During the first half of this year, New York City will welcome a new consumer-facing listing portal, called CitySnap. Piloted by the Real Estate Board of New York (REBNY), CitySnap brings a long-awaited challenge to the ongoing dominance of StreetEasy. How it will fare remains to be seen, but it is extremely well-funded and many of the best minds in the residential brokerage business have been involved in advising on its structure and content. From the agent’s perspective, the competition will be welcome. Created as it will be by the agent community for consumers and agents, CitySnap will steer buyers to the listing agent for each property that comes up on their search. This will enable buyers to speak directly to the person most knowledgeable about the property, while still leaving these buyers free to retain the agent of their choice to represent them in any negotiation.
CitySnap will be funded, as the Residential Listing Service (New York City’s version of the MLS) is now, through residential broker dues payable to REBNY. StreetEasy became the power it is today in the New York market because, at least in part, of internal squabbling between the brokerage firms. 20 years ago, our residential brokerage community failed to assemble a consumer-facing portal of our own at the time when StreetEasy first appeared on the scene. In the beginning, agents loved the service; the early iteration of the site was free and really set out to help buyers, sellers, and agents share listing information more seamlessly. As a different sort of monetization potential began to become apparent in the service, Zillow snapped StreetEasy up for $50 million in 2013. It was only then that the brokerages realized the value of what they had given up.
Over the next few years, Zillow invested substantially and cleverly in the StreetEasy service, filling it with building information, sales histories, floorplans, and other data which made it irresistible to consumers. As the site built popularity, it began to charge agents to gain access to these consumers in a variety of ways. Today, rental agents are charged $6 per diem for each rental listing they want to display, and sales agents pay substantial sums to place their names on listings other than their own. And although a decision from the Department of State in 2019 described these StreetEasy practices as deceptive, that gravely understaffed watchdog department simply lacks the personnel to pursue any sort of enforcement.
And so we come to CitySnap. The site has been built out for consumers and agents, to provide accurate and completely up-to-date information across the range of available listings. No public portal in New York City currently contains the level of reliable accuracy which the public deserves; most continue to show listings that were sold or taken off the market days, weeks, or even months earlier. And access to CitySnap will be free to all.
It took many of our city’s agents and firms a while to fully grasp the importance of transparency in our dealings as a conduit to building public trust. With CitySnap, the Real Estate Board of New York has created a portal that can supply both agents and consumers with curated, up-to-the-minute, accurate information. StreetEasy was the first to see the opportunity. CitySnap aspires to take transparency and accuracy around listings to the next level.
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*DISCLAIMER: Frederick Warburg Peters is President of Coldwell Banker Warburg. Coldwell Banker Warburg is a member of the RLS so all Coldwell Banker Warburg listings will be part of CitySnap, the public portal for the RLS. All RLS members will participate in CitySnap.