The Real Deal New York

New Streeteasy.com tool helps consumers pick a broker

Real estate pros say new broker picks system may leave out personality

August 25, 2011 09:08AM
By Katherine Clarke

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Clockwise from left: a screen shoot of the application, Streeteasy’s Sofia Song, Steve Dawson of Sotheby’s International Realty, Warburg’s Richard Steinberg and Rutenberg’s Kathy Braddock

The still somewhat mysterious world of brokerage has become more transparent.

New York sales and rentals listings website Streeteasy.com has launched a new feature allowing users a unique way to assess a real estate agent’s performance through data about the deals they’ve closed. The feature, called “Shop for a Broker,” links property listings with closed sales data from the city, letting users view completed transactions by price point, type of property and neighborhoods.

“This is the first product in New York that’s done anything like this,” said Jared Kleinstein, a manager at Streeteasy. The tool will be accessible to consumers with Streeteasy.com insider accounts, which cost $10 per month.

Starting today, prospective homebuyers and sellers will be able to identify the most qualified broker to work with, judging by their deal history and how long their listings sit on the market. Streeteasy.com asks the user to fill in information about their price point and neighborhood and then lists all suitable brokers, showing their career transaction history to date. To make it in to the line-up, a broker must have already completed two deals.

The site will be listing Manhattan and Brooklyn brokers, but eventually hopes to expand to Queens.

“We’ve often been criticized as being anti-brokerage,” said Sofia Song, vice president of Streeteasy, “but that’s far from the case. We recognize the importance of brokers; we just want transparency.”

Song came up with the idea for the feature when she recently tried to sell her own apartment. She was especially bothered by the fact that she could not verify the claims that brokers made. This service, she said, puts everything into perspective and can even serve as a marketing tool for buyers’ brokers who want to “claim” their deals on Streeteasy. It’s currently easy to find the identity of seller’s brokers on Streeteasy, but information about the buyer’s broker has never been publicly available.

Other sites like Yelp also rate brokers but based only on subjective reviews, Kleinstein said. This service is based on deals that will be updated regularly from feeds of buyer-side deals provided to Streeteasy.com by major city brokerages.

Indeed, broker ratings sites, such as Flyrig.com and RateMyBroker.com, were once popping up all over the place. Even Brownstoner.com, which focuses on Brooklyn real estate and renovation, launched a rate-a-broker feature in 2006 but it was short lived, like most of the broker ratings sites.

New York consumers don’t take to the idea, real estate pros said, because it leaves out a broker’s compatibility with his or her client.

“I think it’s a terrible idea,” said Richard Steinberg, an associate broker with Warburg Realty, “because it doesn’t take into account personality. I absolutely think my repeat clients come back because they know my personality meshes with theirs.”

Kathy Braddock, co-founder of Rutenberg Realty, launched a similar site called Top Broker Guide in 2009, which still operates.

“It all depends on how they gather the data,” she said, when The Real Deal explained Streeteasy.com’s concept. “For some people, buying or selling a home is the single largest financial transaction they’ll make in their life and it’s a personal decision. The Web’s done marvelous things for our industry but you can’t take out the touch and feel. You have to think, ‘Can I communicate with this person? Are we on the same page?’”

Some agents also worry that the service will disadvantage relatively new brokers with few deals under their belts. Kleinstein insists, however, that the rankings will not change the way in which a broker gets his or her start in the industry, which is often based of referrals and general word of mouth. This should only be a starting point, he said.

But some brokers see the value in the Streeteasy.com feature, despite its limitations.

“There’s definitely value in it,” said Steve Dawson, a broker at Sotheby’s International Realty. “You would benefit from that background knowledge. It’s just another tool for the buyer/seller toolbox.”

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