This weekend, a reported 90 cities and the White House will participate in an International Open Data Day.  To my knowledge, the event is focused on brainstorming ways that public data can be opened and used for the common good.  Still, it's hard to resist stretching the formal boundaries to ask:

Q:  What would happen if an unconference or hackathon were to pop-up this weekend or in the future to explore Open Data in Real Estate?


It's no secret that the real estate industry is organized in the US by a network of broker-controlled, (if not owned) private Multiple Listing Services. 

In 1998, real estate pundits predicted that XML would create an "open MLS" where ordinary browser searches would aggregate homes for sale.

A number of years later, an attorney with a history of lawsuits against the real estate industry proposed launching a series of state ballot initiative to turn local MLS's into a public utilities. 

Neither of those attempts succeeded but both reveal an underlying truth:  real estate consumers, both homebuyers and sellers, want direct access to MLS listing information.  Recognizing that, a Real Estate Consumer Bill of Rights, first proposed in 1999, began with this:

"1. Right of information access without limitation.
No consumer should be denied access to information sources just because that individual is not a real estate professional or because the real estate professional attempts to use membership in a trade association or a listing service as a condition of “representation”. To the extent information may be available, its access should not be denied except to lawfully protect the adverse party only."

Fast forward to MIT Legal Hackathon a month ago, and you could add that real estate consumers should have the right to know:

1.  Who has data about me?
2.  What data do they have?
3.  How did they acquire it? 
4.  What are they doing with it?

Beyond the RE Consumer Bill of Rights and the MIT Legal Hackathon, there are many other questions about data transparency and the benefit or harm to real estate consumers.  So, if anyone else would like to brainstorm about a real estate version of Open Data Day, here are some "unconference-style" idea starters.  Yours are welcome as comments below!


Since the National Association of Realtors's own Strategic Planning Committee is encouraging 20,000 members to rethink their future (see and follow #reThinkFuture on Twitter), why not:

1.  REopen -- no pun intended -- the conversation about OpenMLS, and invite one or more of the original co-founders to engage in a SmartFailing session to explore what went wrong and whether an OpenMLS is possible or inevitable in the future;

2.  Instead of asking whether the MLS should be a public utility, look at whether existing tax assessor records and other public databases related to housing which interact with an emerging "internet of things" to create a publicly accessible eco-system that will replace the MLS; and 

3.  Rather than reacting to the existing model, maybe it would be wiser to ask how would the real estate eco-system be organized * IF the MLS did not exist? * To insure a free and robust exchange of ideas, it would be wise to think about the organizing different groups of consumers, app developers and real estate professionals to participate in separate or multiple visioning exercises.

My own perspective is that existing real estate portals, like Zillow, Trulia and, give consumers access to listing information but, to the extend that they are based on the existing MLS model and it's two-sided real estate commission, will be regarded as a transitional step towards a new real estate eco-system based on consumer-centric, user-driven digital identity.

Should we use this weekend to open up the debate whether that is fantasy or drill down on some tangible initiatives to build new apps envisioned in this reVRM-Minifesto:

I've talked to one vendor about collaborating on a use case for their KickStarter project.  What would you like to discuss or Hack this weekend or in the future?
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