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The New York City real estate market is truly unique, specifically revolving around the use and ownership of data. That was the major discussion among industry leaders at The State of Real Estate Data in NYC, presented by the Hudson Gateway Association of REALTORS® (HGAR) and RISMedia on Monday, May 20, at the Convene Meeting Center in New York City.

Richard K. Haggerty, CEO of HGAR, started off the conversation by emphasizing the need for collaboration in order to streamline a fragmented data marketplace within the New York City real estate landscape, which does not currently offer a central MLS.

“In Manhattan, data seems to be weaponized—it’s monetized like crazy. We all have a role to play to solve these challenges that every broker and agent are confronted with every day,” he said.

John Featherston, founder, CEO and publisher of RISMedia, posed the question, “What is it that brokers are missing without having a traditional MLS?”

Firstly, productivity, which trickles down to profitability. According to panelist Mitchell A. Skinner, attorney at law and managing member of Larson Skinner, an MLS provides increased ROI through efficiency.

“It seems to me that brokers and agents may be spending too much time and energy on these basic business inputs,” said Skinner.

Additionally, brokerages without access to all of the data that other states provide through a central MLS can lack that competitive edge consumers are looking for when signing on with an agent.

“The agents working within your firm need the most accurate and up-to-date information in order to compete in this marketplace,” said Featherston.

The quality of information is also a recurring problem, specifically regarding buildings that have multiple units for sale or rent and for which information does not match up across New York City brokerages.

“It’s all over the place and not really policed,” said panelist Stefan Matinovic, vice president of Investments at Midwood Investment & Development. “You’ve got different tiers and are trying to corral and reconcile them. This is a part of the reason why a more wholesale solution is requisite to solve this problem.”

The benefits of centralized data? According to keynote speaker Joseph Rand, chief creative officer at Better Homes and Gardens Rand Realty, they are:

  • Immediate updates on detail changes
  • Immediate updates on status changes
  • Access to aggregated sold data
  • Access to aggregated production data

“It seems to me that more cooperation, more data-sharing and centralized information has to be good for the market,” said Rand.

Additionally, having an accurate sales history is critical, said panelist Lucie Fortier, executive of Product Management at CoreLogic.

“The piece that gets really interesting with a [centralized] MLS is the consistency and history that comes along with it,” said Fortier. “Being able to actually see the entire history of a property through time—when it was listed, the expiration, etc.—and being able to carry that thread through is a really rich experience.”

Jed Garfield, managing partner at Leslie J. Garfield Company, said the biggest benefit would be having power over the data that belongs to the brokerages in the first place, instead of handing over that power to real estate portals like StreetEasy.

“We need to flatten the playing field and not hold onto our information,” said Garfield. “It needs to be shared, but we don’t need to be idiotic and share it with the wrong people who will sell it back to us. Let’s shut it off and be done with it.”

Lastly, increased relevancy. Consumers increasingly have access to more and more data. Brokerages need to be able to provide an abundance of information in order to provide value to the consumer.

“We are completely inefficient and it’s not anybody’s fault but the firms, and that’s why the aggregators are winning,” said Bess Freedman, a panelist and CEO of Brown Harris Stevens. “We have another opportunity to get control of our information. If we all work together, that makes a very efficient system.”

Sam DeBord, CEO of the Real Estate Standards Organization, and a panelist, agreed that collaboration should be the next step toward standardizing real estate data in NYC.

“We’ve got to get across this hurdle of in-fighting about these things in our past,” said DeBord. “It’s not about what you can do, but that we all agree that these are the standards to which we can compete and deliver better value to our agents and to our consumers.”

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Liz Dominguez is RISMedia’s associate content editor. Email her your real estate news ideas at