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New real estate database will combine multiple national listings

What is billed as the uber-technology that Realtors have been waiting on will debut soon, promising to forever change the way agents access residential and commercial property information.
With beta testing under way in 12 markets across the country, the new National Association of Realtor-sponsored database includes information on 140 million existing properties.
Once it’s fully up and running, the database will feature information culled from 900 residential multiple listings service and commercial information exchange providers nationwide.
In the past, Realtors who wanted market information on a specific property, neighborhood school district or tax district had to spend money for what are essentially a la carte research services. And each vendor carved out a different niche. Some delivered public tax record files; others like Zillow.com or Cyberhomes.com contributed property sales history, valuation, demographic and neighborhood information.
The new database, its creators say, will deliver all of those parts and pieces in one place.
Moreover, the cost will now be covered for through regular NAR member dues, said Jeff Young, senior vice president of operations of the National Association of Realtors Property Resource, a unit of NAR.
A few brokers have already previewed what’s to come.
Rob Higgins, the executive vice president of the Greater Spokane Association of Realtors, said his market is one of the first in the country to do an RPR test.
“It’s very impressive so far. Brokers won’t have to go to 15 different Web sites anymore to get information,” he said.
Initial positive reviews aside, the concept, which was introduced last year, has also created some ill feelings in the industry.
Some large national real estate franchises with their own proprietary databases, for example, typically promote them as a broker or client benefit.
Young acknowledged some large companies initially resisted NAR’s universal system. But, he said, those with multiple offices in multiple counties, operating across individual MLS boundaries, have begun to see the advantage.
“They realized that for the first time that with RPR they would have consistent, high quality property data. That’s not always the case from MLS to MLS or from county to county,” he said.
As the NAR prepares for a national launch of the database this summer, there will be winners and losers.
The biggest winners will be NAR member brokers. Other beneficiaries will be the buyers and sellers who, according to the NAR, can count on more complete data.
The losers will probably be competing data providers like First American CoreLogic, Zillow and other research companies.
Some local MLS providers, which will not receive compensation from the NAR for the data they provide, are also likely to lose out.
Young, not surprisingly, believes local MLS organizations and RPR’s mission are complementary – and hopes that the MLS providers eventually see the advantage to partnering with RPR.
“RPR doesn’t accept direct realtor listings, for example. Those will be entered into our database based on information exchange with the MLSs. Their local staffs know their own markets, training, downloads and standards. Our system isn’t designed to replace those services,” Young said.
Skepticism remains.
Colorado Springs-based Realtor Services Corp., which provides residential market data to Pikes Peak Association of Realtors members, is waiting to see how it works.
“We’re still evaluating it. We’re waiting because they’re still in the planning stages. We need to see exactly how it works before we move forward,” said PPAR Executive Director Terry Storm.
Others, however, are ready to go.
“What I heard was amazing,” said Colorado Springs-based Salzman Real Estate Group broker Harry Salzman.

Becky Hurley writes for Dolan Media Newswires in Colorado Springs, Colo.

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  1. The REALTOR Property Resource (RPR) created by NAR is an optional program to MLS’s and is one of several offerings from companies that are attempting to create a national database by giving away tools or revenue sharing with MLS’s in exchange for local MLS data. First American, Move, Zillow and other vendors that work with MLS’s are also offering similar types of plans. Although there are markets with MLS’s that may force the broker to go to several different places or spend additional money to get all the additional data, many MLS’s have already innovated and brought together many data sets and provide it in one place. Ultimately, there may not be one winner in this effort to create one national database, but it will spawn competition among companies, vendors and MLS’s to provide the best tools for listing and selling homes which in turn will benefit the consumer and create an even greater reason to use a REALTOR.

    Greg Manship, CEO
    Intermountain MLS

  2. This was rolled out last May in Washington, D.C. at the NAR Midyear Governance Meetings. NAR had been talking about something like this for years, but finally decided on the RPR approach.

    RPR is a unique offering but it is still in Beta testing in select markets. You mentioned others like First American being potential losers, but until this new technology shakes out and we see who decides to jump on which bandwagon, it is way too early to tell who the winners and losers will be!

    RPR reps will be in Boise on April 12th doing a presentation to the Intermountain Multiple Listing Service (IMLS) Board of Directors. One of the questions I plan to ask them will be “Since Idaho is a non disclosure state, why should we as an MLS give out the data everyone wants for free?”

    You have to be very careful trying to “commoditize” the real estate industry. Every home is unique. Even a production builder knows to put lot premiums on certain locations within the same community and their base models get morphed as they are rebuilt as consumers add architectural elements, granite counter tops, hardwood or tile floors, upgraded fixtures, etc., none of which change the sq. ft. yet definately impact the price. Having a database share the uniquenesses of each home is great, but I wouldn’t trust any automated valuation models for more than a 20% degree of certainty!

    Jim Paulson
    Owner/Broker – Progressive Realty Corp.