How lead generation could signal the end of the star broker

Upstart firms are pouring cash into controversial ‘lead-gen’ platforms, empowering inexperienced agents — and irritating high-profile ones — in the process

From the June issue: When Elena Smirnova jumped from Citi Habitats to upstart brokerage LG Fairmont in 2014, the firm started sending her leads it was buying from listings sites such as Trulia and Zillow.

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Every month, Smirnova — then a newbie agent with just a year under her belt in the New York City residential brokerage business — was fed the names and phone numbers of potential clients who had plugged their personal information into one of those platforms. Then she’d cold-call each one.

While that might sound more like dead-end call center job than the glamorous life of a power broker, it paid off big-time last year when one of those leads turned into a $17 million contract for the penthouse at 25 Mercer Street in Soho.