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Letters To NYC Real Estate Agents

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Dear Real Estate Agents,

There was a lot of well deserved outrage about StreetEasy’s business decisions in 2017.  As we all know, the straw that broke the camel’s back was the MONOPOLY TAX they started charging on July 18th which caused brokers to pull almost half of their listings off the site.

But we are starting to see the real consequences of these disgraceful greedy business decisions which are hurting consumers and brokers alike.

Dear Real Estate Agents,

The real estate agent is now much stronger.  Thanks StreetEasy!

The value the real estate agent provides has increased dramatically since StreetEasy lost its status as the “go to” real estate marketplace.  It became impossible for StreetEasy to remain the “go to” when they lost 50% of their rental listings and 30% of their sale listings 3 months ago.

So – thanks to StreetEasy – now there is one more reason to use a real estate agent:

The agent knows where to find all listings.  

But we as agents have to help get the word out and educate consumers about this.  After all, unlike agents the average consumer is not thinking about real estate every day.  This is where you come in…

How Two Agents Are Getting the Word Out
Here are just two simple examples (out of many) demonstrating how real estate agents are getting the word out about the changing landscape and how agents can add value.  If you have more examples, I would love to hear about them!

1. Kristin Hurd from Brown Harris Stevens
Several weeks ago Kristin Hurd and her team from Brown Harris Stevens posted this on Instagram.  Wow, what a great summary of the current situation and what a great way to educate clients, and make new ones!

2. Christine Toes from Compass
Christine Toes from Compass puts this message near her signature in every email she sends out. Great way to spread the word about the changing landscape!
“Did you know, StreetEasy no longer aggregates all of the listings in NYC? The New York Times is the “go-to” website once again! Or check out our site, Compass.com for all of New York City’s available homes.  

Some Agents Frustrated: Is Change Happening?
Some agents are frustrated because change is not happening fast enough.  Why is StreetEasy still the dominant player, they ask.

Well, despite tectonic shifts happening behind the scenes, StreetEasy WILL be the dominant player at least for a little while.  The main reason is because real estate is not a daily activity for most consumers (unlike agents) so it will take a while for consumers to figure out that the lack of inventory on StreetEasy is actually a “StreetEasy” problem as opposed to a “market” issue.

This is why it is so critical to educate clients and consumers like Kristin and Christine are doing.  Heck, if it makes it easier for you, feel free to copy and use any part of this newsletter (or any other past newsletters) as your own.  I am fine with it.  Whatever helps you!

Yes. Significant Change IS Happening.  
However, when you look at the dramatic changes in just the last few months, you can’t help but get excited about the prospects ahead.  Let’s have a quick look:

  • StreetEasy Website Traffic Down. StreetEasy’s traffic has declined every month since July, the month they instituted the monopoly tax on rentals (according to SimilarWeb, a company which tracks website traffic)
  • StreetEasy Inventory Still Way Down.  A lot of people thought by now brokers and listings would come back to StreetEasy in droves.  It hasn’t happened. StreetEasy’s inventory hasn’t changed much since the dramatic declines in July/August.
  • Brokers Unite Around RLS. Almost all brokerages have opted into RLS syndication within the last month, which is going to reshape the real estate landscape for years to come.
  • REBNY Builds Big Team. This year REBNY has dramatically beefed up their RLS department and their technology. Leasebreak has interacted with the new team many times and we are quite impressed.
  • The NY Times. The New York Times started taking the RLS feed this month and should be showing all of your listings. They used to be #1 in the city.  Give them some time.  They will be a force.
  • Realtor.com. Realtor has a lot of money and is making a real play to gobble up market share in NYC. They also don’t seem to like Zillow/StreetEasy very much. They could also be a force.
  • Don’t Mess With NYC Brokers. Many brokerage firms continue to refuse to pay the StreetEasy $3 daily monopoly tax on rentals or send them their sales listings.  This continues to have a dramatic effect and ensures competition will rise up.
  • Leasebreak.com + Others.  Leasebreak and other companies are working ferociously behind the scenes. For example, Leasebreak will launch a new product soon. Stay tuned!

So, the transformation is happening. I see positive steps every day.  But the big change will happen in months and years, not days and weeks.

At the end of the day there are HUGE consequences when a firm takes advantages of its customers, especially when most of those customers happen to be principled NYC real estate agents and brokerage firms…

…And more competition in the marketplace will ensure they never take advantage of us again. 

To remind you, here is the Facebook group where brokers discuss the current changing landscape and share tips.  The Facebook Group has almost 400 agents as members!

And here are my previous emails about the changing landscape:

Brokers Unite: RLS “Opt-In” Surges – September 26th, 2017
StreetEasy Bows To Corcoran (After Elliman) – September 8th 2017
Zillow/StreetEasy Stock Down 20% – August 17th 2017
5 Ways We Can Crush The StreetEasy Monopoly – August 3rd 2017
Agents To StreetEasy: No, We Don’t Need You – July 18th 2017
Our Response to StreetEasy’s Greed – July 13th 2017

Phil Horigan
Dedicated NYC Real Estate Agent for 13 Years
Founder, Leasebreak.com

Dear Real Estate Agents,

Boy, a lot has changed in two weeks.  The RLS “opt-in” started with a trickle in August…and then turned into an avalanche in September.  Believe it or not, brokers are indeed working together.  Like one big locked arm hug!

As of today, most brokerage firms large and small have opted into the new REBNY RLS syndication feed.  Case in point, Leasebreak.com  – an approved RLS partner – now has over 9000 rental listings and growing every day.  You will pretty much find every REBNY rental exclusive on our website (and you will find them on the other RLS partner websites too!)  If you expect your listing or another firm’s listing to be on our website and it is not, please let me know. 

Why is the RLS important? What is it?
The RLS is NOT new.  It has been around for years.  In fact, it is how brokers share listing information with each other, usually through a third party vendor (i.e. OLR, RealPlus, etc.)

So what is new about the RLS?  
Here is what is new about the RLS:  For the first time the RLS is making your precious listing data available through syndication to 3rd party websites like Leasebreak.com and The New York Times (see below).  This will create more competition in the marketplace instead of relying on just one profit hungry firm whom you have to pay to get leads.

But this takes time.  For Leasebreak and other firms to be on an equal footing with StreetEasy in rentals and sales won’t happen overnight. But companies with experience are making progress.  For example, Leasebreak will apply the same efforts for 12 month rentals as we did to become #1 in short term rentals and leasebreaks…and the rest of the impressive competitors coming down the pike are also pushing hard, like the New York Times.  Speaking of which…

The New York Times and the REBNY-RLS Feed!
Did you hear? Wow. This is huge! The New York Times also signed up to begin taking the new RLS feed sometime in the very near future.  Smelling an opportunity to regain the throne, The New York Times is getting into the action.  Since having more competition in the consumer-facing listing space is the goal, this is gigantic news.

Those of you may remember when the New York Times was the ONLY PLACE to find an apartment in NYC (pre-StreetEasy).  Having the New York Times sign up to the new RLS feed is an indication that things ARE different this time.  Things are really changing.  History will be written that there are serious consequences when you confuse the consumer and take advantage of real estate agents and their pocketbooks. 

However, only when all broker firms “opt in”, will there be real competition in the marketplace.  

So, we will have some work to do until every last brokerage “opts-in” to the new REBNY RLS syndication feed. But we are making amazing progress in just a few months.

In sum, the unbelievable broker surge to “opt-in” in the last 2 weeks has been exhilarating and a testament to how well brokers can work together.  Keep up the good work!

To remind you, here is the Facebook group where brokers discuss the current situation with StreetEasy and share tips.  The Facebook Group has about 350 agents as members!

And here are my previous emails about the changing landscape:

StreetEasy Bows To Corcoran (After Elliman) – September 8th 2017
Zillow/StreetEasy Stock Down 20% – August 17th 2017
5 Ways We Can Crush The StreetEasy Monopoly – August 3rd 2017
Agents To StreetEasy: No, We Don’t Need You – July 18th 2017
Our Response to StreetEasy’s Greed – July 13th 2017

Phil Horigan
Dedicated NYC Real Estate Agent for 13 Years
Founder, Leasebreak.com

Dear Real Estate Agents,

The spin you are hearing is incorrect.  Here is what is really going on:

StreetEasy is the one in panic mode.  They are the ones who have cracked, and who are being forced to renegotiate their $3 Daily Monopoly Tax.  But it makes sense.  If your entire business is predicated on having all listings, and then in one month you lose 50% of your rental listings and 30% of your sales listings overnight, wouldn’t you be panicking?

And wouldn’t you do whatever you could do to give “sweetheart” deals to the two largest firms in the industry (Corcoran and Elliman) to at least slow the bleeding?

Check out this recent quote from media analyst Mike DelPrete of Aim Group:

“The amount of backlash Zillow is facing in New York seems to be the biggest, strongest, and most concerted battle against Zillow I’ve ever seen”. 

So keep up the good work brokers!  And this is just the beginning.  We are only in the first inning of this dramatic industry shake up.  These things take time.

By the way, doesn’t it really rub you the wrong way how StreetEasy is giving “special deals” to certain brokerages, a firm that was founded on authenticity and transparency? However, they are now in survival mode.  Zillow/StreetEasy’s stock has now lost 25% of its value since June.  I don’t think they are sleeping too well over there.

Why hasn’t the new REBNY-RLS syndication saved us yet? 

It will.  These things take time.  But here is one reason it is taking a little longer:

Many of you – including us – thought that every brokerage who is already an RLS/REBNY member would be automatically “opted in”.  THIS IS NOT THE CASE.  If your firm wants your listings to appear on the new “REBNY approved” listing portals, there is a final step some firms do not know about.  Each firm has to individually go in and “opt in”.  It turns out some firms who thought they were opted in, were not!

And only when all firms “opt in”, will there be real competition in the marketplace.  

Take heart! The REBNY effort has been quite impressive.  I am seeing it first hand, as Leasebreak is now accepting the feed, and REBNY is putting a lot of resources behind this effort.

If you are not sure if your firm has taken this final step and “opted in” to syndicate to Leasebreak and other sites, just ask me.

We have to get every brokerage to opt in.  It is the best way – possibly the only way – to create a more competitive marketplace.  I am seeing more and more firms opt in each day.  It is all very exciting.

Let’s do this!

Phil Horigan
Dedicated NYC Real Estate Agent for 13 Years
Founder, Leasebreak.com

Dear Real Estate Agents,

Zillow/StreetEasy’s stock is down almost 20% since their earnings call with investors last week.  The drop in price is being attributed to a lower than expected sales forecast in the coming months.

Could the StreetEasy boycott be a contributing factor? We think so…  

We got a transcript of Zillow’s earnings call from last week and the CEO spent 25% of his time talking about the New York City market (We provide some direct quotes from the call below). In other words, in case it wasn’t clear from their rash actions—Zillow/StreetEasy is making an all out unrelenting push to squeeze as much revenue from New York City real estate agents as possible. This will continue.

July 17th was a high water mark for StreetEasy.

But, StreetEasy is simply not “the place” to look for real estate anymore. July 17th—the day before the $3/day fee was enacted—was a high water mark for StreetEasy. They now have half the rental inventory, and about 20% fewer sales listings (getting less every day) thanks to some very principled real estate firms and agents who either refused to pay StreetEasy or stopped sending them their listing feeds. More consumers are figuring out what is going on each day.

We need competition, and we need it fast. Leasebreak.com and others are going to be taking REBNY’s RLS feed, and I am sure others (like me) are working on launching other products to more directly respond and provide better alternatives for agents and consumers.

Real Quotes from Zillow’s/StreetEasy’s Earnings Call Last Week

Below are some exact quotes from the conference call.  Please join me in helping Zillow/StreetEasy EAT THESE WORDS. We can only do so by creating competition. To remind you, here is the Facebook group where we discuss StreetEasy issues (we now have over 300 agents as members!) and here is a link to a post suggesting the 5 ways we can embolden competitors to StreetEasy.
 

“We’re more excited than ever about our potential in New York.”
-Zillow/StreetEasy CEO Spencer Rascoff

“…we’re excited about many aspects of the rentals business, including the new New York City paid listings product.”
-Zillow/StreetEasy CFO Kathleen Philips

“Our audience size really dwarfs the competition in New York”
-Zillow/StreetEasy CEO Spencer Rascoff

“…..a boom and boon of Premier Agent sales over the last couple of months in New York, and it continues on the for-sale side in New York as well.”
-Zillow/StreetEasy CEO Spencer Rascoff

And—finally—a question was asked of the CEO Spencer Rascoff to respond to REBNY’s pushback and the launch of the $3 paid program:

QUESTION: “Do you expect your rental listings to come back onto StreetEasy?”

ANSWER: “They effectively already have. The decline in our rental listings count when we switched from free to paid inclusion was expected, desired and on forecast.”

Note from Phil to Zillow CEO: Sorry buddy, but they have NOT come back. Your rental inventory is down 44%, which represents a whopping 14,000 rental listings that have been removed from StreetEasy. Ouch. Next time think twice before you mislead people, most of all NYC real estate agents.  Let’s just say real estate agents have a nose for smelling a bad deal.  

Let’s do this!

Phil Horigan
Dedicated NYC Real Estate Agent for 13 Years
Founder, Leasebreak.com

Dear Real Estate Agents,

StreetEasy is using tactics from Economics 101:

1. Get a near-monopoly.
2. Jack up prices.

There’s just a small problem. They don’t OWN the product (the listings). YOU DO. In 2016, Zillow (StreetEasy’s parent company) received over 92% of their revenue from real estate professionals. Yes, the same people they are now screwing over.

But we should be thankful. Here’s why.

Thanks to StreetEasy’s shockingly greedy and misleading business practices in the last few months, their true colors have shown through. The real estate industry can NEVER AGAIN allow this to happen.

We need competition.

StreetEasy is dominant now, but as long as everyone does their part to empower competitors, StreetEasy’s dominance will fade over the next year. Remember, not too long ago, the New York Times was the dominant platform. While hard to imagine now, things can change quickly.

And they will.

Here are 5 Ways to Empower StreetEasy’s Competitors.  These ideas were taken mostly from ideas you put forth during discussions in the closed Facebook Group “BreakUpWithStreetEasy” (which has over 240 members! Join here )
1. SEARCH ON OTHER RENTAL AND SALE PLATFORMS.
StreetEasy has no rental listings that you shouldn’t be able to find elsewhere, especially since they lost 15,000 listings overnight on July 18th. And almost all sales listings you should be able to find through other companies like OLR or your internal databases. Find out what rental and sale portals are starting to take the new REBNY RLS feed (which started August 1st).  Your manager should have a comprehensive list and more rental and sale portals are joining each day.

2. POST ON STREETEASY ONLY WHEN YOU NEED TO.
If everyone minimizes their postings on StreetEasy, it will continue to have dramatic effects. While we know some of you have vowed to never post on StreetEasy again, sometimes we can’t do this due to client needs (the client comes first after all). However, you can still play a major part even if you are still posting some on StreetEasy.  If you simply HAVE to post on StreetEasy due to client needs, here are some tips:

  1. Consider starting off by trying another platform first and reconsider StreetEasy after a week or two
  2. If you have a lot of similar apartments (especially for rentals), consider posting just ONE of your listings on StreetEasy.
  3. Consider putting up the apartment on StreetEasy for only a limited amount of time

3. MAKE SURE EVERYONE – ESPECIALLY CLIENTS – KNOWS THAT STREETEASY NOW HAS 15,000 FEWER RENTAL LISTINGS and 4 MAJOR FIRMS ARE NOT SENDING THEM SALES LISTINGS.
Any consumer that hears this fact is stunned. 99% of consumers don’t know this yet, but every client and consumer should know this.  Put it in all of your newsletters and tell all of your friends and clients.  Consumers should know they now need to search on alternate sites like individual brokerage sites and other rental and sale platforms in order to have a comprehensive view of the market.

4. COBROKE WITH A SMILE!
Your colleague’s exclusives are posted on many other sites. Use one of them to look for any “cobroke” listings. Look, we are in this together. While cobrokes may sometimes mean less commissions, there are about 20,000 rental and sale listings in the RLS Feed so far, and that number is growing!  That is great inventory! Every time you do a deal with each other outside of the StreetEasy platform, it demonstrates that the power really is with the brokers and NOT with StreetEasy.

5. USE #NOTFOUNDONSTREETEASY.
Depending on your company’s advertising rules, one strategy some of you are employing is to write “Not found on StreetEasy” and using the hashtag #NotFoundOnStreetEasy on any listings you are advertising that are NOT on the StreetEasy platform. This advertising message will drive home the point to consumers and agents that they need to look in other places to find their home.

As always, I would love to hear any feedback. Please understand that the emergence of strong competitors won’t happen overnight, but with all of our help, it will happen much sooner than anyone expects, especially for StreetEasy.

Let’s do this!

Phil Horigan
Dedicated NYC Real Estate Agent for 13 Years
Founder, Leasebreak.com

Dear Real Estate Agents,

Since my letter went out about StreetEasy’s greed (If you missed it, see here) the positive response from you has been overwhelming. We are all in agreement that we need to mobilize and fight this greedy bully. StreetEasy thinks they’re the only game in town, but they messed with the wrong agents. And it will be the agents that ultimately bring them down.

In fact, have you seen what happened? The rental listings on StreetEasy’s site declined over 50% today! The number of listings went from 30K to 15K overnight! Good work team!

So, where do we go from here? We have some ideas on how to get started. First of all, we need to have a place where we can relate and communicate with each other. From there, we come up with a more direct plan on how to stand together. Coordination is key.

With this in mind, we’ve taken two steps that we hope will mark the beginning of the end for GreedEasy:

A Closed Facebook Group for Updates and Communication with Fellow Real Estate Professionals. Join Here
We created a closed Facebook Group where we can all talk about what is going on and how to deal with it.  If you have any problem with access, let me know! To start things off, we are asking agents a poll question: What percent of your rental listings do you plan to keep on StreetEasy?

Follow us @dumpstreeteasy and let’s get the message out!
We’ve unleashed @dumpstreeteasy on Twitter and encourage all of you to follow and engage. The more attention and press this campaign gets, the better the chance that consumers will flock to alternate places to “search.”

StreetEasy pretends this is all “in the best interests of the consumer.” Does anyone really believe that? They are just a website. The listings are what really matter. No listings? No traffic. We think you all concur, judging by the responses like these we’ve been receiving since this campaign kicked-off:

“StreetEasy has miscalculated and I think will be worse off because of it.”

“We made them now they put the screws on us……..”

“As you well know, I was the first to leave StreetEasy about a year ago. You forget that it is also dishonest greed-the worst kind.”

“I could not agree with you more with regards to StreetEasy’s approach and deceptive practices that are being implemented at their affiliated websites as well, Zillow, Trulia, Hotpads, etc…”

“I wholeheartedly agree with all of what you say here. And can’t believe how the industry is taking it lying down.”

“Are you guys keeping the Leasebreak name if you’re planning to move to the main rental market and compete with the GodZillow monster?”

On that last comment, we will have some news on that front in the coming weeks, so stay tuned.

Let’s do this!

Phil Horigan
Dedicated NYC Real Estate Agent for 13 Years
Founder, Leasebreak.com

Dear Real Estate Agents,

I’m sure you have the heard the news: starting soon, StreetEasy will begin charging you for every rental you post on their site. Yes, this is a gut punch in the stomach for agents who need a reliable source for leads. It is also, quite frankly, a betrayal.

While as the founder of Leasebreak I would love for leasebreak.com to be your free alternative to post and search for rentals as we already are for many agents (we moved beyond just “leasebreaks” years ago), I am writing to you now as a colleague.

Maybe it is because I have been a New York City real estate agent for many years—thirteen, to be exact. Let’s face it, it’s a brutal business, especially the rental side of the business, an area close to my heart.  Unless you have actually been in our shoes, you can’t comprehend what it takes to get a deal done from start to finish; you simply can’t empathize—and it is now perfectly clear that the executives at StreetEasy can’t either.

Thinking of leaving StreetEasy? You will survive!
Read how on breakupwithstreeteasy.com

We even wrote a “Dear Streeteasy” letter to sum up our feelings. 😉

StreetEasy became the market leader by convincing all of the brokerage firms to post their listings on their website. To accomplish this, they deceived brokers in three ways:

First, they indicated that they would only accept listings from brokers.  But then they surprised agents by allowing landlords and tenants to post on their site.

Second, they assured you all leads from your listings would go directly to you.  StreetEasy’s new “Premier Agent” program abruptly ended that commitment.

Finally, they led you to believe it would always be free to post listings on their site. Yet now by charging all rental agents to post their listings, the deception has reached new heights.

One thing I want to make crystal clear: Leasebreak’s goal is not to become the next StreetEasy. The real estate community should never find itself in this predicament again: one firm or source that is relied upon too much, possessing too much market power, and justifying reprehensible business decisions which harm the community who, ironically, helped create it.

This is why Leasebreak wholeheartedly supports REBNY’s effort to once and for all provide a true MLS in New York City. Real estate agents need this to be protected from a greedy juggernaut like StreetEasy.

I hope that you will come to see Leasebreak’s rental marketplace as a free alternative. You already know that Leasebreak is the clear leader in finding shorter term furnished and unfurnished rentals between one and twelve months online, but did you know:

  • Many 12 month listings are also posted on Leasebreak by agents, tenants breaking their lease, and condo/coop owners.

  • Agents can post listings and get leads for free. They can also search listings for free.

  • We host properties not listed anywhere else. Since our marketplace is free to list, many who post on Leasebreak are from owners and tenants who don’t want to pay the $125 to post on StreetEasy. (Who can blame them?!).

  • We have a special program where agents can get exclusive rental listings or work with renters. Over 250 agents are in the program as of today, and they love it.

  • We have “shares” or “rooms for rent”.  While most agents don’t “work” these type of clients, many still refer their clients to a transparent, professional real estate website for these types of apartments.

We look forward to seeing you on Leasebreak.com. And please, don’t hesitate to respond and ask me any questions. Hope to hear from you soon!

Sincerely,

Phil Horigan,
Founder, Leasebreak