Ryan Serhant posted a video on Instagram and he excoriated Zillow, the parent company of StreetEasy, for removing the ability of buyers to contact listing agents directly. I admire Ryan for speaking up because he could’ve kept his mouth shut like almost every other real estate agent out there but he took a risk on behalf of every listing agent in New York City. Bravo!
Dear @streeteasy and @zillow (part 1 of 2), I am writing this post in reference to a change that StreetEasy.com has implemented that negatively effects the way real estate agents, and consumers, connect with listings through their platform. I was hesitant to speak up at all, because StreetEasy is one of the best partners we have in selling real estate in New York. The site single-handidly became our MLS (there is NO MLS in New York City), and it made our market transparent by publishing every bit of data you could ask for as a buyer, seller, or broker. I've spent thousands upon thousands of dollars over the years advertising on StreetEasy, because I believe it's the best platform out there to connect me and my listings with consumers. I respect the system, and the genius programmers who have built it into the life-blood of the NYC real estate industry that it is today. If you have been on StreetEasy in the last few days, you have probably noticed their new Premiere Agent program (which Zillow – the parent company of StreetEasy – has been using forever and apparently earned them $600M in profit last year). Up until March 1st, you used to be able to find listings on StreetEasy, scroll down to see the real estate agent who is the exclusive agent on that listing, and contact him or her. NOW, this new program removes the exclusive agent completely. The listings are all still there, but there's an ambiguous contact form that says "Contact Agent" covering the section that used to have the listing agent's information. This is the new Premiere Agent program, which allows any agent who pays money to StreetEasy to be randomly assigned as the primary contact for another agent's listing. This violates state laws governing advertising – it's illegal for someone to advertise another agent's exclusive listing. So…I decided to see what happens when I fill out the new contact form for one of my listings. The result was shocking, upsetting, and deeply disappointing coming from a company that survives only through content – which are the listings provided to them by sellers and brokers, like me. See my next post to see what happened when my phone rang…
Zillow has been playing fast and loose with access and data since its inception. The Zillow Zestimate has been derided. Property data on the site has been, for years, documented as inaccurate and old. Scammers have infiltrated the site although Zillow seems to have recently taken steps to halt the problem. It’s a mess and this latest news adds more derisiveness to an already contentious relationship between Zillow and real estate brokers.
Caught in the middle are consumers, buyers and sellers of real estate, because many are under the belief that more traffic equals a higher chance to sell their properties for more money but that just isn’t the case. The old adage that quality is better than quantity is true in real estate traffic. Hub Edge Realty recently helped a client set the record for the most expensive single family home to ever sell in the Adam’s Shore, Germantown or Hough’s Neck neighborhoods of Quincy without listing it on Trulia or Zillow.
Hub Edge Realty doesn’t syndicate its listings to any third-party sites except for MLSPINHomes.com, because MLS PIN Homes is the outward facing portal of our MLS, and Realtor.com due to a previously existing agreement between Realtor.com and MLS Property Information Network, Inc. (MLS PIN). Hub Edge Realty does however syndicate its listings to all competing broker sites including Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage, Keller Williams Realty and RE/Max sites. Hub Edge Realty’s philosophy is that buyers working with brokers are generally the most educated and we want to attract the most educated buyers to our clients’ properties.
The issues for Zillow may have just gotten worse because, according to a The Real Deal story yesterday, “REBNY asks state to probe StreetEasy’sPremier Agent feature“. The Wall Street Journal picked up the story yesterday, “New Real-Estate Search Tool Sparks Backlash“, but it’s behind a paywall. Real estate agents, including Ryan Serhant, are pissed.
I wrote a story yesterday entitled, “Loan officers and mortgage brokers advertising on Zillow could be violating RESPA.”
It’s a bad week for Zillow.