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International Real Property Foundation (IRPF) and the L.P. Reaume Memorial Foundation’s Data Integrity Project in Central/Eastern Europe

By Megan R. Abraham, IRPF Mobilization Coordinator

The International Real Property Foundation (IRPF) is an independent, non-profit, public purpose 501c(3) Foundation which works with developing and restructuring countries seeking to strengthen their real property markets and make them more efficient and transparent. Experience shows that IRPF’s work has resulted in expanded economic opportunity for many, increased private investment, improved market efficiency and heightened individual commitment to communities. The Foundation was created in 1992 to assist and advance privatization opportunities presented by the dismantling of the Soviet Union, with emphasis on emerging market economies of Eastern Europe. For almost 20 years, the IRPF has mobilized over $14 million in assistance to developing economies, a large portion provided by United States Agency for International Development (USAID). Today, the Foundation operates worldwide.

The Leonard P. Reaume Memorial Foundation was established in 1996. It is active in many International initiatives stressing the need for stronger education from an international perspective. In partnership with the Leonard P. Reaume Memorial Foundation, IRPF is pleased to announce the development of its “Toolkit: Developing Real Estate Data Collection Systems.” The Toolkit provides both a theoretical explanation of the benefits of monitoring real estate market transactions and a hands-on guide to implementing the appropriate data collection and management system in local markets. The Toolkit is divided into two volumes: the first providing the general theory and advocacy for real estate data management systems, and the second including five hands-on modules which serve as practical guides to help a local market implement a new data management strategy.

The development of the Toolkit by IRPF Consultant Kathryn Owens, was a follow-up project to an IRPF-Reaume Foundation collaboration to assess real estate market data collection systems and Multiple Listing Service (MLS) readiness in several countries in Eastern Europe. Ms. Owens is a PhD candidate in Urban Planning at the University of Michigan. She was a research assistant for IRPF Consultant Richard K. Green, Ph.D., who is currently the Director of the USC Lusk Center for Real Estate.

The goal of the project was to develop a clear understanding of data availability, ownership, and collection capacity in order to set up systems to collect and utilize timely and accurate information on the real estate market. One of the major conclusions of the assessment was that training on successful models is required to achieve education of key players in real estate market data collection.

Following Ms. Owens’ initial assessment, IRPF Consultant Belton Jennings, President of Enjender LLC (an association management and leadership training consultancy), conducted an in-depth evaluation of the Polish market’s data collection system. Mr. Jennings created a handbook that contributed to the Toolkit. He concluded, among many other things, that the availability of reliable, timely market information serves to foster trust and cooperation among real estate professionals and provides the basis for accurate projections of sales, pricing activity and market trends. In the hands of committed, trustworthy stakeholders, an effective data collection system and/or multiple listing service results in better quality property valuations and promotes development of robust real estate mortgage markets by increasing lender confidence in property values and forecasts. Moreover, it generates information critical to provide the public with the best possible service as those who participate in the system will have access to the best possible information with which to help them make buying, selling or borrowing decisions.

Mr. Jennings summarizes the project by saying that “Thanks to visionary leadership early on in both the real estate and banking communities, Poland has all elements in place for the creation of a robust, nationwide shared property information database and a truly national MLS presence. Given sufficient willingness to make the commitment and the relatively small compromises needed by all sides, those two goals are clearly within their grasp. Their CEREAN (Central/Eastern Europe Real Estate Associations Network) partners could benefit greatly from studying the Polish example and tailoring it to their own country’s unique circumstances.”

All the assessments conducted by IRPF consultants conclude the same premise: Trust among key players is vital to the success of transparent real estate markets in Central and Eastern Europe. Therefore, IRPF is working to build trust among players in the region by supporting efforts to promote data aggregation systems like MLS and increase training/awareness regarding the importance of data integrity for the real estate market.

In November 2010, IRPF was awarded another grant from the Reaume Foundation to further efforts towards establishing effective data aggregation systems in the region, through CEREAN. The purpose of the Assistance to CEREAN Organizations for Data Aggregation Systems program is to help participating organizations either establish the building blocks of a data aggregation system or strengthen an existing system. A long-term goal for the participating associations is to join an international referral system like the International Consortium of Real Estate Associations (ICREA). The program provides assistance for CEREAN organizations struggling with costs for data aggregation programs.

In addition, IRPF will be training local, Central European-based instructors to teach half-day presentations regarding the “Toolkit: Developing Real Estate Data Collection Systems.” This knowledge will allow Instructors to teach members of CEREAN associations the importance of and next step towards developing data aggregation systems, or MLS, in their local markets. IRPF also plans to work with Consultant Peter Shuttleworth, on future projects regarding the strengthening of data aggregation systems.

Joe Hanauer, IRPF Chairman, remarks on the importance of this ongoing effort “IRPF has been committed to assisting our CEREAN partners in building their businesses since the outset of the creation of CEREAN. Now more than ever real estate buyers and sellers are making decisions based on sound, deep and reliable information. Therefore IRPF is working hard to empower CEREAN members to improve their ability to provide demanded information to customers. Additionally our goal is to enable members to operate their businesses more effectively by making data based decisions.”

The progress described in this article highlights the extremely effective partnership between IRPF and the Reaume Foundation, who have worked collaboratively for several years in Central and Eastern Europe. The missions of the Leonard P. Reaume Memorial Foundation and the International Real Property Foundation share many common elements. Both organizations seek to use the power and experience of REALTORS, their associated body of knowledge, and their passion for the business to improve real estate systems outside of the United States. The Reaume Foundation and IRPF have worked together on numerous collaborations in the past to achieve great success in the education of real estate practitioners in foreign markets. IRPF is grateful to the Reaume Foundation for its past support of IRPF’s mission and hopes to continue engaging in fruitful cooperation.

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