“You’re not the listing agent?” It’s a common question agents hear from leads who came through a listing portal, where agents who aren’t the exclusive listing agent can pay to have contacts routed to them. And responding can be a challenge, as buyers may be puzzled or feel misled when they’re surprised by who’s on the other end of the listing. Zillow Group’s StreetEasy — a New York City listing portal that recently introduced Premier Agent ads that can spark this question — has published tactics for handling the situation.

  • StreetEasy -- a New York City listing portal that recently introduced Premier Agent ads -- has published tactics for handling leads who mistakenly think they've reached the listing agent on the phone.

“You’re not the listing agent?”

It’s a common question agents hear from leads who came through a listing portal, where agents who aren’t the exclusive listing agent can pay to have contacts routed to them. And responding can be a challenge, as buyers may be puzzled or feel misled when they’re surprised by who’s on the other end of the listing.

Zillow Group’s StreetEasy — a New York City listing portal that recently introduced Premier Agent ads that can spark this question — has published tactics for handling the situation.

The tips mark a public acknowledgment by StreetEasy that this kind of advertising, which Zillow Group says gives homebuyers the option to contact an agent acting in their best interests, can sometimes confuse buyers. Although Zillow and Trulia have featured Premier Agent advertising for years, this appears to be the first time the real estate giant has offered resources tailored to this particular lead objection.

StreetEasy’s New York City dominance meant that Big Apple real estate professionals were the last to become fully acquainted with the multiple agent contact forms, so their introduction in February prompted a local industry outcry.

“It’s anti-consumer to not provide homebuyers a choice to contact a buyer’s agent or a seller’s agent,” StreetEasy spokesperson Lauren Riefflin told Inman at the time. “It’s a 100 percent change for the New York market, but it’s also how the rest of the industry operates.”

Now, the company is offering up concrete strategies for handling these concerns.

3 scenarios, and how to deal

Homebuyers sometimes call numbers or submit lead forms that appear on StreetEasy, Zillow and Trulia listing pages hoping to get details on a property from the home’s listing agent. But instead, they often reach a Zillow Group agent advertiser, who may or may not have knowledge of the listing in question.

Jay Thompson, director of industry outreach at Zillow, previously said that Zillow clearly identifies listing agents on listings, but acknowledged that agent advertisers sometimes report receiving calls from consumers who apparently haven’t registered that information.

The StreetEasy tips cover three scenarios:

1) The agent knows both the listing in question and the property’s listing agent

During a conversion, in the event that a lead asks an agent: “Why aren’t you [so and so] … what did you say the name of the listing agent was again?” then agents should indicate that they know the property and its listing agent, according to the StreetEasy guide.

Next, they should mention that they’re a buyer’s representative (after already stating this earlier in the call), and that they would work with the listing agent on the lead’s behalf.

“I would love to help you see this property and others like it,” reads the end of the script.

2) The agent knows the property, but not its listing agent

In this circumstance, agents should emphasize their knowledge of the home and then ask if the lead is working with a buyer’s agent, the guide advises.

In response to a consumer saying “no,” agents should explain the benefits of representation. In response to a “yes,” agents should note that they are not the property’s listing agent and then offer to show their own listings.

3) The agent is not familiar with the property

Finally, for agents who aren’t familiar with the property and its listing agent, their best bet is to say, “I pride myself on getting details right.”

Then agents should ask the lead for an email address so they can send the “complete listing” and later call back for a “fuller discussion,” the guide says.

The scripts are featured in StreetEasy’s new “Agent Resource Center,” which also provides scripts for other lead inquiry scenarios, in addition to “quick reads” for how to become an agent, tips for building a brand and tips for StreetEasy’s products and tools.

How StreetEasy’s Premier Agent ads differ from other portals

Many brokers protested when StreetEasy introduced Premier Agent advertising in February. A version of the advertising has long appeared on Zillow and Trulia, as well as on many other listing portals.

But New York City agents were not as accustomed to it as agents in many other markets because StreetEasy — not Zillow, Trulia or realtor.com — has been the dominant listing portal in New York City, and StreetEasy had never previously offered the advertising.

With StreetEasy’s introduction of Premier Agent advertising, Zillow Group advertisers gained the ability to receive leads from StreetEasy in addition to Zillow and Trulia.

As part of the rollout, StreetEasy tacked lead forms onto listings that connect consumers with buyer’s agents who advertise with Zillow Group.

The Premier Agent contact forms that appear on Zillow and Trulia feature specific agents, but the forms that show up on StreetEasy listings do not. They are “opaque” contact forms without lists of agent names and photos.

By default, when consumers submit the forms on StreetEasy listings, their information will go to a buyer’s agent who advertises with Zillow Group. But consumers also can click a button on the form to send their information to the listing agent instead.

StreetEasy’s debut of scripts to help agents deal with confused leads validates one concern voiced by critics of its new advertising.

StreetEasy has said the advertising benefits consumers by encouraging buyers to use agents who exclusively represent their interests, rather than working directly with a listing agent.

With regard to leads that come from Trulia or Zillow, Zillow Group spokesperson Amanda Woolley told Inman that “by clearly labeling all the listing agents” on the two portals, “the goal is to give home shoppers a choice as to whether they contact the listing agent or a local Premier Agent.

“We haven’t seen significant feedback from either consumers or agents that this is an issue,” she said. “Our goal is to connect as many home shoppers as possible with a local real estate professional to help them with their transaction.”

Agents who advertise with Zillow and Trulia are welcome to use the StreetEasy Resource Center as it applies to their business, Woolley added.

Email Teke Wiggin.

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