Backpage Manhattan Apartment Rental Posts Now Free?

I am wondering whether this is a site glitch, or a major move to compete with Craigslist, but rental posting on Backpage appears to be free at the moment...

Rental posts typically cost a dollar on Backpage, either in apts by owner (no brokers), apts broker fee, or  apts broker no fee.  Yet today, everything in the rental section seems free.


This is a completely different model than Craigslist, that allows owners to post for free, and charges brokers $7-10 per post to brokers... (and enforces everything rather loosely and randomly)

VHT Acquires Dwellicious, A Social Bookmarking Service For Real Estate



It’s not enough for pioneering social bookmarking site Delicious to get acquired (twice). No, VHT just had to go ahead and buy Dwellicious, an oddly named service that enables people to bookmark, tag and organize real estate properties online in the same vein.

The acquisition, terms of which were not disclosed, makes a lot of sense. VHT provides technology and services for marketing real estate online, and will integrate Dwellicious into its ImageWorks online marketing platform to provide brokerage clients with a tool for communicating with home buyers.

Dwellicious uses social bookmarking to help home buyers share their favorite properties on Facebook, Twitter or other social media services. Buyers can organize, monitor and compare listings, make notes, add tags, and share and discuss properties with friends, family and real estate professionals.

VHT ImageWorks is used by more than 100,000 real estate professionals across the United States.


Joining the Real Estate Search Party Online

UNTIL recently, real estate brokers in New York City rarely shared information about one another’s listings. As a result, buyers had no way of knowing whether their agent was showing them every property available, and sellers wondered whether their homes were getting the exposure necessary to secure the best deal.


Neil Binder, the president of Bellmarc Realty, says its VOW will allow property comparisons.

Companies like StreetEasy, Zillow and The New York Times have helped open up the market by gathering listing information from various real estate databases and making it easy for consumers to search for homes online. But many brokerages still display only the firm’s exclusive listings on their Web sites — either because they are focusing on selling their own properties or resigned to the fact that customers have migrated elsewhere to research what is on the market.

Other brokerage firms are getting into the digital game themselves, creating a “virtual office Web site” or VOW. These are sites operated by brokers that enable clients to search for most of the available properties in a particular market, not just the firm’s exclusive listings.

While brokers have mixed feelings about whether these sites are worth the investment, the emergence of the VOW is yet another sign that once tightly guarded listing information has finally been set free in New York.

“Five years ago, protecting listings was the single most important thing, and people were very selective about where their listings ended up,” said Eric Gordon, the managing director of RealPlus, which develops VOWs for clients as well as operating the listings database used by members of the Real Estate Board of New York. “Now they want us to send their listings to every site we could possibly send them to. There are exceptions, but in general, the feeling is, ‘just get our listings out there as quickly and efficiently as possible.’ ”

The virtual office Web site concept was spurred by a 2008 settlement between the Justice Department and the National Association of Realtors, which forced brokerages to share listing data with their rivals, including Internet-based firms that offer rebates or other discounts to buyers willing to do most of the legwork to find a home.

In most parts of the country, brokers share information about properties through a multiple listing service, or M.L.S., a database operated by a real estate association on behalf of its members. Although Manhattan, Queens, Brooklyn and the Bronx each have a multiple listing service, many agents in New York City are not members and instead participate in a similar service managed by the Real Estate Board of New York, called R.L.S.

Agents who belong to these services are typically required to share property information with other brokers within a day or two of signing an exclusive listing, and these databases now share listings with each other as well as sites like StreetEasy, The New York Times, and hundreds of national and international portals like Yahoo and Google.

Sites like StreetEasy have free rein to publish listing information online for customers to search, aggregating data from various sources to create fairly comprehensive databases of properties available in New York City, including homes for sale by owner. But if brokerages want to post other firms’ listings on their Web sites, they must go through the process of becoming a virtual office Web site.

For prospective buyers the main difference between a VOW and other real estate search sites is that a VOW has to adhere to rules dictated by the Justice Department settlement, including a requirement that customers register with a name, an e-mail address and a password before they can search for listings.

Required registration can be a turn-off, some agents say, especially for casual shoppers.

“The problem I have with VOWs is that they force you to register before you can get information about properties,” said Douglas Heddings, the president of the Heddings Property Group. “To me it seems like a step backward, in that it’s holding the information hostage.”

Although the Heddings Property Group was one of the first firms in New York City to create a virtual office Web site just last year, Mr. Heddings said he was planning to abandon it in favor of a partnership with Buyfolio, a company that allows agents and their customers to search for listings as well as share feedback about properties.

For Buyfolio, a relatively new company focusing on the New York market, these collaboration tools are a key selling point. But now that real estate brokerages, technology start-ups like StreetEasy and media companies like The New York Times all have access to the same basic data about listings, the competition to attract buyers searching for homes online is heating up.

“You’ve still got to bring people to your Web site,” said Steven Spinola, the president of the Real Estate Board of New York, or Rebny. “Just creating a VOW doesn’t mean people are going to come and use it.”

So far, 98 of the 484 residential brokerage firms that are members of Rebny have created a virtual office Web site, Mr. Spinola said. This involves paying a fee to have the board audit the site to ensure it complies with the standards, like how client registration is handled and how listings data is managed.

But when the board recently overhauled its own Web site, now called, it partnered with the local news channel NY1 and decided not to create a VOW, partly to avoid the registration requirement.

“We made a decision that we weren’t going to ask people to sign in,” Mr. Spinola said. “It was just the sense of the members that they wanted to keep it an open Web site that anyone could search.”

Among New York City real estate firms, there are mixed feelings about whether a VOW delivers enough benefits to justify either the cost of creating one or the trade-offs involved in complying with rules about how these sites interact with clients.

After signing up for a VOW, customers have to wait for an e-mail to confirm that they have registered, and must also agree to terms and conditions that can run as long as a dozen pages. Those terms typically include an acknowledgment that the customer is entering into a lawful consumer-broker relationship with the agency, legally required language that does not obligate the buyer to work with the agency. This can seem like overkill just to search for, say, two-bedroom apartments in Chelsea.

But some brokerages are wagering that the hurdles are worth jumping, that there is money to be made from providing clients with a comprehensive set of properties rather than just the firm’s own listings, the traditional practice. Most VOWs also include tracking features that allow the agency to monitor customers’ searches, potentially producing useful data about what clients are looking for online.

“It was complicated to become a VOW, and it was costly,” said Dottie Herman, the president of Prudential Douglas Elliman. But, she said, the company’s Web site is more client-friendly now, allowing searches for properties in Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, Long Island, the Hamptons and Westchester County, including listings from other firms.

As for the registration requirement, Ms. Herman said she would have preferred that it be optional, but she doesn’t view it as a major deterrent. “I think most people don’t have a problem with it, because everybody asks for your e-mail address today,” she said.

Visitors to the Prudential Douglas Elliman site, once they have signed up, can search, sort and save listings. Results are displayed with the firm’s exclusive listings first, then those of other firms. But unlike, say StreetEasy, there is no direct link to the other firm’s site.

Bellmarc Realty is another big firm that is embracing the virtual office approach. Neil Binder, the president of Bellmarc, said that after experimenting with allowing individual agents to offer a VOW, generally using third-party software, the firm decided to develop a company-wide site instead, which will debut once it gets Rebny’s approval.

Mr. Binder said that the Bellmarc agents who tried VOWs created by third-party vendors did not find they generated much business, but he believes the new VOW will be more effective.

“It’s going to be more of an evaluation tool than an information tool,” Mr. Binder said. “I’m trying to create a process of comparison to show how properties stand up next to each other.”

Other large firms in the city are taking a wait-and-see approach. Diane M. Ramirez, the president of Halstead Property, said that about a quarter of the company’s agents had incorporated a VOW into their individual pages, but that Halstead had not developed one for its corporate site.

Corcoran has not jumped on the VOW bandwagon at all, said Pamela Liebman, the company’s president, partly because listing information is already widely available and partly because of doubts about VOWs.

“We’ve watched the traffic of some of the firms that have put VOWs on their site, and from what we can see it hasn’t increased,” Ms. Liebman said, adding that Corcoran also had not experienced an uptick in the number of deals it is doing with buyers’ brokers who have virtual office Web sites.

Beyond basic listing data, real estate Web sites compete for buyers, and page views, by offering additional information: price histories, recorded sales, building details and school district data — as well as discussion forums, mapping tools and features that make it easier to search for homes and then sort the results.

Zillow and The New York Times offer real estate apps for mobile devices, and these mobile users now account for a third of Zillow’s traffic on weekends, said Amy Bohutinsky, the company’s chief marketing officer, a trend that could put VOWs at a disadvantage as more people embrace smartphones.

However, brokers say they are not trying to compete with these sites, which are viewed more as information distributors than rivals, especially at a time when so much data has been digitally set free.

“Now listings are all over the place — all that information is published by a million different sites,” Ms. Herman said. “This is the world we’re in today, and if you don’t embrace change I don’t think you can be in business.”

     -via NYTimes

Zillow Expands and Improves Database of Homes

Real estate information marketplace Zillow® today expanded and improved its living database of homes, adding more than 25 million new Zestimate® home valuations and improving Zestimate accuracy nationwide. Zillow now has data, Zestimates and Rent Zestimates on approximately 100 million homes – more than three-quarters of all homes in the United States.

In the past five years, Zillow users have submitted information on more than 28 million homes, adding updates, such as remodel or home fact information, that are not reflected in public records. This gives Zillow an inimitable database of nearly every home in the country, and creates unique home profiles that allow Zillow to calculate more accurate Zestimates on more homes. The new Zestimate algorithms launched today incorporate more of this user-submitted data, among other changes.

The expansion brings Zestimates to homeowners, buyers and sellers in states like Iowa and New Hampshire, where Zestimates were not widely available.  The Zestimate median margin of error is now 8.5 percent nationwide, and below 6 percent in major metropolitan areas such as Denver, San Diego and Washington D.C.

"At Zillow, we have an unwavering commitment to give people as much free information about real estate and homes as possible, and Zestimate home valuations are a big part of that," said Zillow Chief Economist Stan Humphries. "We've spent six years cultivating our database of nearly all homes, creating a unique and living entity that combines public record data with information submitted by Zillow users on more than 28 million properties. By expanding the Zestimate algorithm to include more data points and new modeling approaches, we have been able to expand Zillow's footprint and improve accuracy. We are thrilled to offer this resource to even more consumers and professionals across the country."

Zillow launched in 2006, with Zestimates on more than 40 million U.S. homes.  Since then, Zillow has more than doubled Zestimate coverage nationwide, added 100 million Rent Zestimates, and made significant improvements to the breadth and accuracy of data. Zestimates are a starting point in determining a home's value; together with a home's value range, comparable recent sales, and current listings, Zillow's information helps consumers gain an edge in real estate and make more informed decisions. Zestimates and other home information can also be found on Zillow Mobile, the most popular platform of mobile real estate applications across iPhone, iPad, Android and Blackberry.

Zillow's Zestimate accuracy is published on its website, and updated every three months. More information is available at Featured in The best apartment-hunting websites and apps -Time Out New York

Urban Edge (
The frequently refreshed listings on this site, which are never more than 18 days old, come directly from owners, property managers and leasing managers—no broker postings allowed. Tired of filling out the same search form every morning? Sign up for Urban Edge’s tailored Twitter feed, covering new rentals in the nabe of your choice; listings will come to you.

Getting Nationwide MLS Listing Data

When it comes to building real estate websites, listings are kind of important. Just kind of. That is true whether you are an agent/broker trying to be relevant to buyers & sellers in your area or a serial entrepreneur trying to build the next national real estate portal with your own unique twist. I recently got a private question from someone on Quora asking how to get comprehensive MLS listings, so I thought I’d answer it publicly rather than privately.

Adding listings to an agent or broker website in one specific market is a known process – just sign up for IDX, hook it to your website, and away you go.

But for entrepreneurs looking to get nationwide listing inventory — well, it’s not so simple. For those of you in this situation, there are three primary options to consider:

  1. Direct from the source (agents and brokers) – . This is the route companies like Zillow and Trulia took in order to give them maximum long term flexibility. But it’s extremely time intensive and relationship heavy. You’ve got to win over the likes of ERA, Prudential, Weichert, and about a thousand other medium and large sized brokerages and convince them syndicating their listings to you is  a good idea. Or you can spend a boatload of money trying to reach 500,000 agents individually. Whichever route you take, you’ve got to be committed to the effort over the long run and put in the time to form real relationships with key stakeholders at a variety of organizations.
  2. Aggregate MLS feeds across the county – This route still requires that you aggregate hundreds of MLS feeds (there are roughly 900 MLS’) to get comprehensive. Plus, you’ll have to have a sponsoring real estate agent/broker in each market. Additionally, if you aggregate MLS feeds, you are bound by MLS rules that vary from MLS to MLS (making building your national site a pain in the rear).
  3. Use ListHub or Point2 – this will probably get you the greatest number of listings in the quickest amount of time. But it’s still not going to result in comprehensive coverage across the United States. Not all brokers/agents use one of those two syndication partners.

So, in short, there is no quick way to achieving comprehensive listing inventory around the country in a timely manner. Unfortunately for serial entrepreneurs, but fortunately for the Zillow’s of the world who have a considerable head start (they’ve been working on it since 2007), if you start now – you don’t really have a chance at having comprehensive listings within the next 2 years. Unless you want to pay a LOT of money to agents and brokers to get them.

Regardless of which route you take, you’ll have to build a XML import system that can handle multiple XML feeds and de-dupe listings that come from more than one source simultaneously. Hope this helps clarify that whole (non-existent) “nationwide listings data” thing.

If anyone else reading has alternatives, by all means, leave them in the comments. Going Out Of Business?

MLSTrusted.comWe are partnering with MLS organizations to replace listings sourced from services less reliable than the MLS. Through this partnership, all listings sourced from a local MLS are displayed on with the new MLS Trusted badge.

This is interesting. Dominion Enterprises, the parent company of, ForRent Media Solutions and a glut of other online classified sites is launching "MLS Trusted," a broker verification service.

I wonder if this will have the stated effect of actually refining the quality of property data and listings, or create another pay wall restricting consumers from directly accessing data. The goal seems to be transparency, but a pay-to-play, metaMLS, might result in the exact opposite effect, by letting brokers pay for visibility.

Buyfolio offers new Broker/Customer Collaborative Listing Search

Buyfolio just launched a collaborative listing search tool between brokers and clients, similar to Streeteasy's Folders.  Buyfolio searches the entire REBNY database of listings, and has a bit of a more robust of a UI, compared to Streeteasy.

They currently support listings from:
Brown Harris Stevens
Prudential Elliman