting-fast listing alerts, and streamlined MLS search interfaces.
Adopting the Web API means upgrading real estate industry systems to the technology standards that any modern technology company would use. Moving away from the traditional RETS data feed isn’t without costs, but it is a necessity to move the industry forward. Sometimes it takes a major player taking the lead to bring momentum to the industry’s transition.
“While implementing RESO’s Web API is a no-brainer for new vendors, existing vendors who have spent time, money and resources on platforms designed for RETS are going to be slower to adopt,” said Jon Druse, Director of Engineering at W+R Studios and a key architect of the move to Web API. “We think by being one of the first not to accept new RETS feeds, we can push all vendors forward and help usher in the future.”
Although RETS was initially created two decades ago and is technically antiquated compared to a modern API, it remains for many the status quo for transferring data from an MLS to a vendor. “RESO’s push for an industry shift from RETS to Web API makes a lot of developers nervous,” Robertson wrote in his prelude to his ListingBits podcast on the subject.
But W+R Studios is saying goodbye to RETS and hello to the RESO Web API for several highly beneficial business reasons, and industry collaboration is a big one.
Collaboration to better the industry
“You can spin your wheels for days trying to figure out how to make the new way to consume MLS data work with your application. But here’s the thing: Somebody else has probably already solved that problem. So, how do we create a platform where developers can team up to move adoption forward? How much does accessibility to the experts serve as a game-changer in the switch to Web API?”
Druse points out that one of the things that challenges most industry developers simply “getting access to the people who have the answers.” By creating a channel in Slack, a collaborative communications platform, W+R Studios was able to expedite Web API integration efforts as it facilitated fluid interaction with its Web API data provider, CoreLogic. As Druse said on stage at the Boise RESO Tech Summit, “A phone call is worth a thousand emails, and a Slack channel is worth a million conversations.”
W+R Studios products are now compatible with three leading interfaces for the Web API: CoreLogic’s Trestle, Zillow’s Bridge API, and FBS’s Spark API. The best part for the development team: “Once we got one working, it took a half day’s work to get the other two working,” said Druse. The Cloud Agent Suite is now live in production on the Web API with the Austin Board of REALTORS® (ABoR).
W+R Studios also partnered with RESO to create open source software libraries that are available to any vendors to help ease their transition to the Web API. As part of this effort, W+R Studios built a Ruby library for connecting to RESO Web API.
W+R Studios not only created the blueprint for vendors to move from RETS to the RESO Web API, they also developed tools available for any organization to build its own path toward API adoption. These kinds of open source development contributions by RESO members speed up the implementation of the RESO Web API for many.
Better data, consistent user experience
By working through issues collaboratively with technology partners, the move to production was faster and seamless. When W+R Studios went live with the RESO Web API, “Agents logging into Cloud CMA had no idea that anything changed – and that was the goal,” said Druse. That’s what every vendor wants when they flip the switch to the Web API.
Robertson believes the industry’s move to the RESO Web API will reduce product development cycles. It will also spur more rapid innovation and speed up product refinement. He is hopeful that the move by W+R Studios will empower developers to build more products that benefit agents and consumers.
For developers, Druse notes that the Web API offers better features than RETS did. It is faster: you can get a listing and its photos in one query; it’s at least double the work in RETS, and sometimes more. You can get the listing, the agent record, the office record, and all the listing’s photos in a single request. “That’s just not possible in RETS,” Druse said. “It’s also less error-prone. When you have millions of listings with RETS, it’s harder to know if you have replicated it well. With the Web API, it’s easier to get it right.”
RESO is intently focused on supporting Web API adoption by MLS, broker, and consumer technology organizations. Collaborating with RESO’s official workgroup participants and informally troubleshooting with RESO’s developer networks can give any organization that is moving to the Web API the ability to leverage greater industry knowledge.
Druse reiterated that the time will come when MLSs won’t pay for two different services. “They’re going to start to shut off RETS.”
Robertson minced no words, as is his way: “If you are thinking about the future, then you’ve got to be on the RESO Web API.”
Sam DeBord is the CEO of Real Estate Standards Organization (RESO), the organization responsible for the creation, promotion, adoption, and utilization of standards to drive efficiency throughout the real estate industry.DLU August 9th, 2019