But it turns out the firm’s parent company had a prior arrangement with Zillow Group, which notifies its agents when a buyer contacts a Premier Agent about one of their listings.
When that happens, agents receive emails directly from Zillow. “Good news!” read the notifications, several of which were seen by The Real Deal. “An inquiry was just submitted to one or more Premier Agents for your listing.” The email then discloses the name of the Premier Agent that was contacted, and provides an email link so that the listing agent may contact the buyer directly.
Sources said the deal with Realogy — the New Jersey-based conglomerate that owns Corcoran, Citi Habitats and national brands like Coldwell Banker — predates StreetEasy’s rollout of Premier Agent. Even so, it reflects the company’s stance regarding the program, which lets buyers’ agents advertise on listings that are not their own.
Realogy did not respond to requests for comment. On Friday, Zillow declined to comment on specific agreements it has with brokerages.
“I can say that we don’t have any agreements that allow listing agents to solicit business away from [Premier Agents], and that type of behavior would be met with sanctions,” said Emily Heffter, a spokesperson for the company.
In New York, Corcoran and a number of other residential firms denounced Premier Agent last year as a pay-to-play scheme that was misleading to consumers. (Corcoran and Citi Habitats, for example, said they would not reimburse agents who participate.) The Real Estate Board of New York also got involved — and its complaint to the New York Department of State prompted regulators to look critically at real estate advertising across online platforms. Formal guidance is forthcoming.
After threatening to boycott StreetEasy, however, a handful of the city’s largest firms opted into Premier Broker, which lets brokerages purchase bundles of buyer leads. Corcoran was one of them, along with Douglas Elliman, Nest Seekers International, BOND New York and Halstead Property.
Nationwide, Premier Agent generated $761.6 million in revenue for Zillow last year, up 26 percent year over. The ad program accounted for 70 percent of the company’s $1.077 billion earnings in 2017.
Several Corcoran agents who’ve recently received Zillow notifications said they have reached out directly to buyers with mixed results. “Sometimes they’re happy, sometimes they’re confused,” one agent said. “Sometimes they don’t know the difference.”