Late last week, representatives for Apartments.com, a subsidiary of real estate tech giant CoStar Group, began reaching out to executives at some of the city’s largest residential brokerages.
Their goal? To remind the firms that their platform could serve as an alternative to listings aggregator StreetEasy, the New York market leader that now lets brokers advertise against other brokers’ sales listings and will soon begin charging to post rental listings.
StreetEasy’s monetization efforts have upended the residential industry, with many of the big brokerages fighting back through a plan to syndicate their listings exclusively through the Real Estate Board of New York. This fraught environment creates a rare opening for a competitor to swoop in and steal market share from StreetEasy, whose parent Zillow Group has increased its clout through acquisitions of companies such as Trulia and HotPads.
“Given recent events, I wanted to bring to your attention that Apartments.com will continue to offer complimentary listings for your rental availabilities in addition to continuing our premium services,” one representative wrote in an email to an executive at Town Residential Friday. “We feel that firms should only pay to control the level of exposure for their listings, not whether they have exposure at all.”
And Apartments.com, which CoStar acquired for $585 million in 2014, isn’t the only StreetEasy competitor trying to profit from the situation.
“I guess I should thank them,” said Leasebreak founder Phil Horrigan, whose company helps New Yorkers search for short-term rentals, sublets, and shares. “This anticipated move has already has been great for business. I don’t believe there is any company better positioned than Leasebreak to take advantage of this strategic error. Most agents know about our “Lead Program” and short term rental marketplace already, but now in the last few days we are seeing more and more rental agents post their 12-month rentals on our site.”
In March, StreetEasy rolled out its Premier Agent feature, which allows agents to advertise on other agents’ listings. Last week, it said it would also begin charging $3 a day for each rental listing displayed on the site.
Town CEO Andrew Heiberger said he welcomed the outreach from StreetEasy rivals: “We appreciated the fact that Apartments.com reached out to our listings department and reassured us that they were not going to charge us for our listings,” he said. A representative for CoStar did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
But there may be more to the push by StreetEasy competitors to reassure firms that they’re not the enemy. With top firms banding together to syndicate their listings exclusively through REBNY’s listings service, other aggregators may be concerned about becoming collateral damage, sources said. The Corcoran Group, Halstead Property, Brown Harris Stevens, Town Residential, Warburg Realty, Stribling & Associates and Compass have all signed onto the syndication deal.
With one consolidated listings feed, the firms could dictate the terms under which StreetEasy and other aggregators could display them. That could hobble StreetEasy, but also its competitors.
Some said it’s ironic CoStar is making a play against StreetEasy, since it too has been accused of monopolistic behavior. Last week, real estate data company Xceligent filed an antitrust lawsuit against CoStar, alleging that the $9 billion company is preventing its users from sharing their own data in a bid to weed out competition.