StreetEasy veteran Sofia Song moves to Urban Compass

From left: Robert Reffkin, Ori Allon and Sofia Song
From left: Robert Reffkin, Ori Allon and Sofia Song

Sofia Song, StreetEasy’s former head of research and communications, is set to take a job at the high-tech startup brokerage Urban Compass.

Song left the Soho-based listings database StreetEasy after more than six years in December, just four months after the tech giant Zillow bought the company for $50 million.

Urban Compass, also based in Soho, hired Song for the newly-created position head of research and external affairs, and she will start on Feb. 3, she told The Real Deal.

The firm, led by tech entrepreneur Ori Allon and former Goldman Sachs executive Robert Reffkin, launched in 2013. It combines a sophisticated rental and sales listings database, like a stripped down StreetEasy, with a brokerage firm handling sales and rentals.

When Urban Compass launched, its agents were salaried and each focused on a neighborhood, but in December TRD reported that the firm altered that model and is now paying brokers through commissions. Today the firm has 47 brokers and agents, a review of license information on the state’s Department of State shows.

Song said she plans to create new consumer- and industry-facing reports, different from those she produced at StreetEasy, using Urban Compass information.

“It is new sets of data that I think consumers, landlords and agents are going to find really interesting,” Song said. She did not elaborate, noting she has not started yet.

Reffkin said as a real estate firm, Urban Compass has a wider array of information to analyze.

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“Because we are a brokerage, we have much more data and insight for her to work off of,” he said. “We have all the information that StreetEasy has, but more.”

Allon said the company is planning to build new research tools for users.

One tool, for example, will allow a user to look at the last 10 years of activity for two-bedroom apartments in a given neighborhood like the West Village.

The user will be able to “look at the data and how it fluctuates and see what are usually historically the best times to buy or to rent, just for example,” he said.

He said the firm has not yet determined which information will be offered for free and what might require a fee.

One major industry driver for all firms is providing better information for consumers and agents, said Jeffrey Appel, president and chief operating officer of the brokerage Town Residential. Noting that, he said he was surprised that the tech-focused Urban Compass waited so long to hire a research expert such as Song.

“I think one big story in real estate going forward will continue to be Big Data,” Appel said. “To synthesize that data and provide it to consumers and brokers, that is a big topic.”

Jonathan Miller, CEO of appraisal firm Miller Samuel, said it would be good to add greater transparency to the residential market. But he cautioned that proprietary information from one firm may not be shared with the broader market.

“When you introduce a new way of measuring [data,] the challenge is, is it representational of the market or representational of the company’s client base?” Miller commented.

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