The Real Deal New York

Brooklyn MLS and Streeteasy.com aim for transparency

May 18, 2009 03:36PM
By Candace Taylor

alternate textGerard Longo (left) and Dawn Doherty

Brooklyn’s biggest Multiple Listing Service has partnered with Streeteasy.com to place some 2,500 of its listings on the site, signaling a new era of transparency for real estate in the borough.

All member listings from the Brooklyn New York MLS, which represent neighborhoods like Sheepshead Bay, Flatbush and Midwood, are now visible for the first time on Streeteasy.com, according to Dawn Doherty, the vice president of strategic development at the real estate listings Web site.

That means information on price changes and the number of days on the market — data that Streeteasy.com compiles for each listing on its site — will be available to consumers for the first time, she said.

In the past, listings information for the Brooklyn New York MLS, including listings’ specific addresses, was available only to the group’s members.

“This is unprecedented,” Doherty said.

With the addition of the new data, Streeteasy.com now has nearly 8,750 total Brooklyn listings — 7,000 sales listings and 1,750 rental listings — versus a total of 6,250 previously, an increase of 2,500 listings.

When Streeteasy.com was first launched in 2006, it operated by “scraping” the Web for real estate listings and posting them, allowing users to access and search nearly all of the city’s listings for free. Now, however, most of Streeteasy.com’s listings are provided directly to the site by industry feeds and by brokers themselves, though some are still found by scanning the Web.

Until now, Doherty said, the site’s accumulation of Brooklyn listings has been hampered by the fact that the borough is dominated by small, independent real estate brokerages, making it harder to ensure that all of the listings are represented on the popular site. In Manhattan, by contrast, very large firms like Prudential Douglas Elliman and the Corcoran Group have a large majority of the listings.

The acquisition of the BNYMLS will help fix that, she said. “Now we’re really representing the area.”

Brooklyn previously had five different MLS systems, but they have merged over the years into two: the Brooklyn New York MLS and the smaller Brooklyn MLS, according to Gerard Longo, the president of Brooklyn brokerage Madison Estates and Properties and president of the BNYMLS.

In the coming months, the Brooklyn MLS also will be absorbed into the BNYMLS, which is currently the largest MLS in the borough with members from over 200 companies, he said.

The partnership with Streeteasy.com represents a recent change in philosophy for BNYMLS, and for the Brooklyn real estate industry in general, Longo said.

“Over the last five or six years, Brooklyn has transformed dramatically,” he said. “The trend is more towards transparency.”

For example, he said, the BNYMLS only recently started publishing the exact addresses of its listings.

“That was the old-hat thinking that many brokers had to keep control of that information,” he said. “But the customer [became] very frustrated with the way real estate was done. People crave information.”

When Streeteasy.com was launched, many brokers and sellers were resistant to it because it publishes data about price cuts and recent sales, data that had been accessible only by brokers.

“It’s taken us a while to get comfortable with that fact,” said Longo, who is also the developer of new Tribeca residential projects the Fairchild and the Pearline Soap Factory, where price drops this fall in the neighborhood of 20 percent were reported on Streeteasy.com.

But most have now warmed to the idea, Longo said, especially in the current market, where the information available on Streeteasy.com seems to make buyers more confident in their purchase decisions, not less.

“It makes them much more comfortable and allows them to make more informed decisions,” Longo said. “At the end of the day, it helps all of us — consumers and developers.”

Brokers all over the city report that “people are coming to open houses with pages and pages from Streeteasy,” Doherty said. “Transparency feeds confidence in this market.”

That’s evidenced by the growing popularity of the site despite the recent market downturn. Streeteasy.com now receives 12 million page views per month, up from about 4 million at this time last year, she said.

“It’s just exploded,” Doherty said. “People are looking for confidence.”

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