(New York, NY) — Once again, StreetEasy, the behemoth rental listing portal, is shaking up the overly crowded rental real estate market. This past spring, StreetEasy rolled out its Premier Broker program, which allows firms to purchase buyer leads in bulk from for-sale listings and then distribute them to their agents.
Now the listings platform is reinventing the real estate rental model again by announcing early this week that they will start charging residential agents at brokerage firms $3 per listing, per day to advertise their rental listing(s) housed on StreetEasy’s family of website.’
The NYC Rental Network includes StreetEasy, Zillow, Trulia and HotPads, and will launch in just under a month, on July 18. StreetEasy justified its decision to charge agents in order to continue to give firms the most accurate and current NYC rental listings database,
HOW IT WORKS
Brokers will submit their rental listings via StreetEasy as in the past, and in exchange they will received leads from every renter and agent that inquire about their listings. In addition, StreetEasy plans on improving how your listings will appear by including more info about you and how to contact you. This includes posting your listing with a photo of you and, as Susan Daimler, StreetEasy’s general manager added, “building you a new and improved listing reporting tool and opening a dedicated customer support phone line.”
The NYC Rental Network has already been widely criticized for charging a fee. Twitter was abuzz yesterday, with many arguing that the payment feels like a tax brokers have to pay to post their listings. The more controversial tweets about the NYC Rental Network is that it is “extortion” and that StreetEasy is “stealing” money from the brokers. With that argument in mind, still others agreed in tweets that StreetEasy’s program won’t be as popular as the company thinks it will, opening a wide line for another similar site to come in and rectify the fee or do away with it altogether. In fact, a common thread argues that, in no time, brokers will start actively searching for alternative sites or portals. But the problem is, who will break from the pack, and how many rental brokers would you need to go against StreetEasy? StreetEasy has deep pockets and NYC Rental Network will be hard to ignore. Already StreetEasy has the upper hand, as it is no secret that the rental market is littered with outdated listings. StreetEasy, which is owned by Zillow, is a powerful force in the listings market—it generated more than $600 million last year—and hard for both renters and agents to ignore, especially because the company’s listings are quality and always up-to-date.
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FROM PREMIER AGENT TO PREMIER BROKER
That’s all fine and well, but StreetEasy is no stranger to controversy. Agents balked at StreetEasy’s “Premier Agent,” which allowed agents to pay to have their contact information appear on specific zip codes. However, when StreetEasy launched “Premier Broker” this spring, four leading firms, including Corcoran Group, Douglas Elliman, Nest Seekers International and BOND, agreed to participate in the program. Premier Broker allows firms to purchase buyer leads in bulk from for-sale listings and then distribute them to their agents. This way of generating leads allows buyers to connect and coordinate with brokers who have the incentive to sell its listings. In addition, it also has software that lets firms monitor how quickly agents pick up and respond to leads.
There’s a great divide for those who are for and against Premier Broker.
Many in the industry, mostly established firms, don’t mind spending time and cash on generating and distributing leads if it helps their agents. But other firms have lambasted it. While Corcoran now takes part in Premier Broker, CEO Pam Liebman made it clear earlier that she would not reimburse agents who take part in the program. When she had a change of heart she said,
“For agents interested in identifying new opportunities for developing their business, they see this as a potential tool that can expand their customer base,” she said.
Scott Durkin, Elliman’s COO, said his firm decided to opt in. “A lot of the brokers that work with buyers are the unsung heroes that you never read about, but there are a large group of them,” he said. “We’re using this to garner more leads for our agents that like to work with buyers.” Durkin doesn’t mind Premier Broker because there are buyers out there who are actually requesting help and companies like his are positioned to help them.
PREMIER BROKER CRITICISM
But Premier Broker is not without its problems. On the one hand, Premier Broker allows agents to garner new listings and, in doing so, they would be able to expand their customer base with fresh leads. On the other hand, Premier Broker has been criticized as a gimmick, and flies in the face of all those hard-working agents, many new and up and coming, who normally have to fight for—and find—listings the old way, on their own and using contacts to create more contacts. If a firm doesn’t buy into Premier Broker, it won’t be able to compete with those who have the money to shell out.
But the major criticism of Premier Broker is how to distribute the bulk leads. Who gets them, and who doesn’t? If an agent is a recipient, is that because he’s being rewarded or is that because he’s falling behind, without a solid client list? That the firms themselves do the distributions according to their own needs will no doubt alienate the agents and cause internal conflict.
When all is said and done, StreetEasy will always be a force to reckon with. No new program is without its criticism, and although top agents don’t need Premier Broker or NYC Rental Network, there are many middle-tier and less experienced agents out there that need the leg up, backed up by their firms who want to help them out.