Nest Seekers International has been falsely claiming exclusivity on a number of listings in Miami, and in some cases feeding that information to Zillow and Realtor.com, an investigation by The Real Deal reveals.
The New York-based brokerage, led by founder and CEO Eddie Shapiro, has a number of listings on its website that are labeled “exclusive,” which state that “This is a Nest Seekers Exclusive Listing.” However, in many cases, the listings belong to another brokerage, have already been sold, or have not been listed by the developer.
The Nest Seekers information is sometimes also posted on Zillow.com, Realtor.com and other websites for the public to see. That means potential buyers are presented with the wrong contact information for a listing and oftentimes price.
“These people are creating a presence by misleading the public, pretending to be exclusive listing agents on listings that are not theirs, and somehow have a superseding feed agreement with Zillow and Realtor and other listings sites,” Miami real estate broker Cyril Bijaoui, who discovered the alleged fraud, told TRD.
Nest Seekers started to remove the exclusive labels and listings from its website on Monday, after TRD reached out to the firm.
Nest Seekers president Eddie Shapiro referred TRD to Johnny Mansilla, who leads the Miami-based Mansilla Team of more than 20 agents, and said he does not have control over public listing websites. Mansilla said Nest Seekers “prides” itself on having “integrity and transparency,” and that any listings on the Nest Seekers website were from the Multiple Listing Service or else Nest Seekers had the exclusive at a certain point.
On a second call, Mansilla deferred responsibility to Nest Seekers.
“I don’t own the website. I am just a broker. I don’t represent the company,” he said. “You shouldn’t be talking to me, you should be talking to the marketing department.”
Some of the listings appear to be made up or are for new development condos. With new development, one brokerage will often have the exclusive sales and marketing and may only list some or the units on the MLS.
The penthouse at Regalia, a luxury condo tower in Sunny Isles Beach, is listed for $32 million on Realtor.com and Zillow with Mansilla of Nest Seekers. But Mark Pordes confirmed he and Adam Kaufman have the exclusive sales and marketing for the two developer units that remain at Regalia. And, Pordes said, the penthouse is on the market for $29.5 million, a recently reduced price that includes an Iguana yacht.
Historically, websites such as Zillow get listing information from multiple listing services around the country, but they will also pull from individual brokerages if the information is more accurate than the MLS, experts say.
“What Nest Seekers is doing, the most polite thing I could say is it’s unethical,” said Steve Murray, president of Real Trends, a real estate research and publishing firm.
Instead of using information from the Southeast Florida MLS, Zillow and Realtor have pulled information for specific listings from Nest Seekers, calling into question the verification process.
A spokesperson for Realtor.com said that the company accepts data feeds from the MLS, as well as brokers, and confirmed that Nest Seekers provides a broker feed to Realtor.com. The spokesperson said the listings shared by TRD to Realtor.com match what is on the Nest Seekers site.
“Any discrepancies between broker and MLS data are addressed between those respective parties,” according to the spokesperson. Zillow did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Ring the alarm
Last Sunday, Westside Estate Agency broker Bijaoui received a call from an agent to verify whether he was the listing agent for 970 South Shore Drive, a waterfront home in Miami Beach, Bijaoui said. The agent had a buyer interested in viewing the property, but the listing agent in the MLS didn’t match what was posted on Zillow. Bijaoui, the true listing agent, had been replaced with Nest Seekers agent Marjorie Galeano on Zillow.
In fact, Galeano appeared as the listing agent since Oct. 27, which means for a month and a half, any broker or buyer looking on Zillow or Realtor would have contacted Galeano, not Bijaoui.
According to text messages between Bijaoui and Galeano, provided to TRD by Bijaoui, Galeano said that “by no means am I doing anything illegal.” She attempted to blame Bijaoui for selecting the “OK to advertise” option in the MLS. She said she and her broker use a platform that “syncs [ads] globally” on 97 websites, the screenshots show.
In Bijaoui’s response, he wrote that “claiming exclusive status when [it’s] not exclusive is fraud.” Nest Seekers and Zillow allegedly fixed their respective listings, and within days Bijaoui received an offer from a buyer. Bijaoui said he only received interest in the property once Zillow corrected the listing.
In doing so, Zillow reset the clock, wiping out the days on market. Former Miami Realtor Kevin Tomlinson filed a complaint against The Jills agents Jill Hertzberg and Jill Eber in 2015 over their alleged manipulation of specific fields in MLS, including days on market. He was ultimately convicted of trying to extort $800,000 from the Jills.
“Zillow controls the market,” Bijaoui said, noting that the MLS is “becoming irrelevant.” He plans to file a complaint with the Florida Real Estate Commission.
In some cases, the falsely listed properties have already been sold. A penthouse at Arte by Antonio Citterio in Surfside, currently listed for $40 million on the Nest Seekers website, sold last week for $33 million, and Nest Seekers was not involved in the deal. Douglas Elliman, which is handling sales on behalf of the developer, was the listing brokerage. Elliman also has the exclusive on a penthouse at The Ritz-Carlton Residences, Miami Beach, that Nest Seekers claimed as exclusive, asking about $20.3 million.
A spokesperson for Elliman said both are exclusive to Elliman, and “there is no co-exclusive listing with any other brokerage.”
A two-bedroom, 3,104-square-foot unit at the Estates at Acqualina is listed on Realtor.com for $3.85 million with Rob Fuller of Nest Seekers. But the developer, the Trump Group, always handles sales in-house, led by Michael Goldstein. Nest Seekers has claimed exclusivity on a number of Acqualina units.
Penthouses and units at Aston Martin Residences are also listed on Nest Seekers website as “exclusive” with Nest Seekers agents. Cervera Real Estate is the true listing brokerage for all units inside the building, which is under construction, a Cervera spokesperson confirmed.
The same is true of units listed at Turnberry Ocean Club. A spokesperson confirmed all listings are handled in house.
Though the majority of the Miami-area listings on Nest Seekers’ website are of condos, some are for single-family homes. Nest Seekers claims it has the exclusive on 5709 La Gorce Drive in Miami Beach, which the brokerage has on the market for $4.7 million.
According to the MLS, the La Gorce house sold Sept. 8. Jeri Jenkins of Coldwell Banker represented the seller, and Darin Tansey of Douglas Elliman brought the buyer. It sold for $4 million.
“It appears that these brokers are misrepresenting the truth in an effort to fraudulently drive traffic to their business,” said Josh Migdal, a partner at Miami-based law firm Mark Migdal & Hayden. “This ultimately could result in losses to the appropriate brokers and losses to the buyer and seller who could pay additional commissions and/or improper prices for the home.”
Wild Wild West
Nest Seekers entered the South Florida market in 2007, but has yet to gain a major foothold in Miami. To some on the outside, it seems that Nest Seekers is attempting to inflate its market share in Miami.
The false listings are under the names of Mansilla and other agents in South Florida. Mansilla, alone, has 164 listings in Miami, according to his profile page on Nest Seekers. At the top of the list is the $13 million listing of 165 North Hibiscus Drive in Miami Beach. Dora Puig of Luxe Living Realty is the true listing agent.
Chris Zoller, an agent who sits on the Miami Association of Realtors board of directors, said that the MLS is the most accurate source of information for buyers. Zoller compared the public listings sites like Zillow.com and Realtor.com to the “Wild, Wild West” and said listings agents should be diligent about protecting their listings.
Brokers were alarmed to hear that Nest Seekers has been claiming exclusivity and sharing listings without permission, and planned to contact the brokerage immediately. Zoller said it was “robbery.”
“It is unfortunate that sometimes an unscrupulous player can slip under the radar and lay claim to something that is not true,” Zoller said. “We [South Florida] are the capital of fraud. We seem to allow more fraud than most other parts of the nation, and it’s really scary.”