NAR Conference Takeaways: Upstream, Danger & More


This month I attended the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) Legislative Meetings & Trade Expo.  One of the main topics of conversation was, of all things – data. Last weekend, NAR’s board of directors approved the funding of a partnership between Project Upstream and Realtors Property Resource (RPR) to the tune of $12 million.  Project Upstream has been in existence for two years.  It’s an effort for brokers to take back control of listings management, creation, and distribution by moving the point of origination from the MLS to brokers - thereby moving it “upstream.”

Talk of Upstream has bubbled up periodically the last couple years, but never has it had so much momentum.  Now, with funding secured and smart people behind it, it’s poised to make an impact.  Brad Inman wrote a good article on its implications this week and asked readers to weigh in on the likelihood of using Upstream if it turns into the listings distribution platform its founders envision.  Seventy-six percent of respondents so far say they would use the system.

So there’s need, there’s interest, and now there’s capital.  We’ll keep an eye on where this goes.

Also last week, NAR put out its D.A.N.G.E.R. Report which lists the top 50 dangers agents, brokers, NAR, associations and Multiple Listings Services could face.  The whole report had some interesting insights on the current state of the industry, with one item in particular lining up with the Upstream objectives, and then take it just a little farther.

That item had to do with brokers losing control of data.  Below is a sample of the report:

“There is a movement toward data aggregation and syndication that has resulted in data collection from multiple sources that are not always kept updated, and is therefore compromised.

Furthermore, the data mentioned really only refers to the listing data and, while it is a key piece, it is just part of the overall real estate data portfolio—tax records, insurance info, demographic records, mortgage loans, credit reports, drive times, lifestyle information, school performance, criminal activity, etc.  So now the entire industry is focused on and concerned with controlling the consumer search process, which incorporates the creation, compilation, and distribution of all data.”

All of this is part of a larger trend.  There’s the trend of brokers demanding a more open system to get and transfer information.  This starts with listings, because they are the core of the real estate industry and also the most complicated and cumbersome dataset to manage.  But as the D.A.N.G.E.R. report aptly points out, the need for information goes well beyond listings.

With multiple data sources, formats, and standards– it’s nearly impossible today to wrangle all of this critical information into something meaningful to your company and impactful to your consumer.  The national portals have raised the bar and have made this information – all of this information - indispensable.  The need for a solution that pulls together this information and makes it easier to use has never been greater.

All of this works out well for Onboard as we prepare to launch our Simplicity platform soon.  Simplicity offers an alternative to the chaos of managing local information.  In the purest sense, this platform will remove the friction that’s out there today and make accessing this information smarter, faster, and easier.

It pulls in data from a variety of providers, standardizes that data so it’s all uniform, makes the data relatable so it’s functional, and then makes it easy for developers to pick and choose what they want.    Having functional data from one source is a game-changer for how the industry (and beyond!) will manage local information.   It really opens up the possibilities.

You’ll be hearing a lot more about Simplicity in the coming weeks.  We’re very proud of what we’ve developed and its implications.  But for today, it’s nice to see the industry pushing toward real change and innovation – and I’m proud that Onboard is on the forefront.

I hope to see many of you at the RESO Spring Conference next week.

Image Credit: Ed Uthman on