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SANTA CRUZ, CA-The Open Standards Consortium for Real Estate today has unveiled its first set of data standards, a milestone that its CEO describes as a “historic” step toward the day when everyone in the commercial real estate industry speaks the same data entry language. Andy Fuhrman, CEO of Oscre, tells GlobeSt.com that the Commercial Information Exchange standard introduced today is the first in a series of standards that will be introduced in the coming months and years by Oscre and its members.

The standards are designed to significantly reduce the cost, time and errors associated with current methods of exchanging commercial property listing information between sellers, brokers, listing exchanges and buyers. The standards released today, in turn, are part of a larger effort to create a universally accepted system for the exchange and transfer of information among the myriad types of buyers, sellers, users, service providers, government entities and others who gather and record commercial real estate information either regularly or from time to tome as part of their day-to-day businesses.

The standards that were released today are part of an effort that lasted more than two and a half years, Fuhrman points out. As he explains to GlobeSt.com, the reason behind Oscre’s formulating of the standards is that organizations and individuals operating in the commercial real estate world employ so many different approaches to recording the same information. Exchanging information can be a daunting task even between two companies operating in the same general area of commercial real estate, Fuhrman says.

As a small example of how the use of different data standards by different applications can cause problems, Fuhrman points out that some computerized applications call for the names of states to be entered using US Postal Service abbreviations, while others spell out the full name of the state and still others use a different set of abbreviations. Applications employing these different standards typically cannot be integrated with each other, with the result that “Every time that you do an integration between any two of these applications, it’s a one-off custom integration that gets expensive and time-consuming.”

Some other examples: Formulas for measuring and calculating rentable space can vary from company to company or according to geography. Lease rates may be quoted on a monthly basis by some firms or on a yearly basis by others.

Multiply those few examples by the thousands of individual types of data and the scores of types of users of commercial real estate data, Fuhrman says, and you have an idea of how inefficient and expensive it can be to exchange information about commercial real estate. On top of that, Fuhrman points out, the Commercial Information Exchange work group is only one of eight ongoing working groups within Oscre Americas who have invested hundreds of labor hours and funding over two-year-plus development period for the standards.

One of Oscre’s long-term goals is that “anybody anywhere in the commercial real estate industry supply chain who is touching property information,” will be using the same standards for data entry, Fuhrman says. To name a few, he lists investors, owners, service providers, government entities, mortgage bankers, appraisers, insurance companies, title firms, construction companies, architects and virtually all industry vendors.

Oscre is also sponsoring a host of initiatives designed to facilitate the common language for those in the supply chain, including the concept of a universal property identification number that would be something like a social security number or a vehicle’s VIN number. The organization is tackling these and other tasks with the support of major players like CB Richard Ellis, the National Association of Realtors, Xceligent, Catylist, the Appraisal Institute, OfficeSpace.com and WayMaker Enterprises.

Oscre Americas is affiliated with a European group called Pisces that will soon change its name to Oscre EMEA, Fuhrman tells GlobeSt.com. In addition, a new group called Oscre Asia-Pacific is in the works.

All of these will be united under the banner of Oscre International, based in Washington, DC., which will be composed of executive members of each of the three regions. Fuhrman says the Oscre standards released today owe a debt to Pisces, which has been formulating data standards in the UK and Europe for about 10 years.

Oscre’s work boils down to “creating a common business language for the real estate industry,” Fuhrman says. Although much of the group’s work involves software, he tells GlobeSt.com, “Oscre is not really a technology solution. It’s a business solution that gets people to talk the same language across the real property supply chain for the ultimate benefit of everyone in that supply chain.

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