Firm decides not to monitor users’ clicks

By Amy Tennery | June 01, 2010 07:00PM

Heddings Property Group has decided to remove its ability to track the online footprints of people using its “virtual office website,” or VOW. The New York City-based residential firm removed the analytics feature on the VOW, which allowed agents to track their clients’ every move as they searched for listings through the online service.

Since VOWs gained popularity here toward the end of last year, brokers have debated whether agents have the right to monitor what listings users view online. “I don’t want to take part in the controversy that’s [surrounding the] VOW at all,” said Doug Heddings, founder and president of Heddings Property Group at Charles Rutenberg Realty. The process of shutting off the brokerage analytics feature only took “literally minutes” after a phone call to the VOW provider.

Heddings said that the response from clients has been “overwhelmingly positive” and that between two and five new buyers sign up for the Heddings VOW every day. While he doesn’t use it as a selling point with new clients, Heddings has made his brokerage’s VOW privacy policy available on the company website.

The downside? Heddings has little idea how many total VOW users are on his system today. “Except for the one e-mail we get when someone signs up, that’s all we get from [the system],” Heddings said.