SVN becomes first commercial brokerage to join blockchain-powered MLS

The Boston-based brokerage follows Toll Brothers in teaming up with imbrex
By Joe Ward | April 24, 2019 03:00PM

Kevin Maggiacomo, President and CEO of SVN International Corp.

SVN International Corporation has partnered with Imbrex, the blockchain-powered multiple listing service, making it the first commercial brokerage to store its data on the blockchain.

Blockchain is a digital data storage platform and transaction ledger that uses encryption and a decentralized network of servers to store the information. Proponents call it a more secure marketplace that removes the need for a third party to verify and track transactions and data.

Much has been made about blockchain’s ability to disrupt the real estate industry, which currently relies on multiple listing services and platforms like Zillow to disseminate listings and other data. It also could be used to record real estate transactions, potentially cutting out intermediaries such as title companies.

“Blockchain technology has significant potential to drive transparency, efficiency, and cost savings for CRE owners by removing many of the existing inefficiencies in key processes,” a study of blockchain by Deloitte concluded.

Kevin Maggiacomo, president and CEO of Boston-based SVN, said he wanted his firm to be on the cutting edge of the new technology, even if the scope of its impact on the industry is not yet known.

“When we’re looking at the horizon, we saw radical change coming to commercial real estate,” Maggiacomo said.

SVN moved its listings to the blockchain in early April. Instead of disseminating its data through an MLS, SVN will now have full control of it, which will give the firm a better idea of how its listings are performing, Maggiacomo said.

“The data resided in the hands of these behemoths,” he said. “We were providing data to these platforms that sold it back to us. The blockchain flips the model.”

Imbrex, which launched in summer 2018, was conceived as a way to upend the traditional real estate data model. The platform was created by Stephen King, a former commercial broker who sought to save money on listing services and have more control over his listings.

“I realized we were paying $10,000 a year for access to pretty much our own listing data through various MLSes,” King previously told The Real Deal.

The residential real estate industry was the first to team with imbrex. Nationwide homebuilding giant Toll Brothers shifted 2,200 of its listings to the imbrex platform, and San Francisco-based startup Propy in early 2018 completed the first U.S. property transaction using blockchain.

Now SVN is using blockchain for its listings.

“SVN and imbrex are aligned in the belief that the shift from siloed data to secure and complete connectivity will positively impact the real estate industry,” King said in a statement.

The real estate world is not known for being early adopters of new technology. In announcing the adoption of blockchain technology to its clients, Maggiacomo said it took more explaining “than everything else we’ve ever done.”

“We focus on data security. We focus on speed to market,” he said of how SVN sold the new technology to its clients and partners. “I even struggle to capture the full scope of the possibility of what blockchain can provide to commercial real estate.”