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RPR beefs up agent training as Upstream enters next phase

By February 17, 2017 No Comments

Entering listings into the MLS and other systems is a basic — but crucial — part of a real estate agent’s job. And it’s one that’s about to change for agents caught up in a prominent industry initiative.

Broker data management company UpstreamRE aims to provide brokers with a single point of entry to manage their data. Its platform will function as a go-between among real estate firms and the recipients of their data, including MLSs, making Upstream the starting point.

Upstream will begin beta testing its platform sometime this year, according to a press release.

To get agents and brokers up to speed, the company building the Upstream platform — Realtors Property Resource (RPR) — has signed an agreement with a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Kansas Association of Realtors, Real Estate Business Resources (REBR) to beef up web-based end-user training.

Thus far, Upstream’s “Phase 1” pilot program has consisted of five guinea pig markets and 16 brokerages. The first pilot has been in “alpha” testing in which one office in a pilot brokerage, their designated data recipients and MLSs integrate with the Upstream platform and Upstream is the only way that agents of that office can update or manage data in the recipient’s system.

“Beta” testing means expanding Upstream to all the offices of the pilot brokerages in a market, thereby making it available to more agents and brokers. RPR staff provides support during the “alpha” phase and REBR will provide support during the “beta” phase, RPR’s Chief of Operations Jeff Young told Inman via email.

Now, Upstream is beginning its second pilot with seven new markets, but onboarding appears to be slow: Only two MLSs have unequivocally confirmed they will participate.

RPR and REBR team up to train

RPR is a wholly-owned subsidiary of the National Association of Realtors, which inked a deal to be Upstream’s technology vendor in November 2015. In May of that year, the NAR board of directors also approved up to $12 million in funding over the next three years for the project.

REBR will be supplementing the end-user training on Upstream provided by RPR’s existing national network of trainers. RPR’s Customer Support Center is based in Omaha, Nebraska.

Dale Ross

“RPR is pleased to be working with an experienced organization such as REBR, who understands the specific needs of agents and brokers, to provide expanded training resources in support of Upstream beta testing,” said RPR CEO Dale Ross in a statement.

“With the potential for rapid market level expansion, RPR has contracted with REBR to provide additional webinar training resources in multiple markets during the beta testing,” the release said.

When will beta testing start?

“The dates have not been established, as there are other necessary components of Upstream’s implementation, which are still [in] development,” Young said.

“The plus of this agreement with REBR is that the more support and training systems which can be established in advance, the more successful the implementations will be when completed.  The training programs will be available for either Phase 1 or Phase 2 Pilot markets.”

Participating brokers do not need to enter all of their listings into Upstream — it’s up to them what content to upload to Upstream’s database — but if they choose to use Upstream to enter their listings into the multiple listing service, they must enter and edit all MLS listings via Upstream, the company says on its website.

“[W]e are flipping a switch in the MLS that disables listing add/edit directly in the MLS and requiring any listing maintenance for the brokerage to originate in Upstream,” the company said.

“We aren’t controlling how much or little information they store in Upstream, only enforcing one place to maintain a listing that is entered into the MLS.”

The first pilot

Upstream started “Phase 1” of its pilot program in second-quarter 2016 with five MLSs and 16 brokerages:

  •  MLSListings Inc. (Sunnyvale, California)
    •  Pacific Union International, Inc.
    •  Keller Williams Los Gatos Estates
    •  Re/Max Gold (later dropped from the pilot because most of its offices were in another MLS’s coverage area)
  •  NorthstarMLS (Minneapolis)
    •  Edina Realty, Inc
    •  Re/Max Results
    •  Keller Williams Classic Realty Northwest
  •  North Texas Real Estate Information Service (NTREIS)
    •  Re/Max DFW Associates
    •  Keller Williams Arlington
  •  RMLS (Portland, Oregon)
    •  Coldwell Banker Bain/Seal
    •  Re/Max Equity Group
    •  Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Northwest Properties
    •  Keller Williams Realty of Eugene and Springfield
  •  West Penn MLS Inc. (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania)
    •  Re/Max Select
    •  Northwood Realty Services
    •  Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices The Preferred Realty
    •  Howard Hanna

To understand the training requirements of each firm, RPR staff conducted a series of in-market “discovery” meetings over the last three months of 2016, in which RPR observed current listing input processes by both agents and listing coordinators, RPR said.

RPR also held on-site meetings with MLS staff in each of the five pilot markets to discuss training resources and whether MLSs themselves or Realtor association partners would support training for the project.

In some markets, RPR conducted extended site visits with association staff to establish training support programs for Upstream, the company said.

Support plans are customized to take into account each brokerage firm’s and MLS’s business rules and processes, the company added.

A portrait of Alex Lange

Alex Lange

“Our goal has always been to minimize the impact Upstream has on our stakeholders,” UpstreamRE CEO Alex Lange said in a statement.

“Having a dependable and client-centric support and training team is imperative to our success, and our partnership with RPR and REBR creates that winning combination.”

This first pilot was slated to end in the first quarter of this year, but “will probably stretch a little bit beyond that,” Lange said in an online presentation last month.

The second pilot

Upstream has chosen seven additional markets for its second, “Phase 2,” pilot. Realcomp in the Detroit area and Arizona Regional MLS (ARMLS) have confirmed participation, Lange told Inman via email.

The Miami Association of Realtors MLS “has said yes, but wants to make sure it is in-place, working software before doing any work,” Lange said.

“Austin [Board of Realtors] is positive, but has not confirmed.”

In Upstream’s latest blog update, the company says, “Miami MLS on hold, pending additional progress in Phase I markets.” (The update also says, apparently erroneously, that ABOR has confirmed participation.)

According to the update, the other three MLSs Upstream has in mind for the second pilot are Central Virginia Regional MLS (CVRMLS), Gulf South Real Estate Information Network in New Orleans (GSREIN), and the Memphis Area Association of Realtors MLS in Tennessee.

Upstream pilot market selection follows this process, according to Lange:

  • The brokerages themselves have asked/volunteered to be on the platform
  • Upstream runs the list by its board of managers and lets them weigh in on which companies they think would be best
  • Once there are clusters in an MLS, Upstream determines if the MLS is appropriate as a pilot
  • Upstream then approaches the MLS

In a “town hall” presentation in January, Upstream said there would be 11 participating brokerages in the second pilot.

In its latest blog update, Upstream lists brokerages it has reached out to:

  • Realcomp
    • Real Estate One
  • Austin Board of Realtors
    • Keller Williams International
    • Tenura Holdings/Private Label Realty
  • CVRMLS
    • Long and Foster
  • GSREIN
    • Latter and Blum
  • ARMLS
    • Russ Lyons International Realty (RSLIR)
    • BHHS Arizona Properties
  • MAAR MLS
    • Crye Leike Realty

When asked if any brokerages have confirmed participation, Lange said, “Brokerages always confirm.”

When asked which brokerages would be participating, Lange did not respond.

The second pilot is set to end in second-quarter 2017, the company said during the town hall presentation.

Email Andrea V. Brambila.

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