At Clareity’s 2010 MLS Workshop (March 3-5), I attended a question and answer session with Dale Ross, CEO of RPR. He handled the questions forthrightly, even when he knew the audience wouldn’t like his answer. I took these notes on my computer, so the questions and answers are what I think they said, not necessarily what was actually said.
Will RPR compete with MLSs?
No, we’re not planning to build a nationwide MLS. We understand your concerns. It would take $300-400 million per year to run a national MLS with 9,000 people to support it; we’re not funded that way.
Why should Second Century need to be paid back?
NAR’s Second Century fund is a venture capital fund which must paid back for its investments. However, that’s not the source of RPR’s funding. RPR money comes from an NAR technology fund set up with $100 million fund (from investments); NAR’s Finance Committee stipulated that monies must be paid back to replenish fund.
Do members really need this?
Yes. I have to visit numerous sites with varying degrees of accuracy to get info I need. RPR is the answer – more accurate, single location, less expensive.
Since you’re providing RPR for free, where is money coming from? What happens if your revenue models are way off?
Three scenarios: app doesn’t work, we shut down; app works and rev model works, win-win; app works but rev model off. We project we’ll need $50 million/yr to run it… if it is valuable and not generating cash, we’ll figure up another funding source. If members want it and NAR Directors decide that is best way, that could be a member dues increase. I have never seen pro formas work; I have pushed the numbers around based on a 36-month breakeven. We’ll see.
Compare and contrast RPR and other offerings.
Competition is good and keeps everyone sharp. RPR’s value proposition is to provide benefit to members at no profit. First American offers revenue sharing; I say put it in writing. Move.com is a nice tool and has consumer display value proposition, but involves charge to members.
Will you go around MLS to large brokers?
Will not hijack data, only work with broker permission. Major broker we’re testing with is working closely with MLS. However, we’ll do what we have to do if the MLSs won’t work with us, even if that means working directly with brokers.
NAR’s track record is not good… How is this different?
There is no guarantee. NAR does some things well and some not so well. Times change and that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try. We’ll try our best and if we have everyone’s cooperation, it will be successful.
What was the rush to announce at San Diego?
It was a complex negotiation; we decided that the drop-dead date was the San Diego meeting – it was self-imposed. It might have been nice to have a bit more time to prepare before announcing, but it is a major issue of great importance to the membership and they deserved to know what was going on.
MRIS is taking a wait-and-see attitude. What do you think?
I know their board and respect their decision. Our launch is going to be bumpy and I understand their caution. Lots happening behind the scenes and I think we they will come on board.
What are you looking for through 2010?
We are hoping to see 50% MLS participation, want to produce a product that’s valued, and test our revenue model.
If appraisers and others have access to RPR, won’t MLSs lose business?
We are putting security in place to ensure that only members have access.
What about agents putting listing directly in?
That has never been supported.
What is significance with use of term ‘members’ versus ‘MLS users’?
We are building in access controls that allow you to determine access. First, only NAR members can use the RPR information. If you are providing MLS info to non-members, you can give them all the information you have always provided, but not access to any RPR-specific information.
What does success look like in 5 years? When will the property data API be available?
a) When lots of people are using it. We are working on a 3-yr breakeven; after that, enough to keep running and begin to pay NAR back. b) End of March.
If we decide we [the MLS] want to pull back, what happens to our data?
It will be destroyed, if that’s what you want.
Will I be able to discontinue my agreement with tax provider?
We will provide those records for free, but it is restricted so that it can’t be repurposed. The tax data is provided without strings, not on quid pro quo basis (in exchange for listings).
Is unique property identifier still in the mix?
What are plans for integration with RETS?
We will completely support RETS, but also other data standards. Note that RETS does not support tax data.
What about DOJ?
Laurie Janik [NAR General Counsel] has been involved since beginning. She is comfortable with due diligence done, but that doesn’t mean we won’t get sued.
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