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5 Things You Need to Know About NAR’s Upstream Initiative

by Tom Walsh

NAR and RPR push forward with Upstream initiative

nar-upstream-initiative-listings-mls

The National Association of Realtors and Realtors Property Resource have made an agreement with UpstreamRE LLC to develop a cross-industry platform for real estate data entry, collection and distribution for real estate brokers, according to a release from NAR. Few details about the project, called “Upstream,” have been released about it since its conception, though the fact that NAR set aside $12 million to fund the project has made it a hot topic amongst real estate professionals who wonder how they will be affected once the project goes live in 2016.

We reached out to Craig Cheatham, the secretary of UpstreamRE, LLC, to answer five questions about both the intent and scope of the Upstream project.

1. What is the Upstream Initiative? The Upstream Initiative, Cheatham explained, is a back-end database that agents will use to input information, which will then be stored and distributed to necessary MLSs, vendors, marketing platforms and other real estate entities, both Realtor and non-Realtor.

“Upstream will have three components,” Cheatham said. “A module to allow entry of real estate data of all kinds (not just listing information) into the database, secure storage functionality and a segment that will facilitate management of data distribution.”

2. How does Upstream help me? Upstream is a single point of data entry, which means agents will no longer have to input multiple redundant versions of their data into every individual site they want that information to be on. “Today, real estate practitioners end up entering the same data over and over and over again into different systems,” Cheatham said.

Because Upstream offers a single point of entry, corrections and updates can be made on the platform, which will distribute the changes across the multiple sites. It serves as a “cloud” method of backup for brokerages, and security and redundancy on the data servers prevents loss of data. For smaller brokerages lacking in sophisticated backup systems, it ensures that their data is secure and distributed how they see fit along with rights access control. For example, brokers can choose to have one source be sent fewer photos than other sources.

3. Is Upstream an MLS or a public portal? No. Upstream offers users back-end access to a database and pushes data to other platforms. It has no public-facing component. Upstream was designed to work alongside MLSs and public portals, rather than against them.

“Upstream is the broker’s data management platform, and the MLS continues to serve its vital role with its original, core functions,” Cheatham said. “If there is a change for how real estate agents interact with their MLS(s), it would be that they no longer rely on one or more MLSs for most of their data management.”

4. Who controls Upstream? UpstreamRE, LLC is controlled by 19 brokers, networks and franchisors, two of which are independent entities and two are from NAR/RPR, due to the contract between the two companies. Board members Cheatham specifically mentioned were: The Realty Alliance, Leading Real Estate Companies of the World, Keller Williams, RE/MAX, Realogy, HomeServices of America, Berkshire Hathaway Home Services, Long & Foster, Real Estate One, Baird & Warner, Shorewest, Northwood, Latter & Blum ERA, CB Bain | Seal, BHG Rand and William Raveis.

Additionally, as the current seat holders’ terms expire, the brokerages who have data in Upstream will be able to vote on the new members, with seats reserved for smaller brokerages, medium-sized brokerages, large brokerages and franchisors in order to have a proper representation across all types of firms.

5. How and when will I be able to access Upstream? Currently, Upstream’s Web-based dashboard is slated to be compatible with mobile devices, tablets and computers. The “add/edit” component could have a look similar to current MLS modules for ease of use. Beta testing for Upstream is projected to begin in the second quarter of 2016, with a free period for brokers to test and seed the program, before its full release planned afterwards.

“At various points in 2016 and 2017, each market will have the opportunity to move to the more efficient Upstream platform,” Cheatham said.

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