Real Estate

What Is ‘RETS’? The Zombie Data Standard That MLSs Need To End

Brad Bjelke of and Josh McFall of Valley MLS make the case for killing the maligned Real Estate Transaction Standard and replacing it with something new.

There’s a zombie in the real estate industry that is holding back multiple listing services and it’s time they kill it, according to panelists at Inman Connect Las Vegas on Thursday.

It’s called the Real Estate Transaction Standard, known as RETS, a data standard MLSs and real estate technology vendors have been using to transfer data from MLSs to vendors for more than two decades.

But RETS is old and it’s proprietary to the real estate industry, so developers who want to work with MLS data must take the time to learn to use it, slowing down the development process.

The nonprofit Real Estate Standards Organization (RESO) stopped supporting RETS two years ago in favor of a new standard, the RESO Web API, which uses a global protocol for product development familiar to technologists around the world so they don’t have to spend extra time learning to use it.

Since then five big MLSs have stopped sending out RETS data feeds and and seven others are nearly done transitioning from RETS to the Web API, according to RESO’s website.

“Make your decision and follow through,” panelist Brad Bjelke, CEO of Utah MLS, said in a session called “RETS Extinction Countdown: Which MLSs Have Gone Full Web API?”

“If it takes you six months or a year, start it. Don’t give up. It’s so easy to backtrack and say to one vendor who’s very important in your market — you don’t want to give in to them. Get it to the finish line because it benefits everyone.”

Last year, UtahRealEstate.come gave vendors a January 2021 deadline to convert from RETS to the API.

“We had some very, very happy vendors who were willing to work with us,” Bjelke said. “By the end of January, we were completely done. It was an exciting time and we turned off our RETS server.”

Only one or two tiny vendors didn’t make the transition, according to Bjelke.

“Everybody came along for the ride,” he said. “We’re lucky. We took a bold step and here we are today celebrating it and making our lives so much easier. Our staff can configure things so much easier. Vendor issues have fallen away. Data is much more accurate.”

Josh McFall, CEO of Valley MLS in Alabama, said his MLS made the change because its broker members asked for it.

“Our brokers [were] saying, ‘Hey, we know there’s cool tools that are coming down the pike. We want to be a part of that,” he said.

He emphasized over-communicating with vendors to make the change happen and working with those who may not have the resources to meet a specific deadline.

“We had said December 20 as our cut-off,” McFall said. “We ended up in reality closing [our RETS server] June of this year because we had some holdovers.”

“But for the most part, it was ‘Hey, this is going to be really good for me as a vendor,’” he said, adding that the move was exciting because “brokers and agents can have more access to past data to do really cool things.”

McFall continued, “The exciting part for us was that there were folks who wanted to work in real estate spaces, websites and that kind of thing for brokerages, who couldn’t before because they didn’t understand RETS. Now, the possibilities we have with API because of that move I think is really exciting for the future.”

Bjelke emphasized that APIs aren’t perfect.

“But it’s the evolution of better technology,” he said. “As an example we would run into two to three RETS issues a month.”

In the past 10 months, since switched over, they’ve only had four issues total, according to Bjelke. “And they were much easier to solve,” he said. “So it’s not perfect, but it’s a lot. It takes a lot less resources and a lot less management.”

Email Andrea V. Brambila.

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