Where Real Estate Gets Its Dirt

It’s raining APIs

Mike Wurzer, CEO of FBS
Mike Wurzer, CEO of FBS
Mike Wurzer must be rolling his eyes every time he reads Inman News lately. Its 2016 and the industry has finally caught up with him and his company, FBS. Back in May of 2012 (yes you read that correctly, 4 years ago) FBS announced its Spark Platform, which includes the Spark API. Which gave software developers two great things, an easy way to get MLS data and permission to sell their products to any of their flexmls customers. The Spark API allowed us to get Cloud CMA up in running in “long tail” MLS markets that we may not have served due to size or some other challenge.

Now, along with AMP, two others have joined the fray. Zillow and CoreLogic. Zillow with its Retsly Connect initiative and CoreLogic with its Trestle initiative. So since a big component of these initiatives is to target software developers to make cool stuff, and I happen to run a software company that makes cool stuff I thought I would give a quick run down of the pros and cons of each.

AMP
PROS:
Owned by NAR. RPRs effort to provide a back-end database to MLS providers has announced they have MLS providers representing over 200,000 agents interested in AMP. That’s a lot of agents, and as a software company I like the size of that market.
CONS:
Owned by NAR. Nobody that I know have has seen any API documentation, and it still isn’t clear how the revenue model would work for 3rd party software developers integrating with AMP.

Zillow’s Retsly Connect
PROS:
Owned by Zillow. Sexy technology, we used their Public Records API in Cloud Streams and were impressed. Retsly Connect looks equally cool, and lots of bells and whistles I think MLS providers would like (which is why I think Bob Hale signed up).
CONS:
Owned by Zillow. They have a chicken and egg problem. They currently have only 6 MLS providers signed up (and I think a third of them are in Canada). So, they are going to need to get some sort of traction for developers to write for the platform, but also need more coverage to entice developers to do so.

CoreLogic’s Trestle
PROS:
Big company. Knows data. They have over 300 MLS databases. Some of them the largest MLS providers in the country. That a HUGE market potential. If the Spark API provided the “long tail” MLS markets, CoreLogic would provide the freaking Elephant.
CONS:
Big company. Not launching until Q3 of this year. No API info, no revenue model announced.

For the record our plans at W+R Studios is to be platform agnostic and make our products work on any platform our customers want. But, I still want to give
a couple words of advice:

1. Try and stay away from an App Store model. I’ve been a big proponent of an “Agent App Store” in the past but it has been very brutal to get agents to change their purchasing behavior. Maybe in the post “front end of choice” world things might change, but that’s a big if.

2. Your initiative must include data access rights AND permission to sell. Make it an opt-out for MLS providers. One without the other will not scale. If I build something fast and it takes 6 months to get approval from your MLS committee to sell it, then these initiatives are essentially worthless.

In the end competition is a good thing. I think the next few years are going to be very exciting times for real estate technology. Sometimes all it takes is just a spark.

  1. Michael may be the smartest guy in real estate as he sees trends well ahead of the rest of us mere mortals. FBS is the MLS tech world trendsetter and I can’t wait to learn what Michael is moving towards next. More people need to be paying attention FBS that has quietly become the #3rd largest MLS tech partner in the U.S.

    Full disclosure: WAV Group has provided consulting services to FBS – and many other MLS Technology partners as well.

  2. Although much smaller, Solid Earth announced our Spring API at about the same time, 2012 at the Mid Year Expo. It’s currently live in a dozen markets covering about 90,000 MLS subscribers, including MetroTex, Sandicor, NEREN, MIBOR, El Paso, Birmingham, Baton Rouge and several smaller markets. Coming soon to Charlottesville VA. Our model is to try and stay out of the way. We enforce MLS distribution rules but otherwise try and act as a catalyst for innovation, not a barrier. That’s what the API is all about.

  3. Great article! It might also be worth discussing the effect of MLSs requiring these types of platforms with regard to existing IDX vendors. The consequences are significant: in general, existing IDX vendors have an immense investment in their current methodology for IDX data acquisition and subsequent display.

    To accommodate required retooling with someone else’s API to meet individual MLS requirements is a serious investment decision for any IDX vendors with large a large MLS footprint– especially when there is no guarantee that a particular API platform will remain the same for any given MLS.

    While I see great value in using these API’s, the rise of multiple competing APIs in the marketplace may cause more harm than good until these issues are resolved.

  4. Now that APIs are blooming, how will the MLSs react at losing control over how their members do their daily work? To my way of thinking agents should be able to buy their software independently so there is less whining over the layout of the product that the MLS provides. CoreLogic’s InnoVia has great customization options, but the average user is not much into creating their own search screens and displays/reports.

    I’m still waiting for the MLS Vendor world to include add/edit as a part of the API. Local rules may be the hurdle in this piece and some rules even seem to be written for the sheer joy of provoking violations and generating non-dues revenue.

    Gosh, my comments when written down do seem on the verge of heresy sometimes.

  5. Great article Greg! I agree, Michael Wurzer is a prophet and visionary who is way ahead of the curve.

    AgentSquared.com uses the Spark API extensively, and is very thankful for the tremendous amount of thought, work, and effort that has gone into building this amazing, well documented platform.

    Michael’s foresight to develop a robust API has allowed us to create something we believe hasn’t existed until now, an instant IDX Agent Website.

    On Wednesday, May 11th at NAR conference in Washington DC, AgentSquared is launching the first instant IDX Agent Website with FlexMLS using the Spark API. It will be available to 200,000 agents at 150 MLSs throughout the country. Agents will be able to instantly create an IDX website with the click of a mouse while logged into FlexMLS.

    Our app uses the SparkAPI to slurp up all the info about the agent: phone, postal address, email, license number, picture, and broker info to instantly build IDX compliant websites. The Spark Platform even has the compliance rules, disclosure text and logos for each the 150 MLS associations!

    AgentSquared IDX websites are created instantly, and the property data is updated dynamically on the fly through the Spark API. Others IDX website solutions cost hundreds or thousands of dollars to set up, and can take days or weeks to build: gathering content, entering data, creating the website, faxing documents back forth between broker, MLS, and IDX vendor. Other IDX solutions use a data feed that may contain duplicate, inaccurate information that’s 1-2 days old.

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