Real estate in New York is a bit like the weather – it’s a common topic for chitchat, says Michael Smith, CEO and founder of StreetEasy.com, a New York City-focused real estate Web site.
“It is a strange day when New Yorkers don’t have a real estate conversation,” he said.
StreetEasy.com, which is still in beta testing and hasn’t formally launched, aims to provide real estate consumers with detailed information on property listings in a market area where brokers historically have been protective of this information. Also, the site seeks to build a sense of community by allowing site visitors to offer comments about individual properties and participate in other online discussion boards.
There are many condo and co-op boards in New York City, and there is a need for more information about these agencies, the purchase process and the history of residential buildings, Smith said.
“That’s a process we think we can streamline and make it easier – provide a lot more transparency that we don’t think is there today. Our goal is to take any public information that’s relevant to New York real estate and to correlate it,” he said. And rather than overload consumers with data, Smith added that StreetEasy seeks to parse the information so it is more useful.
“What else can you learn about 100 Main Street? What other sales, how well is the building managed and financed, how restrictive or not is the co-op board?” These questions are all relevant to consumers, he said, and StreetEasy hopes to provide the answers.
In addition to basic property details such as price, number of bedrooms and bathrooms, square footage and listing brokerage company, StreetEasy also provides market data on cost per square foot for each property and for the market area, time on market, and information about whether the property is in contract or has had a price reduction.
Individual properties and neighborhood boundaries are featured in maps at the site. StreetEasy, like several other real estate Web sites, uses a modified Google Maps platform to display listings.
The site also provides links to public statistics, street-level building at Amazon’s a9.com Web site, aerial views at Windows Live Local, and new developments and conversion projects. There is a market blog with an assortment of real estate-related news tidbits, and market snapshots that provide information about listing prices based on the latest data.
Users can search for properties by major city area or individual neighborhood. On Friday, the site featured about 7,662 property listings in New York City, and 6,028 listings in Manhattan.
Smith said the site is intended to assist real estate consumers in analyzing real estate and purchasing real estate in New York City.
“We provide information to people that’s not readily accessible today. We see New Yorkers as fairly data-hungry people,” he said. The StreetEasy development team has compiled a database with information about every building in New York City, Smith said, and the site is still in its formative stages.
“We have multiple data feeds – proprietary and public. Most of this (information) is not going to be visible for several months to come. Suffice to say, the product you see today is not the product you will see in the future,” he added.
Even so, the site has generated a buzz on several real estate blogs and is attracting thousands of visitors. “We’ve been surprised. We’ve literally not done any marketing,” he said, adding that there are an estimated 2,000 visitors per day at the site.
While some other real estate information sites are gearing up for geographic expansion, Smith said the StreetEasy plan is to provide richer layers of data for the New York City area, and so far there are no plans for national expansion.
The listings information is gathered from a variety of sources, Smith said. “We are not a brokerage. We do not take (multiple listing service) data. In no way are we trying to participate in commissions.” The site contains property listings information from such brokerage giants as Corcoran, Prudential Douglas Elliman, Brown Harris Stevens, and Halstead Properties, among others.
Some brokers provide property listings information directly to StreetEasy, and the company hopes to make connections with other brokers who want to share listings. StreetEasy is specifically hoping to motivate more small and mid-sized brokers to share listings information with the site, Smith said. Site visitors can click on the listing broker’s name to view the original source for property listings information at the broker’s Web site.
StreetEasy will focus on the quality and detail of property listings over quantity of listings. “We see that improved listing as something that benefits the consumer.” The site has no plans to carry any for-sale-by-owner listings, Smith said.
A more formal launch is tentatively planned in March, Smith said. The site will likely offer paid subscriptions for high-level users while remaining free for average users, he said. Also, the site will likely offer advertising.
“We have investors, advisers and staff that are from the real estate industry, and more to come. We are still recruiting people,” he said.
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