Real estate data and analytics firm UrbanDigs is taking advantage of a new listing feed from the Real Estate Board of New York (REBNY) to make its website more consumer-friendly.
Launched in 2010, UrbanDigs offers real estate agent subscribers access to real-time market data, property pricing, and client collaboration tools. Its website has featured New York City listings for about a year, but consumers must register to see them. With the new feed from REBNY’s Residential Listing Service (RLS), UrbanDigs will be able to get rid of that registration hurdle, according to UrbanDigs founder and CEO Noah Rosenblatt.
REBNY, which is not Realtor-affiliated, represents more than 17,000 real estate professionals in the Big Apple. RLS has about 6,500 for-sale listings in Manhattan right now, according to Rosenblatt.
“Consumers are a big part of agents’ lives,” Rosenblatt told Inman in a phone interview. “To neglect that aspect of the relationship would be to not complete the ecosystem that we at UrbanDigs have in mind. Agents are out there to service their clients and their consumers, and we’re building tools to help them do that.”
UrbanDigs is set up to connect consumers looking for agents with its 1,737 subscribers. The site is free for consumers, but they do not and will not have access to the agent-level tools on the site. Unlike other real estate portals which offer paid promotions for agents to appear beside listings that are not their own, RLS listings on UrbanDigs will not feature competing agents next to each listing — only the actual property listing agent’s contact information will appear, and leads from contact forms will go directly to the listing agent and no one else, according to Rosenblatt.
However, listing pages will also ask consumers if they would like a property pricing report. If a consumer clicks through, then they will be able to choose another UrbanDigs subscriber — or the listing agent — to deliver the report.
“We think a consumer who selects the agent that they wish to work with, ultimately becomes the highest quality lead that can be delivered,” Rosenblatt said.
UrbanDigs will turn on the RLS feed and eliminate the registration requirement on its site once brokerages representing 80 percent of the listings in the New York City market opt-in to syndicate to the site, a milestone the site expects to reach in about two weeks. Already, Brown Harris Stevens, Compass, Stribling & Associates, Douglas Elliman, Town Residential, Fox Residential, Highline Residential, Redfin, Warburg Realty, Simone Song Properties, City Connections Realty and others have opted-in to send their RLS listings to UrbanDigs, Rosenblatt said.
The site is currently using a listing feed from a vendor, RealPlus, and will continue to use that feed for the agent toolset and backend analytics platforms, which agents use for creating reports to share with their clients, according to Rosenblatt. RealPlus contains all RLS listings, but once UrbanDigs switches over to the direct RLS feed, consumers will only continue to have access to all the listings via RealPlus if they connect to an agent subscriber, he said.
UrbanDigs is the latest site to join RLS’s syndication network since it launched in August, joining Realtor.com, Homes.com, the New York Times, The Real Deal, and other sites. Real estate giant Zillow Group, which owns NYC-based StreetEasy, rejected the RLS feed at its debut, citing content licensing terms the company said would “degrade and limit the consumer experience.”
Several New York brokers responded to StreetEasy’s launch of Zillow’s Premier Agent advertising program a year ago by cutting off their direct feeds to Zillow Group websites, making them available only through REBNY’s RLS feed. The boycott was undercut a month later when real estate giant Realogy extended a listing feed agreement with Zillow Group, tacking on a provision that allows its New York City brokerages to feed listings directly to StreetEasy.
After incorporating the RLS feed, UrbanDigs plans to market itself as a product for consumers in addition to agents. But that doesn’t mean the site is planning to take on StreetEasy.
“Am I going to compete with StreetEasy? No. An emphatic ‘No.’ Nobody can compete with that monster,” Rosenblatt said.
UrbanDigs has built a different type of experience on its site, he said.
“What makes us different is that we’ve combined market analytics and data with tools that allow the agent and the consumer or the consumer and their friends or family to collaborate, co-search, discuss and analyze. At the end of the day it simplifies the real estate experience,” he added.
UrbanDigs is in negotiations with Brooklyn MLS to display the latter’s listings on the UrbanDigs site, according to Rosenblatt. The company also expects to add listings from the New York State MLS, Long Island MLS, and the Bronx-Manhattan MLS by the end of this year.