Dear Real Estate Agents,

When is enough, enough?

Do we just continue to stand by and let StreetEasy dictate the terms of our listing data while charging us more and more for it?

The answer is no.  We need to act now and with the utmost urgency.

The solution is simple and entirely legal:

“The real estate industry has to create the most up to date, accurate, transparent and comprehensive listings database which can be accessed by agents and the general public for free.”

Consumers desperately need this kind of listing information.  And sadly, they aren’t getting it right now.

And who best to provide it to them? The real estate industry of course!

This is why MLS’s exist.  When run well, they contain the most up to date, accurate, transparent and comprehensive listing information.

Unfortunately we don’t have an MLS in NYC.

However, we do have something that we could make work.  We have REBNY and the RLS, and the basic structure is already in place.

But the RLS must take serious next steps to transform itself into an acting “MLS” as soon as possible.

Otherwise StreetEasy – with its current requirement for every agent to manually enter their own listings – will become the de facto MLS in addition to being the dominant consumer website.

The current situation is so dire, we don’t have much time.

Can we do it?

I know some of you may have concerns about REBNY’s ability to accomplish this.  There is no question that it will be challenging.

However, I believe the RLS can succeed if these 5 critical items are addressed immediately:

1. Create ONE backend and frontend platform for agents to ENTER, EDIT, and VIEW listings.   Agents need one common platform.  This is how successful MLS’s run across the country, and it is how we can create the most up to date, accurate, transparent and comprehensive listings database in NYC.  Currently – and to StreetEasy’s delight – different brokers enter their listing data through a myriad of different systems with different fields formatted in all different ways (OLR, RealtyMX, Perchwell, RealPlus, etc).  This makes getting the most updated and accurate data really difficult.  Also, it makes improvements in the RLS more time consuming and complicated because each time even a slight change is made in the RLS, all the systems that connect to it have to be updated as well.  This also increases the chance of errors in the listing data.  Just think how much time and cost savings could be achieved by brokerages if they no longer had to focus their resources on fixing incorrect listings!

2. Get every listing into the RLS (including those from Non-REBNY members)  To be effective, every exclusive listing for every licensed agent needs to be in the RLS.  Additionally, for rentals, every landlord listing should also make its way into the RLS.  I hope REBNY strongly considers dropping the current requirement that you can list in the RLS only if you are a REBNY/RLS paying member. To make the RLS work, we need maximum participation which equals maximum listings.  Having every listing in the RLS would dramatically benefit ALL REBNY/RLS members. Can you imagine what a powerful tool it would be for you to be able to confidently claim to your clients that you have access to the most up to date, most accurate, most transparent and comprehensive listings database in NYC?  Of course, any agent listing on the RLS would have to agree to the terms of the Universal Co-Brokerage agreement.  These details could be worked out.

3. Create a free consumer-facing RLS.  Consumers should be able to directly access listings on the RLS for free.  Since brokers have the best listing data, we should be providing it directly to consumers!  If consumers don’t get the most updated listing information from brokers, they will continue to find alternate ways (StreetEasy, etc.) to get it.  Even if this consumer-facing RLS does not have all of the bells and whistles, that is okay.  Leave the fancy features to the consumer websites and the data analytic providers.  The RLS should be focused on what it can do best: provide the most up to dateaccuratetransparent, and comprehensive listing information.

4. Change from OPT IN to OPT OUT so that your listings automatically appear on all approved consumer websites.  First the good news.  Just like the best MLS’s, the RLS syndicates your listings to approved consumer websites.  The bad news is that brokerage firms are required to take an additional confusing step of “opting in” to each consumer website.  This extra step has been a major pain point over the last two years.  As a result, agents’ listings are NOT all syndicating to REBNY-approved consumer websites.  This is really frustrating. Given the current state of things, shouldn’t we have all of our listings on as many approved consumer websites as possible?  Also without access to ALL RLS listings, new consumer websites won’t have a fighting chance to compete with StreetEasy.  For these reasons, the RLS should automatically send listings to every approved consumer website.  A brokerage firm could always choose to “opt out” of any specific website, and agents should be made aware if this occurs.

5. Communicate clearly and frequently what is happening with the RLS. Getting all brokers to use a new platform is a massive undertaking and it has to be matched with passionate and frequent communication.  Unfortunately, eight years after it was created, amazingly, the RLS is still a mystery to many agents.  Most agents still have no idea what the RLS is and what it does.  If the RLS is going to be the new comprehensive listings database in town, every agent needs to know exactly what it is and how to use it.  Perhaps the RLS could appoint a spokesperson whose sole job would be to communicate with agents, discuss progress, answer questions, regularly visit brokerage offices, and encourage feedback on an ongoing basis to continually improve the RLS in real time.

In 2020, let’s work together and harness OUR expertise as an industry.  Let’s create the most up to date, most accurate, most transparent, and most comprehensive listings database in NYC…and when we do, consumers will follow! Who’s in?

Phil Horigan, Founder:
Leasebreak#1 in shorter term rentals and pioneered the Special Lead Program a great way for agents to get rental exclusives and work with renters
Get First Peek by FrēlēWhere rentals appear before they hit the PAY TO PLAY websites like StreetEasy
FrēlēA new free and honest marketplace focused on 12 month rentals.  We may add sales in 2020.

Philip Horigan is the founder of - a leading marketplace for rentals in NYC, founded in 2013. He launched Frēlē - a more comprehensive NYC rental marketplace - in May 2018 with a 4 point pledge ( Phil has been a New York City real estate agent for 14 years working for some of the top firms in the city. He became an independent broker in early 2017 so that he can focus more on his entrepreneurial endeavors. Phil believes strongly in building businesses in an ethical and transparent way.

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