Tech@Work: Data Exchange Made Easy

Internet language standard could simplify and shorten the transaction process.

April 1, 1999

What if all the information involved in a real estate transaction could be seamlessly exchanged, via the Internet, by all the parties involved in that transaction? And what if a potential homebuyer could search for all the three-bedroom, two-bath homes listed on the Internet--no matter at what site--with a few keystrokes or clicks? Those scenarios could become reality under a real estate industry--driven initiative to set standards for the exchange of real estate information on the Internet.

XML standardizes the way data is described on any Web page. With HTML, there’s no way to compare like information. But with XML, bathrooms, square footage, price--all property stats--can be universally tagged by programmers in a data system to be found and “read” by searchbots that understand XML, no matter on which Web page the listing is posted--as long as the page is published in XML.

Using XML as the standard could change the industry. For instance, XML would allow various settlement service providers to exchange information in a way that’s universally understood. Consumers, appraisers, lenders, and escrow people could follow a transaction’s progress via a mutually accessible database. On the front end, that might take the form of a password-protected Web page.

Such efficiency could translate into more closed sales for you and lower settlement costs for consumers. Also, with everyone working off one “digital document,” there would most likely be fewer mistakes, quicker closings, and more satisfied consumers.

If the industry adopts an XML standard, realtor.com is ready to support it, says Stuart Wolff, RealSelect president and CEO. Real estate Web portals that set up an XML searchbot could search any listings, not just those housed at that portal. But it isn’t likely that XML would undercut the value of a portal with a trusted brand name and data you can count on as accurate, says Wolff.

Perhaps the most exciting aspect of XML is that it could finally pave the way for a paperless real estate transaction.

NAR is taking the lead to establish standards for key property elements and hopes to come out with a draft in May at the Midyear Governance Meetings.Whatever impact XML has, NAR believes it will benefit members by giving vendors serving the industry a common platform.

Michael Russer, a.k.a. Mr. Internet®, is CEO of Russer Communications. He is a leading speaker and author in the real estate industry and has been writing about Internet marketing and virtual outsourcing since the dawn of the commercial Internet.

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