Several of the city’s top brokerages are defying StreetEasy’s latest attempt to push manual listing entry on agents, which they believe is a bald-faced attempt to squeeze more money out of brokers.
After the portal announced “Agent Spotlight,” its latest advertising program, the Corcoran Group decided that it would not switch to a new listing system developed by StreetEasy and Douglas Elliman, dubbed “Listing Tools,” sources told The Real Deal. Sources also said that Compass and Brown Harris Stevens — which cut their automatic feeds to StreetEasy more than a year ago — have both asked the portal to reinstate those direct pipelines to avoid Listing Tools’ manual entry.
BHS has already received a firm “absolutely not,” said CEO Bess Freedman. Compass declined to comment.
Compass and BHS were among several firms that cut their direct listing feeds to StreetEasy in August 2017 in favor of REBNY’s newly-syndicated residential listing service (RLS). At the time, several other firms did the same — including Warburg Realty, Stribling & Associates and now-defunct Town Residential — partly in protest after StreetEasy refused to accept the RLS feed.
Though Warburg and Stribling have no interest in reinstating an automatic feed, sources said Compass and BHS had a change of heart because they do not want to participate in Listing Tools or Agent Spotlight.
BHS’ Freedman said that during a contentious meeting last week between her firm’s executives and StreetEasy, general manager Matt Daimler made it clear that he is looking to increase the portal’s revenue after it being free for years. “I said, ‘You’re desperate. You want to make pennies off agents,'” Freedman recalled. “He said, ‘No, I want to make dollars.'”
The Zillow Group-owned portal introduced the Agent Spotlight program last month as a way for agents to prevent buyer agents from advertising next to their listings via StreetEasy’s Premier Agent ad program. The cost for Agent Spotlight is $333 per month per listing.
But for agents to participate, their firms need to suspend their automatic listing feeds to StreetEasy in favor of Listing Tools.
Although StreetEasy has characterized the program as a way to improve listing accuracy (and an option for listing brokers who dislike Premier Agent), many agents blasted the program, describing it as a form of extortion.
“It’s so ridiculous. They were telling you to use a buyer’s broker,” said one brokerage head, referring to Premier Agent. “Yet if the seller’s broker is willing to pay $333, then it’s OK to use a listing broker. It’s all about the money.”
The pivot to manual feeds is a big move to StreetEasy, which gained market share in the 2000s after it cut deals to receive automatic feeds from the city’s top firms. Elsewhere around the country, Zillow Group gets feeds from firms or from local multiple listing systems, but New York City lacks a single MLS.
That change of strategy, though, has brokerage chiefs in New York bristling at what they said is an attempt to drive a wedge between firms and agents — in order to squeeze revenue from agents.
In a statement, Daimler argued that manual entry results in fewer errors than listing feeds. “Sending a feed sounds simple and seamless. It’s not,” he said. “Continuing to receive listings in such an inefficient way wasn’t doing anyone — agents or consumers — any favors. So, we innovated.”
He said the new platform ensures that listings come directly from the source and appear online as soon as they are available. According to StreetEasy’s analysis of help-desk requests — in other words, data issues — manual listings have 20 percent fewer incidents than listings received via brokerage firm feeds.
But the city’s largest firms aren’t buying it.
Stribling, for one, will not adopt Listing Tools (nor does the firm want to reinstate the automatic feed). “We have met with reps from StreetEasy and as their programs and policies stand now, we haven’t been able to reach middle ground,” said Ashley Murphy, a spokesperson for the firm.
She said programs like Premier Agent and Agent Spotlight are “exploitative,” adding, “We don’t believe in agents having to pay for ownership of their own listings they’ve worked hard to secure, negotiate, and sell.”
Even Elliman said it would keep its automatic feed until it is ready to launch the back-end system it commissioned StreetEasy to build. Sources said the system — announced in November 2017 — was delivered to Elliman several months ago, though it’s unclear why the firm hasn’t yet adopted it.
In a statement, a spokesperson for Elliman said the platform would be launched “in due time.” The spokesperson confirmed that Elliman waived the right for exclusivity “in order to develop robust training programs and communication plans designed to ensure a seamless transition to the new StreetEasy Listings Platform.”