Some big New York City brokerages have made good on their threat to stop sending listings to StreetEasy and Zillow Group websites if Zillow Group did not agree to certain licensing terms.
This means a segment of Big Apple for-sale sale inventory won’t appear on StreetEasy and other Zillow Group sites and marks a full-scale rebellion by a bevy of well-known NYC real estate brands against the real estate giant.
StreetEasy’s General Manager Susan Daimler minimized the insurrection, saying in a statement that only a “select few brokerages representing a single-digit share of inventory have chosen to stop sending a feed to StreetEasy, and in turn all Zillow Group brands.”
“To further clarify, listings from brokerages who have stopped their feed still appear across our sites but the absence of a feed means we will no longer be receiving updates on these listings,” Daimler said, adding that it’s free to market listings on StreetEasy.
Brokerages that cut off Zillow Group include Brown Harris Stevens, Town Residential, Compass and Stribling & Associates, StreetEasy confirmed, asserting that they are “not major” brokerages.
Compass and Town Residential confirmed that they had stopped sending listings to StreetEasy as part of adopting a new industry-operated listing syndication service in New York City. Both stated that they would only consider resuming sending listings through the new syndication service.
Brown Harris Stevens and Stribling & Associates did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Compass real estate salesperson Steve Halpern received an email from StreetEasy informing him that his brokerage was one of “only four in the city” that had ceased syndicating to StreetEasy, and that he would have to manually post his listings to the site if he wanted them to appear there.
“We are turning over control of your listings directly to you, the agent, so you can deliver the best marketing opportunities to your clients,” StreetEasy said in the email. “You now have the ability to update your listings and create new listings, directly from your StreetEasy Agent Tools.”
“I’m on the fence right now,” Halpern said, when asked if he would manually add listings to StreetEasy. “Probably not.”
“I think the challenge is obviously we’re not happy about what’s happening and think it’s not really proper, and I think we have to challenge StreetEasy a little bit before seeing what happens,” Halpern said, citing StreetEasy’s recent addition of buyer’s agent ads to listings as objectionable conduct.
When asked how he would justify to customers potentially not posting listings to StreetEasy, the largest NYC listing portal, Halpern said, “I think its too soon to justify or not justify.
“I believe that a consumer that wants to buy a home is going to find a home,” he added. “Most consumers went to StreetEasy because they wanted to get directly to the listing agent” — which, he argues, has been complicated by StreetEasy’s new buyer’s agent ads.
StreetEasy and Zillow Group have said this type of advertising benefits consumers by encouraging buyers to use agents who exclusively represent their interests, rather than working directly with a listing agent.
The Real Estate Board of New York (REBNY) had previously revealed plans to launch a single, centralized syndication feed to distribute listings from its own version of the MLS, REBNY Residential Listing Service (RLS), to third-party websites starting August 1.
After new StreetEasy ad products sparked a backlash from Big Apple brokers, the syndication plan marked a bid by major NYC brokerages to leverage their power to syndicate on their own terms — though REBNY refused to say what those terms were, as of early July.
Zillow Group had said it wouldn’t accept listings through RLS because its terms would “degrade and limit the consumer experience.”
According to REBNY, firms that have indicated that they want to participate in the new RLS syndication include, among others: Bond New York, Brown Harris Stevens, Citi Habitats, Compass, The Corcoran Group, Core Real Estate, Fox Residential Group, Halstead Property, Leslie J. Garfield & Co., Stribling & Associates, Town Residential and Warburg Realty.
Firms that had expressed interest in participating in the RLS syndication plan accounted for 70 percent of listing inventory in New York City, Brown Harris Stevens told Inman in early July.
But The Corcoran Group and Citi Habitats, contrary to some reports, did not stop sending for-sale listings to Zillow Group, in part explaining why Zillow Group claims its loss of total new for-sale inventory was minimal.
The official onboarding process for RLS’s syndication plan launched, as planned, on August 1, but RLS is not currently sending listings to Zillow Group.
REBNY spokesperson Nicole Chin-Lyn said she wasn’t able to share the names of brokerages that have begun this process, but said that it takes five to seven days.
Brokerages that choose to syndicate listings through RLS are not required to refrain from feeding listings directly to listing portals or through other intermediaries, she added.
“However, one major benefit of syndicating through a single, centralized source is that data quality and consistency can be better managed and enforced across all websites,”Chin-Lyn said.
Compass and Town Residential confirmed that they had cut off StreetEasy in signing up for the RLS syndication plan.
“We’ve made it clear to aggregators, including StreetEasy, that we intend to syndicate our listings through the RLS because then we at least know that our clients and customers are going to have their listings listed in the proper light and that they’re going to have the right photos and the right descriptions,” Town Residential CEO Andrew Heiberger said.
He added that his brokerage would only resume sending listings to StreetEasy if StreetEasy “modified its buyer agent ads by disclosing that they are in fact ads.”
He said he couldn’t speak as to whether REBNY would stipulate such changes in a potential future RLS listing feed agreement with StreetEasy.
But he added that: “I trust that if REBNY is negotiating a syndication agreement, then I would assume that the syndication agreement would address the potential risks that are associated with allowing our exclusive listings to just freely be sprayed all over the internet without some governance.”
While Corcoran and Citi Habitats did not stop sending for-sale listings to Zillow Group, the two brokerages do require agents to choose to “opt in internally to have their rental listings sent to StreetEasy,” after which they must go to their StreetEasy profile, have a CC [credit card] on file and opt-in to the NYC Rental Network” for their rental listings to actually appear on StreetEasy,” according to StreetEasy.
StreetEasy’s addition of ads to its listings through Zillow Group’s Premier Agent program in March riled many brokerages, which opposed lead forms appearing next to their listings that went to paid agent advertisers — an experience listing agents and brokers in the rest of the country have mostly gotten used to, if sometimes grudgingly.
The listing portal’s more recent move to charge agents $3 to post a rental listing — rather than allow free posting — added fuel to the fire, reportedly resulting in a steep drop in StreetEasy’s rental inventory.
Some brokerages have feared that StreetEasy would continue to try to milk agents for more fees, including, according to one source, through potentially charging to list for-sale properties on the site. The syndication plan was a bid to head off such scenarios.
“The for-rent and for-sale marketplace are very different in New York City and need different business models. StreetEasy is not considering charging for for-sale listings,” StreetEasy said.
“For sales listings, Premier Agent is the main agent advertising product and for rental listings, the New York City Rental Network is the main agent advertising product.”
Editor’s note: This story has been updated with comments from the Real Estate Board of New York (REBNY), Town Residential and Compass, among other sources.