How much data should real estate startups share?

Collecting data is like making a “half-court” shot in the resi world

From left: Doug Curry, Richard Persichetti, Nick Romito, Harley Courts, Jonathan Greenspan and Katherine Clarke
From left: Doug Curry, Richard Persichetti, Nick Romito, Harley Courts, Jonathan Greenspan and Katherine Clarke

Real estate is having a Napster moment as the industry wrestles with how to share Big Data — if at all.

That was a key takeaway from a panel on Thursday at the launch of TRData, The Real Deal’s new real estate research platform.

“We don’t want to give away our data set,” said Harley Courts, CEO of Nooklyn, a Brooklyn-based online rental brokerage. “It’s a big, big, big mistake to give away your data.” He was referring to the recent decision by StreetEasy to use user-generated data — a.k.a. listings — from agents with a new feature that directs buyers to agents who pay to be listed as “premier agents.”

Moderated by TRD’s Katherine Clarke, panelists also included Doug Curry, CEO of Xceligent; Jonathan Greenspan, president of On-Line Residential; Richard Persichetti, regional director at Cushman & Wakefield; and Nick Romito, CEO of VTS.

In a wide-ranging chat that touched on data protection and M&A trends, the panelists banded together over a common enemy: CoStar.

“Some companies try to litigate the workflow of the industry,” said Curry, appearing to refer to Xceligent’s biggest rival. On the flip side, he said, Xceligent’s open-source database would be made available to tech startups this spring, and Xceligent’s parent company — DMGI — will identify successful startups as potential acquisition targets.

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(To read a recap of the other panel, “Big Data 2020: Exploring the next wave of real estate technology and information,” click here.)

From left: Richard Persichetti, Nick Romito and Harley Courts

Romito said VTS, which announced what it said was a $300 million merger with Hightower in November, is also on the hunt for M&A activities.

“We competed with them [Hightower] for probably two-and-a-half years, head-to-head on almost every deal,” said Romito. “We [realized we] can keep bloodying each other’s noses for the next two years or we can really focus on the North Star and do this thing together.”

On the residential side, data is harder to come by, and the same kind of deal flow may not be attainable, said OLR’s Greenspan.

“If it’s a layup in commercial, it’s a half-court shot in residential,” he said, referring to data collection.

Weighing in on the StreetEasy drama, Greenspan said agents’ instinct to protect their data is being challenged not just by StreetEasy but by owners who want the listings publicized on the listings website. At the end of the day, he said, “It’s their own business and they’re still free. You can choose to have your listings on, or use your power and take them off.”