Online Real Estate Listings Get Standards

  |  January 11, 2008   |  Comments

Real estate franchisors, brokers, MLS's to adopt common real estate listings data standard developed by Yahoo, Zillow.com, and Trulia.

Yahoo Real Estate, Zillow.com, and Trulia have collaborated to develop a common data standard for real estate listings on existing homes. The initiative facilitates the distribution of real estate listings by real estate franchisors, brokers, multiple listings services (MLS), and other listings providers.

"The standard is borne out of increased distribution of listings online," said Yahoo Real Estate's director of product management, Steve Schultz. Currently, to distribute to real estate sites "you have to publish [each listing] in different formats. We're solving a challenge for distributors and listers."

Just a week before the announcement of the common standards, the Real Estate Standards Organization (RESO) chair Michael Wurzer posted an open letter to Yahoo, Google, Trulia, and Zillow to encourage data standards with the goal of providing brokers "efficient control over their listing data."

Mark Lesswing, CTO of the National Association of Realtors and a member of the RESO group overseeing the standards, said, "The intent of all these groups is the same, a standard way to work with real estate data."

Participating companies said they will work in close collaboration with RESO to ensure the data specification interoperates with the standards. Due to the aligned intentions of all parties, Lesswing believes the standards should come together quickly.

While listings generally include the number of bedrooms, bathrooms, and features like a fireplace, some features depend on the region. For instance water views are only relevant to coastal areas; access to ski lifts might be mentioned in mountainous areas, and so on. Under a standardized system, an MLS will decide which features are relevant for the particular area it serves.

"Presumably all of the listings in a given market will follow the same general format, because that's in the best interest for the buyers and sellers to compare properly," said Peter Zollman, founding principal at Classified Intelligence. Most MLS's are compliant with XML to distribute listings feeds.

Separately, Yahoo Real Estate has launched a new online property listings program where franchisors and brokers can post complete listings. Through the program, Yahoo expanded its relationship with Prudential, an agency it partnered with to offer the Online Seller Advantage Program in 2006. In addition to the continuation of that program, Prudential has committed to running ads throughout the real estate section.

Realogy Corporation, which includes franchise brand networks Century 21, Coldwell Banker, ERA, and Sotheby's International Realty, agreed to participate in Yahoo's online property listings program. Additional franchisors and brokerages include Assist 2 Sell, First Team Real Estate, GMAC Real Estate. Weichert Realtors and many others. Online real estate sites including Homes.com, Oodle, RealEstate.com and vFlyer already publish listings on Yahoo Real Estate.

As part of its relationship with Yahoo, Zillow provides the home valuations to Yahoo Real Estate. The catalyst for creating standards occurred when Zillow.com, then in beta, started taking feeds from listings aggregators and recognized a need for consistency in the data presentation.

Zillow came out of beta earlier this week with a handful of enhancements, including the addition of more homes to its database and tweaks to its Zestimate home valuation feature.

"Previously we were using county-level models. We now have unique models which are much more hyper local," said Spencer Rascoff, CFO and VP of marketing at Zillow.com. The new formula takes into account neighborhood characteristics when factoring values. For example, the number of bedrooms may weigh more heavily in family friendly neighborhoods.

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Enid Burns

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