Brokers and Zillow/StreetEasy At Odds

David Goldsmith

All Powerful Moderator
Staff member

Tougher rules for real estate ads go into effect this fall
NYRAC flooded DOS with letters calling StreetEasy’s Premier Agent “deceptive”

After three years of public vitriol, lobbying and rule-writing, tighter regulations for online real estate advertising will take effect in November.
The regulations, included in the May 6 edition of the New York State Register, require additional disclosures from firms and listing portals. The adoption of the rules, published in October 2019, comes three years after StreetEasy launched its lucrative-but-controversial Premier Agent advertising program, which set much of the real estate industry against the go-to listings portal.
The program, long used by StreetEasy parent Zillow, lets agents who advertise display their name alongside listings that are not their own. Despite popularity among buyer’s agents, listing brokers have called Premier Agent misleading and disingenuous. The Real Estate Board of New York said it caused a “maelstrom” of consumer confusion.

When the state revised the rule to require third-party sites to include the word “advertisement” if an agent is paying for an ad, both StreetEasy and the real estate industry called the new rule a “win.”
But that consensus cracked during the public comment period. The Department of State said it received more than 700 public comments related to the new rule — an “overwhelming majority” of which came from New York Residential Agent Continuum.
NYRAC, an industry organization formed in 2018, said in a letter to the DOS that it feared “the language in the regulation is already outdated” and called Premier Agent “deceptive.”
In a December 2019 letter, the Real Estate Board of New York praised the regulations as a “significant step forward,” but said StreetEasy continued to come up with ways to minimize listing agents. It also said the state’s slow-moving processes cost it credibility with some agents.
Heather McDonough Domi, an agent at Compass and founding chair of NYRAC, said while the jury’s still out, she does not think the current regulations go far enough. The broker group called on the DOS to require aggregators to disclose fees paid by advertisers, and to tell consumers who fill out a “contact” form on StreetEasy where (and to whom) their information is being shared. (The final rule also requires brokerages to obtain authorization if they display another firm’s exclusive listing.)

“If you’re submitting information to a third-party that’s giving it to someone who has paid for a lead,” McDonough Domi said, “there should be a check box saying, ‘We are selling your information.’ Because that’s what it is.”

Despite receiving feedback from the real estate industry up until the eleventh hour, the DOS said it would not make any further changes to the regulation.
In the May 6 register, regulators rejected NYRAC’s proposal, writing: “The purpose of the proposed rule is to require licensed professionals to use specific text in advertising, across a broad range of media platforms, to promote transparency.” Adding another layer of disclosure would be beyond DOS’ scope, since it would be equivalent to proposing a “new” rule governing online platforms, some of which aren’t licensed by the state.

Following the May 6 notice of adoption, a Zillow spokesperson praised the DOS’ “thoughtful” approach and said the final rules are “fair to all parties.”
“These rules affirm what we’ve said from the start — that digital advertising programs like Premier Agent are allowed under the law — and effectively refute the many misleading, untruthful claims made about online advertising during this process,” the spokesman said.
Since launching Premier Agent in 2017, StreetEasy has modified the contact forms for agents. Last year, it launched Agent Spotlight, which allows agents to avoid Premier Agent on their listings for $333 a month.
But the portal’s relationship with some agents — and brokerages — remains fraught. This past February, StreetEeasy stopped taking automatic listing feeds from firms. A groundswell of agents from the city’s biggest firms has started to bypass StreetEasy altogether.

In an email to members on Sunday, REBNY said the state will issue guidance “providing further interpretation” of the regulation. “REBNY will be providing more information and interpretation of these adopted regulations shortly.”
 

David Goldsmith

All Powerful Moderator
Staff member

StreetEasy threatens to yank Elliman’s rental listings
NYC’s dominant listing portal warned Elliman agents that rental listings would be pulled because of a “contract dispute”

Call it a declaration of war?
StreetEasy has threatened to yank Douglas Elliman’s rental listings in what the portal has described as a contract dispute.

The Zillow-owned company alerted Elliman’s nearly 2,500 New York City agents on Thursday that the brokerage’s rental listings would be pulled unless the dispute is resolved by June 19. StreetEasy also sent the email to landlords represented by Elliman agents.

“Douglas Elliman agents will also no longer be able to create or publish new rental listings” on StreetEasy, Zillow, Trulia, Hotpads and Naked Apartments, according to the email, a copy of which was viewed by The Real Deal. Sales listings will not be affected, though it wasn’t clear why.

Neither company would confirm what sparked the email.
In a statement Thursday, a StreetEasy spokesperson said the company is committed to “ongoing conversations” with Elliman and wishes for a “swift resolution.”

“To be clear, this is not our preferred outcome,” the spokesperson said. “We know that StreetEasy is a valuable marketing tool for agents and a trusted resource for consumers.”
A spokesperson for Elliman declined to comment. But in an email to agents later on Thursday, the firm called StreetEasy’s threat “heavy handed” and said it was continuing to negotiate “some aspects of our relationship.”

The public clash marks a major turn in the relationship between the two companies. Ellliman largely stayed out of a brawl that erupted between StreetEasy and the city’s top firms in 2017, when the portal launched Premier Agent, its controversial agent advertising program. Instead, that year Elliman hired StreetEasy to build a back-end listing system for agents. At the time, Elliman COO Scott Durkin said of the portal: “No one can deliver listings to agents and customers like StreetEasy.”

But the system, which was supposed to debut in 2018, never materialized. Neither side would say publicly what happened. By late last year, Elliman joined other residential firms in blasting StreetEasy when the portal stopped taking listing feeds from brokerages. Although Zillow claimed that feeds were a “barrier to innovation,” brokers alleged manual entry was a form of blackmail that was time-consuming and would increase errors.

In an email to agents late last year, Elliman said it was “assessing the return on its StreetEasy investment” and exploring alternative marketing options. “We will not go backwards in our ability to quickly and accurately utilize technology to market and sell properties,” the firm said.

With 24 offices in New York City, Elliman churns out a heavy volume of rentals and sales. The firm sold $7.96 billion worth of real estate in 2019, according to TRD’s most recent ranking of top firms.

Some of its competitors, including Compass, Brown Harris Stevens and Warburg Realty, cut their direct feeds to StreetEasy in 2017 in favor of the Real Estate Board of New York’s syndicated residential listings service (RLS), which StreetEasy refused to accept.

The listing feed issue is just one point of contention among rental brokers, however. StreetEasy has steadily increased the fee to post listings, which now costs $6 per day per listing.
In New York City, agents have not been allowed to conduct in-person showings since March, when Gov. Andrew Cuomo ordered non-essential workers to stay home.

Elliman had a net loss of $69 million during the first quarter, having lost $10.4 million in the same period last year, its parent company Vector reported. Quarterly revenues were $165.5 million, up 2.3 percent.
During an earnings call, Elliman chairman Howard Lorber said the firm is bracing for a “severe decline” in sales activity.

The firm laid off 100 employees and already cut salaries by 15 percent. It plans to consolidate offices or negotiate “rent reductions, deferrals or holidays.”
 

David Goldsmith

All Powerful Moderator
Staff member
OneKey takes on StreetEasy with new listing site
The portal has 24,432 for-sale listings from Long Island to Putnam and Orange counties

Brokers in the New York metro area are taking on the real estate industry’s 800-pound gorilla.
Realtors in Westchester and Long Island, who merged their multiple listing systems in 2018, launched a consumer-facing portal on Monday.

OneKey MLS, which debuted last year as an MLS for agents, currently has more than 40,000 listings from Montauk to Manhattan to Monticello, said the group’s CEO Jim Speer, speaking at a Zoom news conference to introduce the site.

“In this day and age, accurate data is everything,” added Richard Haggerty, president of OneKey MLS and CEO of Hudson Gateway Association of Realtors, who said listing data in New York City comes directly from brokerage firms.

OneKey executives did not mention StreetEasy or its parent company Zillow by name, but they cast their site as a place where agents will retain control of their listings. The relationship between New York City’s brokerages and StreetEasy has been tense since 2017, when the listings portal introduced Premier Agent, an ad program that lets agents advertise to be a buyer’s agent.

“The consumer will never be offered pay-to-play agents,” said Leah Caro, the chairperson of OneKey’s board of managers and president of Park Sterling Realty in Bronxville.
Like aggregator sites, OneKey offers a slew of information about each listing, including neighborhood data translated into 20-plus languages and information about recently sold properties nearby. Users can save favorites, sign up for updates and see when a listing was last updated. (OneKey syncs with local MLS systems every five minutes.)

In the five boroughs, where data comes directly from brokerage firms, users can see a unit’s block and lot number, as well as the unit’s sales history from ACRIS. Users across the metro area can also schedule a tour from the OneKey site.
The site currently has 24,432 for-sale listings. By comparison, StreetEasy has 15,258 for-sale listings in New York and New Jersey.

A deeper search, however, shows StreetEasy still has the upper hand in Manhattan — by a lot. OneKey currently has 1,093 for-sale listings compared to 6,616 listings on StreetEasy.
New York City brokerage firms have clashed publicly with StreetEasy over the site’s agent advertising programs. Last year, StreetEasy said it would stop accepting brokerage feeds, and instead encouraged agents to send listings directly.

Many New York firms already cut ties with StreetEasy, instead sending listings to the Real Estate Board of New York’s syndicated Residential Listing Services. The RLS has hinted at launching a consumer site but hasn’t gone public with concrete plans to do so.

Haggerty said OneKey does not get an RLS feed. Instead, it gets listings directly from major firms, including Compass, Keller Williams and several others. Agents from Douglas Elliman and the Corcoran Group have also shared listings with OneKey, according to the site.
 

David Goldsmith

All Powerful Moderator
Staff member
Elliman gives in to StreetEasy’s manual listings
Earlier memo to agents said listings feed would stay intact

The Douglas Elliman-StreetEasy drama has taken a new turn.
After emailing agents June 19 that the two sides had settled their bruising contract dispute, sparing agents from manually entering listings on StreetEasy, Elliman’s leaders have told them manual entry must continue.

In a memo obtained by The Real Deal, the brokerage tried to spin the news as positive — despite months of criticizing StreetEasy’s decision to stop taking automatic listings feeds from residential firms.

“We are excited to inform you that beginning July 15th, you will directly enter all new sales and rental exclusives on StreetEasy using Agent Tools,” read the June 30 memo, signed by Elliman’s New York City CEO Steven James. “By allowing you access to Agent Tools, we are providing the most effective means for you to upload your listings quickly and accurately.”

The policy amounts to a 180-degree turn for Elliman, which last year was among the New York City brokerages to condemn StreetEasy for pivoting to manual entry. Previously, the Zillow-owned portal had agreements with individual firms to take their listings in bulk.

Things came to a head in May when StreetEasy emailed Elliman’s nearly 2,500 New York City agents (and landlord clients), threatening to pull rental listings unless the firm resolved an undisclosed contract dispute.
After hasty negotiations, Elliman sent its June 19 memo to agents, letting them know the dispute — and the tedium of typing in data — were over. “As of today, the listings feed between Douglas Elliman and StreetEasy is live and you will no longer have to perform any manual entry for the site,” it declared.

Douglas Elliman declined to comment on the email sent 11 days later, in which it said it was working with StreetEasy to develop training for agents and ongoing tech support.
In a statement, a Zillow spokesperson said, “We are pleased to offer Douglas Elliman agents uninterrupted access to Agent Tools and the StreetEasy platform.”
 
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