Century 21 launches VOW

By Amy Tennery | July 12, 2010 12:30PM

Century 21 NY Metro’s Marc Lewis

Century 21 NY Metro has launched its own Virtual Office Website — or
“VOW” — the company announced today. The VOW will give homebuyers
access to all residential listings from member brokerages in New York
City through the firm’s personal website.

The platform has been in the works for months, according to the Century
21 Real Estate franchise. The Real Estate Board of New York approved
its request for a VOW last month. In addition to giving users access to
other firm’s listings, the company’s new VOW will also include enhanced
property browsing features, such as detailed search parameters and
listing information.

But Century 21 is hardly the only firm embracing the VOW platform
recently — the firm’s launch comes on the heels of several other
companies’ own unveilings. Late last month, Prudential Douglas Elliman
revealed its VOW, which it launched in conjunction with its new $1 million website redesign. Residential firm A.C. Lawrence kicked off a VOW earlier this year, while a new, Boston-based firm CondoDomain launched in March using the VOW platform.

But while Century 21’s move might seem in lock-step with other firms’
VOW plans, Marc Lewis, company president and CEO, insists that his
company isn’t just jumping on the bandwagon. He said the firm waited
and weighed its options before launching a VOW.

“I read about [the VOW platform] and all of a sudden people hit [me]
over the head with it,” Lewis said. “I wanted to do my due diligence…
after seeing other companies do it and having some time to think about
it [I saw] the value in it.”

The system, however, is not without controversy — some industry experts have voiced concern over how much access brokers have to their clients’ searches on the platform.

said that his company will use some of the analytics features that
allow client tracking, but that his agents will use them judiciously.
“I was fascinated by this [aspect of the program] because you can see
what someone has done,” said Lewis, who declined to say how much the
new platform cost. Still, he said that he believes specifically
targeting clients based on their searches is crossing the line. “I’m
sure what’s going to happen is that [some companies] are going to get
too aggressive.”