There is a silent battle going on in real estate search. As consumers visit multiple websites and have numerous searches saved, the website that delivers the first alert to the consumer gets the click. All subsequent alerts from other sites are rendered as old news: they’re unread and deleted. It’s only natural. Today, WolfNet announced a new service level of managing IDX data optimized for speed called Pipeline.
We saw this battle emerge in 2012 when Zillow Group moved away from accepting data feeds from Listhub and many broker website providers. For the most part, those feeds published once a day. Zillow Group has been working hard over the past few years to get a direct feed from MLSs when the brokerage authorizes syndication, so they can get listings onto Zillow sites and shoot out listing alerts as fast as possible.
Zillow Group executives know from their experience at realtor.com that speed matters a lot for strategies that not only drive consumer clicks from alerts but also have an impact on search engine optimization (SEO). Moreover, Zillow Group gets a barrage of calls and emails from agents every day saying, “I changed the price in the MLS yesterday (or days ago), and it is still wrong on your website.” Everyone wants the data lag to go away, especially consumers. In my personal opinion, I do not think that MLSs should offer syndication as a service. Helping brokers advertise their listings is not a basic service of the MLS. It’s the job of the broker.
If you think about SEO, you understand that a part of the algorithm is “first to publish.” This is something that Redfin has become very mindful of too. Redfin has capitalized on improving their search engine optimization by processing and publishing MLS data as quickly as possible. The impact of Pipeline from WolfNet is that all of their data customers and IDX Website customers can compete on speed. Listing alerts can go out from applications in minutes to win the click, rather than hours or (in some cases) even the next day.
Although it is a little off topic, Redfin is also collaborating with other brokerages to drive consideration on IDX Rules and Regulations that will provide a link back to the listing broker’s website. The theory is that the link back to the listing broker website will instruct search engines to the original author and owner of the listing regardless of speed. More on this in a future article.
WAV Group has provided vendor selection services around data aggregation for years. Many of our technology clients would rather purchase MLS aggregation services from firms like WolfNet, Homes.com, Real Estate Digital, or others. These firms have been perfecting the process for decades, and it talks years to do that. Although the Real Estate Standards Organization has done a great job of publishing standards to make IDX data integration easier (i.e. Data Dictionary), and faster (WebAPI), there are still a lot of daily maintenance jobs that data aggregators need to do in order to pull, process, and normalize data across hundreds of MLSs. Moreover, data feeds break every day as MLSs make changes to the feed, or the data transfer or load fails for any number of reasons. Data aggregator service providers make hotfix to these feeds 24 hours a day and keep the data flowing.
Another crucial service of data aggregation is processing data licenses and maintaining MLS rules compliance. Data aggregators have been helping brokers with this for years, and with WolfNet, for example, their coverage is 99% of all MLS data in America. Once the data license is perfected with the broker and the MLS, the aggregator adds the data to the feed. Technology vendors can deploy their staff to focus on application development rather than aggregation. Because the MLS data feed impacts so many customers, WolfNet and other aggregators are highly vested in data security, protection, and compliance.
An Expanded Benefit
Brokers see another benefit from data aggregation that is a little harder to appreciate. Brokers commonly provide multiple software applications for the agent to use in servicing their client. It is typical for an agent to make a change in the MLS and immediately open up another application to market the listing, update market stats, build a new CMA, market an open house or any number of other tasks. Agents hate it when they need to delay those efforts by hours or by a day. WolfNet’s Pipeline can knock that delay down to minutes, making it feel like real time.
If you have added a contact record to your phone, then opened the contact record up on your computer, you understand the expectation of speed, and the annoyance when it takes time to display. Data synchronization does not happen in real time, but these types of data services are refreshing as fast as possible. In large MLS areas, hundreds of listing changes are happening every minute. Multiply those changes by 600 or more MLSs, and you can begin to appreciate the amount of data being transferred, processed, and published at any given minute.
When you speak to most technology companies that pull MLS data, the standard speech is that they update from the MLS every 15 minutes. The truth is that they may request the data from the MLS every 15 minutes, but then it takes additional time to process the data, make it available in their data lake, and then in their application. It is kind of fun to test. Make a change to a listing in the MLS and track how long it takes for that change to be reflected on your website, mobile app, or other software services. You will experience the data lag that this innovation from WolfNet is solving. In a White Paper published by RESO studying Homes.com, they estimated that the industry could save $1 billion a year by adopting these best practices.
I wish that I could list the number of large technology vendors and franchise corporations that are relying on WolfNet and other data aggregators for this service, but it is confidential. MLSs reading this will be aware as they are entering into the multi-party data license agreement whereby the broker authorizes their application vendor, the MLS Approves the license to the vendor and acknowledges that WolfNet is the aggregator. It is a complex agreement, but it improves quality while saving time and money.
Speed wins. Set service level agreements with all of your vendors to insist on fast updates and push to adopt newer transport technologies, like the RESO WebAPI. If you want to surge forward with your technology services, hire WAV Group.