New listing service aims to knock StreetEasy off its perch
Igluu joins race to create a dominant citywide platform
UPDATE Tuesday, Oct. 29, 2019, 2:11 p.m.: Another player announced its intention Monday to create a definitive listing portal for New York City agents and the greater public.
To do it, Igluu, a three-year-old New York-based startup, is partnering with software company Stratus Data Systems, which builds and licenses multiple listings service systems for clients in Canada and the U.S.
Igluu is one of several companies vying to build a listings platform to displace StreetEasy’s hold on the market. Among them is RealPlus, backed by four of the city’s largest brokerages, and OneKey — formerly known as New York MLS — which was formed after the Hudson Gateway Association of Realtors and the Long Island Board of Realtors merged their systems.
Though Igluu already has an active listing platform, a 35-person team from Stratus is preparing a new version that will roll out in the first quarter of 2020 and, the creators hope, dominate the marketplace. Stratus has built systems for The Toronto Real Estate Board, the Real Estate Board of New York and OneKey. Igluu also aggregates listings from various MLS partners’ data feeds, including REBNY, OLR, RealtyMX and Spherexx.
Igluu co-founder and CEO Martin Mucha told the group of brokers, investors and partners at a private breakfast event Monday that the new platform will include a chat function to facilitate group and client communication; various integrations with other apps, such as Google Drive; a payment service provider called Wirecard; and access to public records through Cherre. It will work with iOS and Android operating systems.
“It’s really a social network, not just a listing platform,” Mucha said.
Igluu originally launched as a platform for people to find roommates and broker-free apartments. Mucha co-founded it with City Connections broker Aaron Frucher with startup cash from Mucha himself, his previous firm, bridge lender Cerco Funding, and a handful of other private investors.
To be top dog in the city, Igluu has some catching up to do. Its consumer-facing platform has 10,421 rental listings and 5,691 sales listings online. StreetEasy has 16,585 active rental listings and 18,592 sales listings.
Igluu’s new platform, which is in beta testing with some of Status’ existing customers, will charge agents a monthly subscription fee that is yet to be determined. Mucha explained that the company is still negotiating profit-sharing splits with some of its partners.
Revenue will largely be generated by advertising on its consumer-facing platform and the agent-facing back-end, according to Mucha. He said Igluu will eventually offer paid advertising opportunities for agents, but promised not to charge daily listing fees, launch a program like StreetEasy’s controversial “premier agent,” or demand fees for leads.
Sebastian Delmont, a StreetEasy co-founder and its former chief technology officer, sits on Igluu’s advisory board. He said he believes Mucha and Igluu is taking the right approach by being “very mindful of agents’ interests.”
Carlos Grass, Stratus’ president, said he assumed a large equity position in Igluu with the intention of cracking open the New York market. He recalled not being impressed by what Mucha had built to date, but he appreciated his goal and saw an opportunity for Stratus.
“My standard [MLS] system that I provide … doesn’t work in New York City. And that’s why we started here,” he explained at the breakfast. “If you make it in New York, you can make it anywhere.”
“You just need to make it work,” broker Mike Malul of City Connections commented from the audience.
Donna Olshan, who did not attend the event, said she does not view Stratus’ track record in New York as an asset. As a consumer who uses the RLS by Stratus, she said, “my judgment is that it’s not any system that I would put a dollar into. Not one.”
After the event, Malul noted that it was the third time this month he’d heard a pitch for creating a single listings platform and he expressed doubt over Mucha’s comment that Igluu has no plans to market to consumers.
“I don’t think they need to convince the brokers. I think they need to convince the public,” he said. “That’s where the fight is and that’s where the money is.”
Correction: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that Igluu and Stratus’ new platform would be a MLS system. Igluu’s portal aggregates listings from MLS partners’ data feeds.
Write to Erin Hudson at email@example.com