The Real Deal New York

Shots fired: 4 top firms cut off StreetEasy after REBNY syndication

BHS, Town, Compass, Stribling will no longer post listings to the platform
By E.B. Solomont | August 02, 2017 03:15PM

From left: Susan Daimler, Robert Reffkin, Andrew Heiberger, Hall Willkie, and Elizabeth Stribling

Cue the Hans Zimmer soundtrack – the battle is on.

After weeks of protests, threats, and failed negotiations, four of the city’s biggest residential brokerages on Tuesday cut StreetEasy off, a dramatic escalation in a conflict over who controls thousands of listings and leads in the country’s most valuable — and competitive — real estate market.

Just one day after the Real Estate Board of New York debuted its syndicated listings service, Brown Harris Stevens, Town Residential, Compass and Stribling & Associates stopped feeding sales and rental listings to the Zillow-owned portal.

The message to StreetEasy? If you want to play hardball, you’re on.

“If StreetEasy wants to go through RLS, I’ll flip them on in a minute,” said Town CEO Andrew Heiberger. “But not if they’re not going to go through RLS and misuse our information and capitalize on it in wrongful ways.” He was referring to StreetEasy’s Premier Agent ad program and a new fee to list rentals on the website for $3 a day. “They’re being indignant, they’re refusing,” he said.

Bess Freedman, executive vice president of BHS , said the firm decided to switch off its StreetEasy feed on Tuesday morning once it became clear the RLS — which is not consumer-facing — was up and running.

“We want to support the RLS and what they’re doing,” she said. “The power of the feed coming from various companies to RLS helps agents and consumers because now there’s just one feed with transparent, clean data.”

Together, the four firms represent about 20 percent of the city’s sales listings, according to Freedman. She said she spoke with StreetEasy’s Susan Daimler after BHS made the decision to cut off listings, and urged her to work with REBNY and become one of 200 aggregators that have signed on to receive the RLS feed, including CoStar’s Apartments.com and Realtor.com.

But that isn’t happening. Like the brokerages, StreetEasy won’t blink.

In a statement to The Real Deal, Daimler said the firms that pulled their feeds represented a “single-digit share” of the city’s available inventory.

“The vast majority of brokerages recognize the value” of being on StreetEasy, she said, and the ones who don’t are “doing a huge disservice to their agents and sellers by not marketing their listings as widely as possible.”

Daimler also stood by StreetEasy’s earlier decision not to accept the RLS feed.

“Our top priority is listing quality and our goal is to get listing data as close to the original source as possible,” she said. And that means from brokerages directly. “By inserting themselves as the syndication hub, the RLS is adding another layer in which data can lose quality, integrity, and timeliness.”

Less than 48 hours after RLS’ debut, several firms were said to still be evaluating their relationship with StreetEasy.

Warburg Realty, which could not be reached for comment, previously indicated it would route its listings exclusively through the RLS. But Douglas Elliman — which is participating in the RLS — has said it will continue to allow agents to use their marketing budgets to pay StreetEasy’s rental fee.

It’s unclear what stance the Corcoran Group and Citi Habitats will take. Last month, the firms, both owned by NRT, said they stopped sending their rental feeds to StreetEasy after the website began charging agents for rental listings. Individual agents are able to send their listings, however.

The number of rental listings on StreetEasy plummeted around 50 percent on July 19 after the $3-per-day fee took effect. As of 11:30 a.m. Wednesday, StreetEasy had more than 17,000 rentals and 13,600 sale listings on its website.