It was exactly a year ago that Zillow’s StreetEasy started charging the greedy “monopoly” tax of $3 a day ($90 per month) to post a rental on their website.  Things are significantly worse in the industry since this dumb business move. The rental inventory on StreetEasy’s website is down a whopping 40% compared to last year. They are no longer the “go to” rental website.  As a renter or agent, now you have to search multiple websites.  Worst of all, StreetEasy’s most important customers – real estate agents – now have to come out of pocket hundreds of dollars per month.

In what seemed to be out of the devil’s playbook, here is how it went down: A few years after Zillow secured their near monopoly status by buying up the most trafficked real estate listing websites in NYC, they decided to start charging agents and landlords a lot of money to post on their website. This is after 10 years of being “free”, and implied winks and nods along the way that it would remain free.

Ultimately, what really stung their customers (i.e. mostly real estate agents) was the implied “deal” made between agents/landlords and StreetEasy over the last 10 years.  The deal was this: If you, Agents, let us show your listings on our website we won’t charge you.  This implied contract was broken a year ago.

And destroyed with it, sadly, was StreetEasy’s impressive original business model as a free and transparent marketplace.  This business model was ruined overnight.

Their customers – mostly real estate agents – are livid. And rightfully so.

Short term this will reap huge gains for StreetEasy, as it would for any company of “near monopoly” status. And unfortunately it will not be good for agents who have relied on StreetEasy over the years and now have to come out of pocket to advertise.

But let’s face it. It doesn’t get any less creative or more greedy than this:  “We have a near monopoly. Let’s jack up prices”.

Long term it will be a disaster, as there are always major consequences when decisions based on greed overwhelm decisions based on what is right for your customers. Principles should always come before profits.

Like most greedy and shortsighted companies, StreetEasy will eventually be replaced.  More competition is entering the space all the time.

Over time StreetEasy will be replaced by Frēlē and others like it who strongly believe in preserving the integrity of the NYC real estate marketplace. For Frēlē, this is the highest priority even if it means we don’t ever make a dime.

The fun is just getting started.  And with your help, and with our absolute pledge ( of always being free and transparent, we can bring transparency back to New York City Real Estate, one listing at a time!