Thoughts on Realogy's Hackathon

Last week at NAR, Realogy hosted a 24-hour hackathon in conjunction with NAR’s Annual Conference in San Francisco. A couple hundred developers temporarily got their hands on a goldmine – access to Realogy’s listing data as well as data from six large MLSs.

It’s about time

We’ve advocated on this blog in the past that the real estate industry really needs a single data socket, one point of access “in the cloud” for listings data that developers can tap when building their apps.

FBS is trying to build this with its Spark API. RED has elements of this in place with REDataVault. And now newcomer RETSLY, which Realogy partnered with on its event, is trying to do the same thing.

In my mind, this can’t come soon enough.

This is a good thing

This isn’t about building a “national MLS” – none of this data should or would be shared publicly with consumers. This is about providing a path for app developers so they can build great products for the real estate industry under terms set by the industry.

This is about building tools to help brokers and agents do their job better.

As any tenured developer in this industry knows, the slog to acquire listings data comes at a massive cost. It’s a huge drain on human capital and technology resources.

Just look at the developers profiled in the Inman story, it’s the lack of access to data that is turning away entire groups of talented young entrepreneurs, many of whom actually have ideas that could help brokers and agents.

That’s a shame.

Make it happen

I don’t pretend to be expert in the arcanum of MLS listing agreements. But I have to think that we can all agree that as long as the listing data is being used to help brokers and agents do their job more efficiently and not circumvent them in the process, this type of access for developers is a good thing.

I also get that there is tension around just who should be building those tools and where, ultimately, the control of the data flow needs to rest. But I’m an optimist. I think we can resolve those differences.

In the meantime, we should just make it as easy as possible to let the coders code. Let the ideas succeed or fail on their own merits. Let’s not hamstring them right out of the gate.

So kudos to an industry heavyweight like Realogy for recognizing this situation and deciding to keep moving forward above the fray.

I can’t wait to see what comes next.

[Disclosure: Realogy and Real Estate Digital are 1000WATT clients.]