This is the first in a series about StreetEasy, the website that has been a game-changer for real estate in NYC, especially rentals, and has the best ad campaigns. There are positives and negatives, and I will be exploring both.
Last week I received the below email from StreetEasy. The building referenced, 62 E 1st, was one of the first listings I rented. It was a $5400 one-bedroom (I know, I know) in a condo building, meaning it was a sublet directly from the owner. I have nothing to do with the building itself, and any other listing would be completely different from mine. If a rental, it would be a different owner, and if a sale, well, it’s a sale.
What StreetEasy is enticing me to do, for the price of $25 a month, is to attach my name and information to the building. Here is the only available listing; notice how it’s a two-bedroom SALE, completely different from my rental. If I pay, my information will go on the page for the building, even though I don’t have an active deal and am in no way affiliated. I would absolutely not call myself an expert! It’s misleading to both agents and consumers, as StreetEasy pockets the money from me and I profit off the confusion of consumers, by turning them into clients of my own.
This isn’t that bad. It doesn’t show me on the actual listing, just on the building. What is far more egregious is the “Premier Agent” initiative, which puts agents who pay large sums of money (far above $25/month) above listing agents on properties.
Premier Agent started with Zillow, and was brought over when they purchased StreetEasy. Agents bid on different zip codes and pay sometimes massive fees to have their information displayed on the listings throughout. It is definitely a way to generate leads, and I don’t fault the agents that do it, but rather a company that has turned this into a profit-making scheme. Zillow has come under fire for this dishonesty, and recently changed their listing pages, adding an option to view the it at the original brokerage’s website, if applicable. See how, in the below photo, you can scroll down to view the apartment on Douglas Elliman’s site (but also the ad for Premier Agent).
You should also be conscious that if you are trying to sell an apartment by yourself, without using a broker (which I don’t recommend, but live your truth), know that your contact information may be buried below that of multiple agents who have nothing to do with your home but will benefit from taking clients interested in it. I took the below screenshots of a for-sale-by-owner apartment on Zillow to illustrate what I mean. See how if you simply fill out the form for more information they put you in touch with someone who has paid them, NOT the person who is actually selling the apartment.
Agents are actively harmed by the negative reputation of our industry. Some of this is the fault of awful, dishonest brokers, but some is now also perpetuated by websites like StreetEasy (and others I will write about separately), that do dishonest things but act like they’re adding to transparency in the industry. As I said, there are positives, but this isn’t one of them!
So now you, the educated consumer, can be aware of that.
Love you all, and thanks for continuing to read!