Friday, May 23, 2008

Real Estate Transaction Standard - RETS, Is Not A Standard After All

Real Estate Transaction Standard (RETS) was put in place to simplify the process of transferring real estate data from one system to another simplifying software development solutions. Software developers can create custom real estate applications and implementation of RETS that can be used to extract data and distribute it to REALTORS® websites, cell phones or any other digital media distribution system.

While there are many standards in the computer industry, the RETS, by far is the most complicated with specific custom patches and data extraction solutions provided by each RETS provider making RETS a nonstandard for now.

The way RETS is intended to work is to utilize XML to transfer data between RETS servers and clients where an individual can use any of the certified RETS client software and start creating a custom implementation of the data. Unfortunately, it turns out that RETS providers, who are in most cases the same companies that provide MLS services in local markets, have totally different structures for their databases and are not willing to change to one standard.

A simple example illustrating the lack of standardization can be found in MRIS servers where images are not supported through RETS. A more complicated example can be found with INTEREALTY's implementation of RETS where the metadata of INTEREALTY's servers specifies the system id as unique but not selectable and a programmer cannot select an integer based field that is greater than the a specified value, an extreme nonstandard by any modern programming architecture. Programmers have to implement workarounds to get any RETS client to work unless an individual chooses to use the very limited windows based only software provided by INTEREALTY.

The cost of implementation for custom real estate website owners is high especially if current Real Estate content is hosted on a Linux or Unix based server.

By definition a standard is an authorized model used to define a unit of measurement or compatibility, while RETS is a compilation of Real Estate data than can be standardized once you have extracted data to your own servers.

The problem I see in RETS today is that the language to extract data has been standardized; Nevertheless, data field names and attributes have been ignored. It is becoming more urgent for the National Association of REALTORS® to enforce stricter and more unified standards on RETS providers such that Real Estate Transaction Standard can actually become one.

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