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The Manhattan real estate market is unlike any other, but not in a good way. That was the consensus at “The Uniqueness of Manhattan: Brokers Weigh In,” a forum held at the 11th Annual NYC Real Estate Expo, hosted by the NYC Network Group on October 24 at the New York Hilton Midtown.

Moderated by John Featherston, president and CEO of RISMedia, the forum touched on the greatest frustration the New York City marketplace has faced: a fractured handling of data. Panelists came together to discuss the biggest challenges, as well as the opportunities—all in agreement that a solution needs to happen not now, but yesterday.

“I have no dog in this fight as I work outside the city, but I wanted to participate because I don’t understand why Manhattan is the only place without a central MLS—I just don’t get it,” said panelist Joseph Rand, chief creative officer of Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate Rand Realty.

Unlike other markets where data gets pulled from a central MLS, Manhattan has multiple independent systems that provide data. Because of this, brokers are pulling from different data sets for market reports, rendering information inaccurate, and forcing agents to search through various platforms to get a sense of the overall listing landscape.

Even then, the picture isn’t clear.

“The function of the brokerage is to provide its agents and their clients with every single thing that they need to be successful,” Rory Golod, general manager of Compass New York, emphasized.

Golod added that by failing to provide even the most fundamental service to agents and consumers—a clear understanding of the marketplace, which hinges on accurate data—brokerages are making themselves irrelevant.

“Failing to improve the data situation in Manhattan has put agents at a disadvantage,” said Golod.

Part of that disadvantage is continuing to do business with data aggregators such as StreetEasy and Zillow, panelists agreed, as these companies are not only charging brokers for their own data, but they are setting a precedent with buyers that the brokerage is inefficient.

“We keep giving them our money. If we stop, things could change,” said panelist Heather McDonough Domi, chairperson of the New York Residential Continuum (NYRAC).

Brokers and agents should be educating the consumer, she said. Right now, sellers don’t understand that when they’re asking their listing to be put up on StreetEasy, the “call the listing agent” button doesn’t actually lead people to the listing agent, McDonough Domi stated.

“The reality has to do with these outside aggregator sites forcing us to step up, and if we don’t, we are going to be disintermediated,” she said.

According to panelist Richard Haggerty, CEO of the Hudson Gateway Association of REALTORS®, brokerages need to come together to solve this problem—something that has been a consistent obstacle in the fight for centralized data.

“I believe it should be one MLS with one of the strongest-facing websites you can have. That’s the kind of service we need to provide to the brokers to help them take control of their market and their listings to better service the consumer,” said Haggerty. “I think we still have time to do this, but it’s going to need a collective effort.”

Jim Speer, CEO of New York MLS, LLC, sees this progress finally culminating in a workable solution with OneKeyTM MLS.

“We are going to help with this ‘data sucks’ problem,” said Speer. “The more times a consumer can come to you because you have access to the data they want seems like a win/win/win down the block. It’s definitely not too late.”

Featherston implored those in the audience to take it upon themselves to participate, after a show of hands emphasized one thing: Manhattan agents and brokers want centralized and accurate data, but they haven’t been communicating that to their own leadership teams.

“If you want to make a very big leap into your own future and help ensure the success of your business going forward, you should look into how your firms are participating, or are not participating, in this MLS process,” Featherston told the audience. “You have to be driving change. You have to be the resource, improving your value proposition on a consistent basis. If you don’t, someone else will step in.”

The 2019 NYC Real Estate Expo welcomed roughly 4,000-plus industry practitioners and hosted several panels, discussing the most significant challenges and opportunities in today’s New York City real estate market.

“It was a very successful show. We are very blessed and happy about it. Panels discussed everything between energy, banking, technology, new rent laws, the MLS, and more,” said Anthony Kazazis, director of the NYC Network Group. “We even had coaching and education going on in the morning, and podcasting and video interviewing in the afternoon. It’s truly a networking event for everyone in the industry.”

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

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