The Real Deal New York

StreetEasy launches new “My Agent” feature — with notable disclosures

After Premier Agent backlash, new feature explicitly defines buyer agent
By E.B. Solomont | July 16, 2018 01:21PM

Susan Daimler and StreetEasy’s new features

StreetEasy is letting Premier Agents in New York City double down on the lucrative advertising program.

The Zillow-owned portal is rolling out “My Agent,” an optional feature that lets buyers continue working with agents they’ve already contacted on StreetEasy. Specifically, Premier Agents who spend a certain amount of money advertising on StreetEasy can send “My Agent” requests to their buyers; if the buyers opt-in, they can stay connected and share listings on an ongoing basis.

Susan Daimler, StreetEasy’s general manager, introduced the new feature in a blog post on Monday.

Zillow has likened the feature to a Facebook friend request or a LinkedIn connection. Once a buyer has connected with a Premier Agent, the agent can go back and contact the buyer — via email or a pop-up box — to ask if they’d like to keep up the relationship. If the buyer says yes, the same Premier Agent becomes their single point of contact for sharing listings and communicating about properties on StreetEasy. That agent’s name also will appear on all of the listings the buyer views (instead of competing Premier Agents).

“My Agent” is being billed as a way to streamline communication between Premier Agents and buyers. But while Zillow has rolled out the feature in other cities, the StreetEasy version will have a specific pop-up window that specifically defines the role of the buyer’s agent. “This is a buyer’s agent,” the text will read. “A listing agent represents the seller.”

Sources said the explicit distinction is likely a response to blowback StreetEasy felt last year after it launched Premier Agent, an advertising program that lets buyer’s agents have their name appear alongside other agents’ listings.

At the time, several major agents and firms said the program confused and misled consumers. Along with a new $3 per day fee to post rental listings, some firms cited Premier Agent as a reason to stop feeding StreetEasy their listings automatically. Others have since reversed their position and are using Premier Broker, the version of Premier Agent that lets firms purchase buyer leads en masse.

Meanwhile, New York State regulators are weighing new guidance for agent advertising, after the Real Estate Board of New York complained last year about Premier Agent. An April 2 opinion letter suggested the portal (and other real estate websites) could be required to add disclosures that inform buyers unequivocally that they are not contacting the listing agent. (Other real estate websites could also have to add disclosures when they share listings online.)

In her blog post, Daimler acknowledged the nuance of advertising in New York City.

“We also recognize that NYC real estate is complicated, and we should seize opportunities to educate the consumer at critical points in their home search,” she wrote. “To that end, when a My Agent relationship between a Premier Agent and buyer is formed we use onsite and in-app messaging to make sure the buyer knows that the Premier Agent they are talking to is a buyer’s agent.”

Premier Agent generated more than 70 percent of Zillow’s $300 million in revenue during the first quarter, according to SEC filings. “My agent” led to a higher retention rate among agent advertisers during that time. “We see higher connection rates with their home shoppers,” CEO Spencer Rascoff said during a May 7 earnings call. “We run tens of thousands of leads through My Agent now which are tens of thousands of leads that otherwise would’ve gone to non-connected agents,” he said.