Hoping to gain ground on its massive competitor Streeteasy, Urban Digs is improving its platform with input the tech company gleaned from a few of the top realtors in New York City.
Noah Rosenblatt, founder and CEO at Urbandigs, fully recognizes the force that is Streeteasy, and he admits that it’s “still the place to go” when consumers are looking for real estate in New York City. But, he said, the behemoth property search engine doesn’t offer the best experience for the buyer, the seller or the agent.
“I’ve spoken to a lot of consumers,” Rosenblatt said. “Everyone is saying the same thing. It’s completely consensus now, StreetEasy has shortcomings.”
The selling of leads and the overabundance of expired or inaccurate data is at the root of that disillusion, according to Rosenblatt. He said UrbanDigs is offering its clientele exceptional tools and a more efficient overall search experience, and they will never allow the “re-routing” of inquiries and leads, a hot-button topic throughout the real estate community.
“I’m very philosophically against that whole thing,” he said. “I think that a listing page should belong to the exclusive listing agent who was exclusively hired to promote that listing.”
Pleasing the realtor is paramount to the future success of UrbanDigs. The company has spent two years gathering suggestions from any of the 10’s of thousands realtors at a few large firms the tech company has enterprise accounts with. But most recently, they’ve handpicked a dozen or so of the top agents and real estate teams in the city. The best agents most specific requests repeatedly overlap and converge with one another, Rosenblatt said, adding that 80-90% of the most-common suggestions would be implemented during the next 3-4 months.
Douglas Elliman’s Espinal/Adler team is one of the groups UrbanDigs works closely with in their effort to refine its platform. Espinal/Adler partner Marie Espinal said the implementation of realtor-side wants and needs would undoubtedly improve the consumer experience simultaneously, especially the time-saving efficiencies built into the platform. UrbanDigs automated menial realtor tasks like registering for an open house, designed to free-up an agent’s time.
“It’s not just about our time,” Espinal said. “It’s about our client’s time. Their time is valuable too.”
Espinal isn’t necessarily opposed to StreetEasy’s approach to monetizing its site through the sale of leads. In fact, she pointed out that most successful brokers needed to incorporate the search engine’s premier agent strategy to stay competitive. She and partner Jeff Adler said consumers can become frustrated or confused when they think they’ve phoned a specific property’s listing agent only to realize they’ve reached a realtor that isn’t connected to that property at all.
“We want our buyers to know about that,” Adler said. “And we want them to understand the differences in the user experience for each platform.”
StreetEasy is still a phenomenal tool, Espinal said, but the re-routing of leads has degraded the site’s overall transparency.
“At some point, StreetEasy flipped the other switch, and became an engine to generate leads and sell them,” Espinal said. “That was always the endgame.” Now she offers specific advice: “If you have a broker, and you don’t want to get called by 25 other brokers, do yourself a favor and have your broker go to whichever search engine they use, and let them run the appointments for you.”
UrbanDigs first major update amongst the other “finishing touches” it plans on implementing this year is the addition of a “Buildings Page” that will allow users to analyze and compare buildings against others like it in a target neighborhood or even individual units in a specific building. That update is scheduled for January 30.
COO John Walkup said the site’s data, and its charts and reports will always be what sets UrbanDigs apart from its competitors. They’ve written 600,000 lines of programming code just to enable their custom charts, and they offer 10 different types of reports and can focus on each individual neighborhood in the city. When properly interpreted, according to Rosenblatt, each report’s data would allow an agent to quickly become a market expert and share that expertise with their client.
Analyzing and interpreting the available data is up to each individual agent though. “If you’re a producing agent, using UrbanDigs is like Kerosene on a fire,” Walkup said. “But if you don’t have the experience, and you don’t know how the market works, it’s like pouring kerosene on sticks.”