Organized real estate’s new best friend: the API

I’m working with a large tech firm in the real estate space to develop an API for tracking certain characteristics of real estate agents in order to display that information on a website in real time. There is a lot of techno-speak in that first sentence, so we will get back to it in a later post

However, this solution solves a major problem that has been plaguing me for years: exchanging data with others by emailing Excel files back and forth is a recipe for grief. Just for example, It can quickly get confusing: who has the most recent version of the file; has more than one person made changes to it; did errors or typos slip into a place we’ll never find until it’s too late.

The answer to all of these questions is an unfortunate yes. It’s too late when a board member gets two or three mailers to the same address with differently spelled names, or is dropped from a course or committee list, or is not properly recognized for his or her contributions.

APIs can solve that problem by centralizing all the data into one place – the “single source of truth.” Everyone else – local boards, brokers, vendors, and agents – accesses that data from their devices through an app or a web page.

Working on APIs while watching the lightning-fast evolution of data in real estate has led me to think about the future of how real estate agents, buyers, sellers, and properties are served.


What is an API?

An Application Program Interface allows one computer to talk to another one. The rich, untethered history of APIs is beyond the scope of this post. However, consider these examples:

  • Your broker’s transaction management portal hosts your website which highlights tweets, or shows off Pinterest or Instagram photos of your listings. An API is what moves your listing images and your pithy social media updates between them.
  • How does listing data move between your MLS and Zillow, or other sites? Putting aside the rampant politics of that question, an API is what technically makes it happen.
  • How should multi-tiered trade associations track and share information about their members, for example, when national, state, and local boards have different bits of data on the same members? An API could reduce errors by centralizing data into the “single source of truth”.

Ultimately, it comes down to the data. Many years ago, a broker told me, “my agents just need the information.” Whether listings, qualified leads, or new bills in the legislature, data is the basis for our profession’s success.

David Kissinger consults with companies, trade associations, non-profits and entrepreneurs on government affairs, public relations, marketing, IT strategy, web development and content.

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