Local brokerages create consumer-friendly portal

HamptonsRE Takes On Zillow

Dissatisfaction with Zillow and its consumer platform Out East has been fomenting among East End agents ever since it took over former Hamptons Real Estate Online in early 2017. Many agents were upset that functionality they wanted was lacking.

Just this week, a new portal, HamptonsRE.com, was launched by a group of brokerages to help fix that. Members of the not-for-profit Hamptons Real Estate Association that created the webaite include The Corcoran Group, Sotheby’s International Realty, Saunders & Associates, Brown Harris Stevens, and Halstead.

“The impetus for the site was to create something that’s owned by the brokers,” said Robert Nelson, president of the board of the Hamptons Real Estate Association and senior managing director at Brown Harris Stevens. “A broker signs a listing with an owner and then the broker wants to control how that listing for the owner is presented to the world.”

Many agents complained that Zillow was not only deaf to suggestions, but that the site obfuscated which agent actually listed each property.

With HamptonsRE, Nelson said, “Consumers can hopefully easily find a listing for sale or to rent and then can speak to the agent that has the listing, who knows all the pertinent information about it.”

This isn’t the first time that local brokerages have banded together to try to create a multiple listing service. In 2016, 13 local firms banded together to create the East End Listing Exchange, but the site faltered when Zillow bought Hamptons Real Estate Online, which had been the de facto Multiple Listing Service for decades, and was replaced by Out East. Zillow overhauled both the consumer site and the listing software, which annoyed both agents and users alike.

To counter this, many of the firms involved with East End Listing Exchange decided to refocus to create a new consumer portal rather than an MLS.

HamptonsRE.com was designed by Michael Gabriel of Gabriels Technology Solutions, which is perhaps the premier provider of real estate websites, customer relationship management, and market software for real estate agents.

The new site is user-friendly and feature-rich, with a polish that had been lacking on other sites. While making good use of map technology, the site also indicates via color whether a listing is in contract, reduced in price, or has an upcoming open house. Transparency and ease of use has been emphasized. The only thing lacking is the ability to drill down to the actual property lines of a listing, as on Zillow.com, and a way to search most-recently reduced listings, as on Trulia.

“That’s the beauty of this platform,” said Andrew Saunders, president of Saunders & Associates. “It’s very elegant and it has the ability to evolve and be enhanced over time. We’ve never had that ability before. This platform was created by brokers for brokers and we can enhance it almost in real time.”

“If someone walked into a real estate office in the old days, they sat down with the person that probably had the listing. There was a sign in the window, and they liked the property,” Nelson said. “The site is really just giving the public and the owners the best service. We hope that all the companies see the benefit of it.”

But not all local firms are on board, including Douglas Elliman, Compass, Nest Seekers International, Bespoke, and Town & Country. The site also only offers about 60 percent of the sales listings in the area. A tool like this can be seen as most useful when confident that everything that’s on the market is represented.

“We’ve had meetings that every single agency, large and small, has been invited to — presentations going back as far as June,” Ed Reale of Sotheby’s said. “And we’ve reached out by email, by phone, and various other ways.”

“We’re fierce competitors on the street,” added Nanette Hansen of Sotheby’s. “The firms sat down together because we saw that there was a need for a beautiful, elegant consumer website with accurate information that would be a very good consumer experience for both renters and buyers.”

Saunders said the process of creation is difficult.

“This has been in development in one form or another for a protracted period of time,” he said. “I’m not aware of any other region in our country where brokers have gotten together to develop a public-facing portal. We can get to the unique characteristics of the market we serve. The fact that this was able to get created and rolled out is what I’m most proud of.”