This past Saturday during the 2015 REALTORS® Legislative Meetings & Trade Expo in Washington, D.C., the NAR Board of Directors approved a partnership between the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) and its wholly owned subsidiary Realtors Property Resource® (RPR) and UpstreamRE, LLC, to create a nationwide broker data-entry and collection system using the RPR advanced Multi-list platform (AMP™). The initiative, designed to provide efficiency by giving brokerages a single place to input listing data on multiple platforms online—including realtor.com®, local MLSs, and broker websites—will be funded using NAR operating reserves over 36 months, at a net amount not to exceed $12 million.
According to NAR, industry leaders have been working together to address data problems for years, and created the concept called “Upstream” approximately two years ago; the WAV Group was enlisted to consult on the technical side of the development of the project and released full details on the project last week.
Project Upstream was created by a coalition of brokerages, networks and national franchises, representing real estate companies of all sizes and business models, to facilitate the development of a comprehensive data technology platform. The goals of the initiative are to:
• Create an intermediary data entry and collection platform between real estate firms and the recipients of real estate-related data.
• Re-order the flow of information with a rules-based engine that supports the individual requirements of each participating broker.
Craig Cheatham, president and CEO of the Realty Alliance, secretary of the UpstreamRE, LLC Board, and official spokesperson for Project Upstream, explains that the initiative stemmed from longstanding broker frustrations surrounding data distribution and accuracy.
“Current processes for data record creation, editing, storage and distribution are embarrassingly inefficient, overpriced and duplicative,” says Cheatham. “Upstream is a step toward single entry in an ideal format with greater control over the terms and methods for distribution. When fully functioning, brokers and agents will spend significantly less time, effort and money dealing with real estate data and will have more ease and control in sending that data. The more places the same data is entered, the more likely it is to include errors and the more time and work it takes to edit or delete records. Data is showing up in unauthorized places, and Upstream will deliver a huge improvement in the ability of real estate companies to ensure it appears only where it should.”
The data entry and collection platform would comply with RESO standards, ensuring the quality of data across the industry. In addition, a single entry point for data would simplify the process, and allow brokers to more easily control where and how listing information is displayed.
NAR CEO Dale Stinton describes Upstream as an important strategic “pivot” for NAR and RPR that helps brokers maintain control of their listing data while accomplishing long-sought technology objectives of real estate brokerage companies, MLSs, and associations by creating a single back-end entry point for all listing data that is then distributed to all the end-points identified by the broker.
“In today’s increasingly interconnected world, REALTORS® are the bridge between real estate and technology,” says NAR President Chris Polychron. “We believe Project Upstream will define the future of real estate listings. Building on RPR’s significant investment in data, technology, and integrated member servicing operations over the past five years, Project Upstream aims to create a common back-end platform where brokers and franchises can enter and collect listing data as well as manage how that data is integrated with their multiple listing services, vendors and other partners. Industry leaders have envisioned this concept for many years. Now is the time to execute on this vision.”
Already deeply entrenched with brokers and agents, and leaders in property-centric information, RPR was a logical choice for becoming Upstream’s technology partner. “Our role is to provide the custom technology build that matches the vision Upstream has for its platform,” says RPR Chief of Operations Jeff Young. “The NAR partnership with the Upstream board is an excellent foundation to build what the future looks like.”
Project Upstream has support from a wide swath of industry leaders, such as The Realty Alliance, Keller Williams, HomeServices of America, LeadingRE, RE/MAX, Realty Executives, Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices, Realogy, NRT and many others. According to Rei Mesa, president and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Florida Realty, Upstream will “absolutely” give brokers greater control over data accuracy and distribution.
“NAR and brokers are responding to a need in the industry,” says Mesa. “This initiative aims to create a permanent high-value benefit for consumers and REALTORS® at the request of and in collaboration with the real estate brokerage community. Brokers will have a single point of entry that will feed to their back office systems, MLSs and any syndicators, which will reduce costs, increase efficiencies and accuracy, and overall improve consumer experience.”
Creating greater efficiency surrounding data strategies is at the core of Upstream’s mission. “I was a broker in Michigan for a number of years, up until joining RPR in 2008,” says Young. “When I look at Upstream as a business platform, I see some very high value for brokers of any size to be able to utilize a very efficient back-end that assists me with my plan for my distribution of listings, and includes many back-office opportunities and new ways of looking at how property records can be leveraged to do more business.”
Upstream is also intended to answer the years-long broker battle cry for data control. “The movement is toward business decisions regarding data moving back into the hands of actual practitioners instead of these decisions being made for them by vendors or industry institutions,” says Cheatham. “Upstream puts the real estate practitioners’ hands back on the steering wheel for responsibly and efficiently handling the data for which they are held responsible by clients, customers and regulatory agencies. Brokers will be able to be purposeful and strategic about their decisions about data instead of watching helplessly while non-practitioners move and sell and display their data. Real estate companies should be able to take advantage of more marketplace innovations in products and services, as they will have clean, accurate data all in one place that they can leverage with a variety of tools that can serve them and their clients.”
According to Young, Upstream presents no conflict in terms’ of NAR’s relationship with realtor.com®.
“RPR is providing the technology that creates the platform functionality and brokers will be working with their own current distribution strategies,” says Young. “This keeps both NAR and RPR where we have been and always should be in having no direct connection to the online consumer. We are providing a more efficient tool that aids brokers in their business efforts and opportunities. Our role is completely internal and the individual broker will decide what their syndication and distribution strategy will be. We are just making those choices more efficient.”