PropertyRover.com, a real estate technology company that launched in the New York market in 2000, has cracked open its collection of for-sale property and rental information to the public.
The free public version of the property listings information is an idea the company’s founders had been toying with for some time, and the launch of other property search sites prompted them to action.
“We’ve been working directly with the brokerage community,” said Michael Sokolow, cofounder of PropertyRover. Laurence Ross is the company’s other founder.
The company first launched as a way to connect New York City real estate professionals. There was no multiple listing service operating in the area at that time, Sokolow said. “We are totally brokerage-friendly. We don’t look to share commissions.”
PropertyRover has provided daily e-mail lists to its subscribers of new property listings, and subscribers also can receive a list of open houses in the New York City area. The company has concentrated on the Manhattan and Brooklyn boroughs of the city, with plans to expand into the rest of the city this year.
The public site, which launched Feb. 1 and as of Feb. 10 featured about 8,765 for-sale listings and about 34,260 rental listings, allows users to search by neighborhood, price, number of bedrooms and type of property (condo, co-op, condop, townhouse or loft). A condop, according to Wordspy.com, is a cooperative incorporated within a condominium building, or a co-op that is run with little or no oversight from a board, much like a condo.
The property descriptions are brief, and users can click on links to view more information at the source Web site. The site carries listings for such big-name brokerages as Brown Harris Stevens, Corcoran, and Douglas Elliman.
“It was always our intention to go to a public site. We always thought this made sense for the public,” Sokolow said. The arrival of other real estate search sites in the New York area did “push our plans to the forefront,” he added.
It’s hard to say which of the new companies are competitors because there has been so much activity in the online real estate space, Sokolow said. “We’ve been around here all along and now everyone is kind of moving into our space.” Even in PropertyRover’s short history, several companies have “made a big splash and now they’re not around. Nobody knows how the story’s going to end,” he said.
“We’re New Yorkers. We get this. Every market has its peculiarities,” Sokolow added. PropertyRover staff groom their collection of property listings to ensure it is current and accurate, he said. “There is a lot of human maintenance that goes into it. It’s what we feel is one of our value-adds … a competitive edge.”
StreetEasy.com, Trulia.com, PropertyShark.com, CityCribs.com, Propsmart.com and RadCribs.com are among the real estate search sites that offer New York City real estate information, and several of the sites focus specifically on property listings.
The PropertyRover public site will likely feature advertising as it evolves, Sokolow said, and the company will continue to maintain its separate subscription model for its industry clients.
A hot real estate market and a rising acceptance of technology are likely factors in the rise of the real estate sites, he said. The local real estate industry seems to be warming up to a greater sharing of property listings online. “It’s not about hording the listings, it’s about servicing your clients,” Sokolow said. The technology won’t replace brokers, though, he said. “People begin their search on the Internet. They don’t end it there.”
PropertyRover uses automated processes to gather real estate information, and brokerage firms can choose to withhold their listings from the public site. “Most of the people we’ve spoken to we’ve gotten their permission. They have no problem with it. Since a lot of firms are already our clients they know what we’re doing and are more than happy to let us do it,” he said.
While PropertyRover has been known to brokers in the New York City real estate market for several years, the company now faces the challenge of marketing itself to a broad public audience. Sokolow said the company has been in talks with the Brownstoner.com blog site about hosting its property listings there to drive up traffic and revenue for both sites.
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