At least three more New York City brokerages have joined an industry boycott of Zillow Group — though some agents at firms participating in the revolt are apparently breaking ranks.
Warburg Realty, Kleier Residential and Tungsten Property said they had stopped feeding listings to StreetEasy and other Zillow Group-owned sites and had adopted an industry-operated listing syndication service that StreetEasy has refused to accept listings from.
They join Brown Harris Stevens, Town Residential, Compass and Stribling & Associates.
Fox Residential Group, which also reportedly shut off its listing feed to StreetEasy, did not respond to a request for comment, while Bold New York — also a reported participant in the boycott — declined to comment.
The success of the boycott, which would mean a decision by StreetEasy to accept listings through the syndication service, may depend on the reaction of affected homesellers.
Will they take the side of their agent’s employer in an industry power struggle, even though that would mean denying their home exposure on NYC’s most popular property search site?
StreetEasy spokeswoman Lauren Riefflin suggests many impacted homesellers might not yet have had the opportunity to decide for themselves.
“We don’t believe any brokerage made any sellers or clients aware of this decision because they won’t be happy about it or understand it,” she said. “Sellers and landlords deserve to have their properties seen by the largest audience of buyers, renters and real estate professionals.”
Leslie J. Garfield, another NYC brokerage, appreciates the reasoning behind the boycott but is watching to see if other big firms, including Douglas Elliman and The Corcoran Group, will sign on, according to Rick Pretsfelder, a broker at Leslie J. Garfield.
In deciding whether to join the boycott, Leslie J. Garfield is also monitoring “the execution of other firms that pulled their feed,” he said.
Some cracks are beginning to show.
More than 60 new listings from the four firms who launched the boycott — Brown Harris Stevens, Town Residential, Compass and Stribling & Associates — have been added to StreetEasy since Wednesday, and 500 had been updated, according to StreetEasy’s Riefflin.
This indicates that some agents at firms participating in the boycott are manually posting and updating their listings to StreetEasy — an option that StreetEasy made available to those agents on Wednesday.
“We have an obligation to our sellers first and foremost to provide the widest reach for our listings and right now that is being accomplished through StreetEasy,” Pretsfelder said.
But if there are “other viable alternatives,” he added, “we’d be happy to shift our distribution solely through” the new industry-led syndication service.
The syndication service is operated by the Real Estate Board of New York (REBNY) and is called the REBNY Residential Listing Service (RLS).
RLS was launched to help NYC brokerages leverage their power to syndicate listings on their terms, coming after StreetEasy’s introduction of controversial ad products.
Zillow Group has said it wouldn’t accept listings through RLS because its terms would “degrade and limit the consumer experience.”
In an email announcing the brokerage’s adoption of RLS to Warburg Realty agents, Senior Vice President Steven Goldschmidt, who is also the co-chair of RLS, hailed the Tuesday launch of the syndication service as a “major milestone for our industry.”
“This major initiative will enhance the way information is made available and accessed throughout the industry, and on countless local, national and international websites — creating tremendous benefits for our valued clients and customers,” he said.
But “websites owned by Zillow (including StreetEasy in New York City) have refused to sign the RLS licensing agreement and accept the new RLS feed,” he said.
He later added that RLS is determined to sign up many other major portals to the syndication feed.
“We hope StreetEasy and its parent group will join this large network soon,” he said.
At least for now, StreetEasy is sticking to its guns.
“These brokerages are doing a huge disservice to their agents and sellers by not marketing their listings as widely as possible, especially considering it’s free to have sales listings on StreetEasy, Zillow, Trulia, HotPads and RealEstate.com,” said StreetEasy General Manager Susan Daimler in a statement.
Compass CEO Robert Reffkin questions why StreetEasy won’t adopt Zillow Group’s favored practice in other markets: sourcing listings from the local industry-operated listing repository — usually called the multiple listing service (MLS).
“Why won’t Zillow and StreetEasy accept REBNY’s RLS feed in New York when Zillow accepts the MLS feed in every other market in the country? To go to such great lengths to refuse the feed makes me wonder what their long-term plan and underlying motivation is,” he said, hinting towards the concerns of some agents that StreetEasy could raise ad fees in the future.
“Taking the RLS feed is more accurate than taking listings from thousands of individual agents as they are now doing, and accurate data is what consumers and agents want,” he added.