It’s oddly comforting to find that other industries face many of the same challenges the mortgage industry does in aligning its technology and data standards.
In real estate, the roughly 1,000 multiple listing services across the country use disparate file formats, data point definitions and transmission technologies. For large data aggregators like property listing websites, brokerage franchises and the industry’s trade group, the National Association of Realtors, the inconsistency creates many challenges in communicating and exchanging critical information.
Trying to bring consistency and transparency to real estate industry data is RESO, the Real Estate Standards Organization. The volunteer group has a nearly identical mission as its counterpart in mortgage technology, the Mortgage Industry Standards Maintenance Organization—develop and maintain standards for creating and transmitting relevant business data.
Like the Mortgage Bankers Association’s support of MISMO, NAR has provided administrative and financial support for RESO for about 10 years. But unlike MISMO’s relationship with the Mortgage Bankers Association—which recently got a boost when the MBA took back day-to-day operation of MISMO—RESO recently split off from NAR as its own independent nonprofit organization.
Rebecca Jensen is president and CEO of UtahRealEstate.com, a property search website powered by the Wasatch Front Regional Multiple Listing Service and recently became the chairperson of RESO’s board of directors. She said NAR is still an active participant in the group’s activities, but that as a standalone organization, it can act with more speed, effectiveness and support from the industry, particularly among MLS organizations that are wary of NAR exerting excessive influence on their businesses.
“In order to get the most support, it was important that NAR didn’t control it,” Jensen said in an interview following her presentation at a real estate technology conference ongoing this week in New York City. “We also wanted to make sure MLS’s were driving the development.”
First on RESO’s agenda is developing a data dictionary of common terms that real estate agents input when creating a property listing on an MLS. Seemingly innocuous terms like “bedroom” can be complicated by contradicting abbreviations and definitions. RESO hopes to have its final draft ready for approval by its next conference in April, where it will be put to a vote for approval.
The process is similar to MISMO’s recently released Version 3.1 Reference Model, which provides a dictionary to define terms across all facets of the mortgage industry. MISMO may be ahead of RESO in creating its dictionary, but the two groups share the common challenge of encouraging widespread industry use.
“Creating the initial standard is just the first step,” Jensen said during her presentation. “As we all know, the needs change and the standards evolve. After that, standard means everyone adopts it.”
While the data dictionary is still in development, Jensen said RESO is also exploring options for building a standard for transmitting the data. MISMO uses XML, which Jensen said is one of many options.
“What’s the next generation that RESO should adopt? We still haven’t figured that out yet,” she said.
As RESO embarks on its next chapter as a standalone organization, Jensen said the group intends to reach out to other data standard organizations, including MISMO, to explore opportunities to collaborate.
She added that it’s possible the Uniform Appraisal Dataset—a MISMO-based XML standard created by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to support delivery of full, electronic appraisal reports under the Uniform Mortgage Data Program—could serve as a guide for RESO’s data definitions. In addition, standards for mortgage-related MLS information could be rooted in MISMO definitions.
“From a board level, we will reach out to other standards bodies to see if there are commonalities,” Jensen said. “We don’t have any agreements in place, but that’s part of the long-term strategy.”