April 10th marked a big transition for Upstream RE, the broker driven effort to develop a data management system for all firms. As you may know, there are three components to Upstream – data input, data storage, and data distribution. It is also important to remind you what Upstream is not – it’s not an MLS, not a consumer site, and not a data share. Upstream is a replacement for the independent efforts of all 86,000 real estate brokers to manage their customer records, agent records, firm records, vendor records, and listing records.
The big transition is the consideration of two-way sync with MLSs. One of the challenges to the early stage thesis of Upstream was that it only spoke to the MLS one way. Data entered into Upstream would be pulled by the MLS or MLS(s). There was no flaw with this original thesis; it was a stylistic choice that had many merits like a single interface, flexibility to offer non-MLS fields, accommodation for other data sets that the MLS does not manage, and so forth. There is also a philosophy that supports the best practice for copyright management.
All of that aside, real estate works from the MLS out today. The data in the MLS is the heartbeat for brokers and agents representing consumers. The MLS has evolved over decades and will continue to be the most important distribution destination for a firm’s records. Evolving the connection between the MLS and Upstream may serve to strengthen the role of both Upstream and the MLS. Although there are issues to consider with both paradigms.
From a data perspective, the forward-looking relationship between Upstream and MLSs will be similar to an MLS data share. Today there are cross market and cross platform data shares between all vendors – CoreLogic, FlexMLS, Rapattoni, Black Knight, and others. The bi-directional data flow between these systems works just fine, and Upstream could be just another data share. The problem with two-way sync is handling conflicts when the data is different.
For a long time now, our industry has witnessed the war between those who want a national MLS and those who believe that such a system is absurd. Regardless of where you opine in that battle, you must agree that MLSs that “talk” to each other will have the same practical result as a large regional or national MLS without the sacrifice of local determination and service.
Moving forward, firms participating in Upstream may have the choice of entering data into the MLS or Upstream – but that is not the roll out plan today. There is lots of activity happening in the second group of MLSs to configure their systems to connect with Upstream: Detroit (Realcomp), Austin, Richmond, New Orleans, Phoenix, Memphis, and Miami. The race is on with the Phase I MLS group to see who will be first to have Upstream live by NAR Midyear. It looks like Portland and MLSListings are in the lead. It may be a photo finish.