Screen Shot 2017 09 22 At 1 27 47 Pm

When the knight in shining armor comes riding how’s one to know that he’s concealing a sword. That is the way I feel about the StreetEasy Premier agent program once a promising platform to generate leads and advocate for buyer’s agency, or at least that’s what it seemed. In a previous blog post titled ” A Premium StreetEasy Buyers Program,” we praised the launch of the product, in hindsight our positive view may have been premature. I commend StreetEasy for advocating for buyer’s representation but not at the cost of the integrity and transparency of the platform/website. Buyers interacting with the site when submitting inquiries through the contact form on a given listing are confused due to the lack of notification that they, in fact, are not contacting the listing agent but instead a buyer’s agent.

Buyers Interests

Buyers deserve representation, someone looking out for their best interest not being sold too or misadvised and StreetEasy is an excellent platform with the potential for greatness.
At this juncture, however, it’s nothing but a pipe dream and looks like the Zillow Group Inc a public company may only be trying to hit their quarterly earnings estimates to satisfy shareholders and analysts at the expense of real estate agents and home buyers. 

The Product

Rolling out a product on StreetEasy and charging real estate agents premium prices is just unacceptable when your platform is essentially in Beta in NYC although used nationally on Zillow. Zillow unable to achieve critical mass in New York acquired StreetEasy in 2013 and since has enjoyed a stronghold on the New York City market, at least until now.

Industry Backlash

Upon launch of the premier agent program many New York City brokerages and agents disapproved and StreetEasy went on the defense immediately. Although many have now embraced the product including myself, unfortunately, I find it leaves much to be desired. I even encouraged and incentivized my team to do the same, and all have experienced the same less than acceptable results.
One would think StreetEasy would do everything in their power to listen to the feedback that not only I have provided, but many other reputable agents have as well. Despite our efforts, all seem to have fallen on deaf ears. I have spoken with account executives and managers who initially were all ears, yet StreetEasy continues to demonstrate they are unwilling to consider at least any ideas and much-needed improvements that would create a positive community and experience for all, and yes, they would still likely hit their quarterly numbers by doing so. The most annoying and important point is that the platform preaches the good but falls short on execution.

Educate instead of deceiving Buyers

Incorporate a short animation, video, or brief paragraph positioned clearly on the contact module educating the buyer they are reaching out to a buyer’s agent.
Difficult to imagine this would be complicated for a company that has access to some of the industry’s best engineers and marketers. A simple solution would be to title the tab “Buyer’s Agent Info.
Why is this so hard? Why advocate for buyers then turn your back on them with a lack of transparency on whom they are contacting about a listing at the same time. Perhaps the people behind the premier agent program think it will hurt the funnel and slow lead flow hurting their bottom line.

Reality

Seasoned and passionate career Real Estate agents work very hard whether a listing or buyer’s agent. Those that can afford to commit to a 6-month program paying approx $60 per lead on average should not be put in the position of explaining their role. Why StreetEasy does not clearly disclose this role on the initial contact form that fact that you will be connected to a buyer’s agent, not the listing agent is a mystery.
Another irritating and unnecessary situation is when a buyer does not seek representation and simply wants details on a property, such as open house times, they are not given this opportunity because the listing agents details are in a greyed-out tab to the right (as seen here below) and the “Learn More” tab is somewhat misleading because it makes you feel you are completing a form to contact the listing agent. On top of this, the phone number shown is a centralized number which when called is forwarded to a participating Premier Buyers Agent, not the listing agent.
 

Screen-Shot-2017-09-22-at-1.27.47-PMImage of contact form on StreetEasy

 
Buyers should have a clearly labeled choice to be represented or not at the very least know who they are contacting. I believe all should be with an experienced agent (and I may be biased being a buyer’s agent) but if they choose to go it alone this deception creates confusion, and the buyer is mistreated from the moment they begin their home search on the platform. This alone in time could cause consumer backlash as well adding to headaches for listing agents and agents participating in the program alike.

In Summary

If I sound frustrated, that’s because I am, I believe StreetEasy and consumers need to hear the truth. I remember when I first started in real estate in 2001, and I was encouraged to use bait and switch marketing. On hearing this I said wait, so you want me to mislead potential clients and ruin my reputation and spread bad karma? That was the first seed planted for why I decided to become an exclusive buyers agent and have remained so for 16 years. The platform in its current state feels like a bait and switch to me on a different level.
Both personally and professionally I live my life believing in karma and doing no harm, so no harm comes back to me. For over a decade I have built and serviced a global portfolio of home buyers and investors earning their trust through honesty, hard work, and fair dealing, always looking after my client’s best interest. This is what I actively train and teach my agents, and this is why we are all successful.
Maybe only a few will read this article, but at least I have gotten this off my chest. I just hope my experience and home buyers alike could connect through StreetEasy in a fair and honest manner. The default consumer platform was once The New York Times real estate section and with the recent announcement that The New York Real Estate Board  (REBNY) is now going to distribute the RLS feed ( MLS for NY) to the Times perhaps they will restore their former glory and monetize a community for both Sellers and Buyers. Or will StreetEasy finally play fair and make urgent necessary enhancements to their new platform.
 

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