The Real Deal New York

StreetEasy redesign rankles users

Brokers worry listing provider has been "Zillowfied," but website revamp was planned long ago
By Guelda Voien | October 04, 2013 10:41AM

It was a rough couple of months for New York City brokers who rely on technology — and, really, isn’t that nearly all of them? Not only did the Real Estate Board of New York roll out its new, long-awaited listings transmission system (which some had doubts about) and Apple unveil its much-maligned new operating system, but StreetEasy debuted a website redesign that has rankled brokers and inflamed some consumers.

“I am a big StreetEasy fan – it’s the biggest driver in the market,” said Donna Olshan, president of residential brokerage Olshan Realty. “But there are a lot of issues with the new interface that they need to work out. My brokers are complaining.”

The popular listings provider, greeted with skepticism when it first launched in New York City in 2006, has since become an indispensable tool for residential brokers to advertise homes, connect with clients, and mine data on listings, sales and rentals. Now operating in a handful of markets across the U.S., the site proved successful enough to catch the eye of Zillow, which acquired the company in August for $50 million.

Some brokers who spoke with The Real Deal assumed the new interface, launched Sept. 30, was tied to the Zillow buy, and some warned that StreetEasy would soon mimic Zillow’s sites around the country, which they criticized for promoting agents who do not have exclusives on listings.

“The word that’s going around my office about it is that it got ‘Zillowfied,’ meaning it looks like Zillow,” said Eric Benaim, founder of residential brokerage Modern Spaces. “That can be a good thing or bad thing, depending on who you’re speaking to.”

But the switchover had nothing to do with Zillow, said Sofia Song, StreetEasy’s vice president of research and communications.

“The redesign has been in the works for months,” she said, adding that the roll out had been planned for the third quarter of 2013.

The aim was to create a “visual search,” and make information on the site more accessible, Song said. The redesign offers more tabs, larger photos and new features, such as the “luxury,” section, dedicated to high-priced homes.

Still, brokers are split, with some welcoming the redesign as a necessary update and others maintaining it’s “glitchy” and could cost them business.

“It feels like a step backwards,” Olshan said.

But the new interface and design are a work in progress, Song said. Some features that do not currently appear on the site, such as the custom boundary search and the “show all neighborhoods” function, are set to return. Developers are working on addressing the problem of the site not working well on Internet Explorer, a glitch StreetEasy did not foresee, Song said.

“We have a bias towards [Google] Chrome,” she said. And the company is in the midst of putting together a guide on how to use the site, which should be done in about a week, Song said.

For some, the challenges are just part of a learning curve, she added.

“Anytime we roll out anything, there is always backlash,” she said, adding that StreetEasy encourages users to experiment with the new system. “Some users are afraid to just click around, to just explore.”

The situation is similar to Facebook and Google updating their social media platform and email provider, respectively, Song and brokers noted.

“It’s not as clean as the original version, but … I’m sure everyone will get used to it,” Benaim said.

“The utility of StreetEasy is so high we forget how dated the site had become,” said Jason Haber, CEO of Rubicon Property, who said the old site design was reminiscent of the 1990s Internet, when AOL was the ubiquitous brand. “I’m sure there will be grousing from some who long for the old layout, but the time had come for a revamp. Now they have great data and a great site.”

On StreetEasy’s discussion boards, the new interface dominated comments. All 87 posts in one discussion yesterday were negative, with many threatening to cancel their “Insider” pay subscriptions. (Of course, message boards are not exactly the domain of measured, positive commentary).

“This new format gives me nothing more than what I can get for free on [New York] Times Real Estate,” wrote one user, adding “I used to be able to get information almost as accurate as my broker does from this system.”

Another put it more succinctly: “Bring back the old format!!!!”

But StreetEasy is open to feedback; the company is monitoring Twitter and discussion boards to address as many concerns as possible. And while StreetEasy had not yet considered offering users a way to revert to the old interface, Song said the company was open to many options.

“We have not had that discussion, but it’s not [because] we are against it,” she said.

  • StreeteasySUCK!!!!

    WHAT A F*CKING JOKE THIS WEBSITE HAS BECOME!!! HAHAH!!! I ALREADY QUICK MY SUBSCRIPTION!!! you can find better information on cragislist these days then this new crap

  • Patrick

    it has begun

  • Sequoia

    I wrote to tell them that it is Awful.

  • Stiinson

    Streeteasy had many fans because everything agents need was visible & accessible as soon as you arrived at the site. With the new version, having to scroll down to Featured Properties simply screams poor design and suggests very little end-user signoff on OUR business requirements and OUR screen design needs prior to software migration.Bad screen design means users will be less effective. The key to a successful rollout is to listen to users & consumers first. This this one failed miserably

  • Todd Stevens

    Zillow received $117,000,000 for realtors who don’t mind almost deleting other realtors contact information in the last year. StreetEasy received $0 for this. I believe the realtors and promoters of zip code purchasing have acid in their eyes to the extent they don’t see how they are damaging customer-empowerment and the value of realtor-excellence versus paying for zip codes and deleting other realtors’ contact information. I think Jason Haber’s incorrect in his evaluation and $50,000,000 shows it was a solid product with a solid platform. I have 1,400 followers supporting me in my effort to keep StreetEasy, StreetEasy.

  • Confidence Stimpson

    Streeteasy says the changes were planned before the purchase happened. Well, I’m sure the purchase was planned long before it actually happened. I still think there’s a connection.