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Friday, February 8, 2013

REAXML - A new Real Estate Apps

Recently, I had the joy of rebuilding the property exports for a new property listing system. This involved the tedious task of creating xmls for all the property data feeds to various real estate portals in Australia and across the World. With over 30 portals and some requiring a separate and unique xml specification, caused quite a headache for our developers.
There were 4 recurring issues which arose during this process and should be avoided by any new real estate application or real estate portal. These include; creating your own unique xml specification, requiring 3rd parties to sign confidentiality agreements, providing inadequate documentation and lastly, failure to provide upload confirmation reports.
  • Unique XML Specification – This has been a common mistake by new portals as they think they need to have their own unique xml feed specification. Although REA do not permit it, it is common knowledge that the REAXML is industry standard which is used/accepted by many existing portals (names withheld). Like any other developer we can set up an REAXML to a new portal in around 5 minutes. However, if a portal has their own unique XML then it could take days to write the XML and then days to test it.
  • Confidentiality Agreements – I’m bewildered why I’m required to sign a confidentiality agreement when all we are doing is sending an XML to a third party website. I can understand signing a Terms & Conditions for uploading agreement, but anything else is just a speed bump in the process to getting an XML in place.
  • Inadequate Documentation – Those portals who have their own XML specification need adequate and UP-TO-DATE documentation so developers can efficiently create the XML. Some portals do have excellent documentation while others have shocking documentation which is often out-of-date. IMPORTANT – Make sure your XML documentation is structured so it is easy to navigate and is up-to-date.
  • Upload Confirmation Reports – This is probably the most important aspect of running an efficient export/import system. These reports are sent back to the bulk loader after each XML has been parsed by the 3rd party portal. The reports highlight which properties have been added, updated or removed along with which properties had errors and what they are. Once again, REA have an excellent report system where they tell you the exact error for why a property was not added. As a further benefit, they also send a daily email to the real estate agency summing up the properties parsed for the day.
In my opinion the worst portals to export to are those controlled by the Real Estate Institutes. For some reason they believe having their own XML specification provides greater value to members. Most smaller portals accept the REAXML but only a few provide adequate upload confirmation reports which makes it hard to monitor the flow of properties.
For any new real applications it is important to reduce the barriers which allow them to receive property listings. There is no reason to “reinvent the wheel”, simply follow industry standard and use a system which is common practice.

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