Who’s Winning The Hamptons Search Engine Race?

In the tech savvy world of Real Estate search engines, mobile apps, and listing platforms, it appears there’s a horse race of sorts, where one could end up the winner and no one wants to come in last.  

The Triple Crown would be defined as a) gaining the market share of clients, b) retention of your current base of buyers and sellers, and c) holding onto your prize jockey’s or sales agents because without them there’s no hope of winning.

In the high end luxury home market there’s a lot at stake.

So, any bets on who will win the holy grail of Real Estate based search engines, and file sharing services?

If this were a horse race…  

The MLS shot out of the starting gate with a slight lead providing a simple and efficient way to organize information to share among the real estate community while providing a portal to online consumers. Consumers benefited by browsing cursory information about properties and the surrounding neighborhoods while drawing their own comparisons, valuations and conclusions. 

HREO took the lead after that and held on tight for past 12 years as they continued to build a strong brand from agency & consumer alike. HREO/RealNet was a swift tool, connecting the listing product via the agent or agency to the consumer market. The system was streamlined and simple enough for any agent/real estate jockey to check a few boxes, upload photos and post. Once posted the alerts went out to the subscribers/agents that a new listing was now active & fast tracked for showings.   

But at last, a few new younger and shining horses entered the race with a fresh approach. Zillow, Trulia, Streetlinks, Realtor.com, and Redfin empowered the consumer with insights into neighborhood sales & rental comparables within the surrounding community. 

This was a huge tech breakthrough. Whereby the consumer and not exclusively the agent could get direct access to real estate data, estimates and a user friendly mapping system.

Each new system offered consumer alerts, tenacious information scrapping abilities (scrapping is a polite word for  “stealing”), listing facts, figures and small details wherever they can find it.

The e-rub (problem) and a well known fact, the information wasn’t in real-time and in most cases far off the mark. The consumer friendly feature like a “zestimate” empowered it’s user with an insider value track.  The concept of the “Zestimate” could have been a way to help level the playing field between the client and agent, but without accurate information it often created confusion and frustration.

Good or bad it gives the client the basic product information before entering a world they know little about.  

Another annoying issue we should mention for agents with rental listings is the new search engines still can’t figure out the monetary differences between a monthly summer or seasonal rental and a year-round rental.

What the other search engines did get right was the ability to create buyer “alerts” for the interested consumer. When something new hits the market in a desired neighborhood the consumer receives an email. They also figured out how to turn search information into ad revenue exploiting agents, agencies  & industry folks looking for qualified leads.

They made information stick and they made their consumer base loyal and coming back, creating ad click revenue. 

HREO & RealNet must have sensed the other search horses were gaining ground and with perfect timing stepped up their game by adding some cool features like OREX that married each new listing with their own version of special alerts. It also added some real time sales comps, and created a portal to add some limited town data. By all counts it appeared HREO / RealNet would continue ahead of the competing horses, at least in this segment of the market and at least for the time being.

However, nothing lasts forever in the tech world nor in the world of horse racing … 

More features, updates, and upgrades means more cost, higher subscription fees, and the constant need to keep up with the other breeds, as well as a demanding consumer.

With increased fees, a strong mix of agency/user dissatisfaction as well as competition constantly nipping at HREOs heals, an interesting development occurred. 

Sired by local competing agencies (currently 12) who decided they’ve had enough with the old nag, formed a syndicated service platform, a new horse breed was born. “EELE” the East End Listing Exchange is a local proprietary platform. … While this new horse is supposed to have all the bells, whistles, search & informational tools, it still needs a skilled jockey ( lots of user training) and it appears it doesn’t run well in the mud. In other words, it lacks AI to scrape, pull and extract the necessary informational tools. The inside stable talk from the Jockeys / agents is that it’s been slow out of the gate.

For instance, if you were a crazy buyer (fyi, all buyers are crazy), big time developer or a small time speculator searching for the best bargain south of the hwy you’d need a fast acting jockey to get around the track fast.

Bad analogies aside here’s what you’d need to stay one step ahead of the buying market:

A) You’d want to work with someone with lightening quickness out of the gate. In order to get the jump on the competition, you’d want all the listing info fast. Fast would be defined as from the time it takes the agent to get the seller to e-sign the disclosures, listing contract, approved photos, that’s when the listing would be launched to the public. The current systems aren’t seamless enough.

Also if an agency has an exclusive, you’d want the ability to have an 8 to 24 hour administrative hold period in order to get the news out to all your in-house agents as well as the neighbors, who have an interest in keeping the status quo of the property & neighborhood.  

Right now, the system forces the agent to do this manually without the full listing information in hand.

B) Alerts. After launching the listing information, within nanoseconds you’d want all of the pertinent information about the property and neighborhood handy for the buyer waiting for the hand-off. Decisions are not made in a snap, and at these price points, decisions are calculated based on comprehensive information.

C) If the system were smart, and offered an algorithmic AI component, then as soon as the listing information was uploaded and launched… information like Municipals searches (building code, tax, lien, and bankruptcy searches; real time sales comps, markets trends, sale & rental history, owner & neighbor data history) would be be specific and attached to the file. I’d want all my information to be in real time, and comprehensive, allowing me to arrive at accurate conclusions. 

The new agent is really a “TJ” or a Tech-Jockey. You ever notice jockeys are small, lightweight and tough as nails? Today’s agents need to be the same. 

The listing systems are a fast & tricky ride. All the population fields must be filled in or the file won’t launch from the gate. You have to be tech savvy enough to link the property correctly to all back ground fields. The agent must be fearless, because once all this information is algorithmically formulated or launched, brace yourself because within seconds of the launch you, your client, and everyone on the planet are going to know more about this property than you care to. 

Not to be a negative-Nelly but too much of the right technology could eventually put many agents out of a job.

As a brief afterthought…

There’s one such dark horse we should mention in this race, it’s Auction.com. What’s really scary about this freak.. is that it’s like a riderless horse. Once the listing info is imputed by the admins, the horse runs on it’s own. Auction.com wants their info scrapped, shared and stolen. Why? Because they want to entice as many people as possible to use their platform, and they’re payed on a flat-fee transactional basis.

The listing info is simply on a open-and-close lock system. If they don’t get their price or reserve, it simply goes back in service. You feed it and it runs. Technology allows you to see photos, videos or gain access to the lock box combination.

We’re not suggesting a person with a multi million dollar home would want a riderless horse managing their property but the AI tools are getting closer to a reality for real estate agents.

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  1. Robert Florio

    This article is replete with errors, and you ought to correct them. There was NO MLS before Realnet, there was only a proprietary system homegrown by a local computer company (East End Computers). Realnet was an add-on for the website HREO.com, and OREX was the part of the software that allowed the sharing. They started at the same time, well over a decade ago. Zillow and Trulia mostly get their Hamptons data from the feeds the local brokerages send. Some come from RealNet (at great cost), some come from corporate feeds, and some are entered manually by the local brokerage that does not have access to the other two.

    EELE is not just 5 brokerages, the current count of major brokerages is now 12. And while you may “speculate” that the system is hard to use, you would be wrong. It may be “different” than the older Realnet/OREX, but it is not more difficult to use. In fact, there are many features that arrived in EELE that previous listing systems never had.

    Also, EELE does not require the brokerages to scrape anything, it’s data, both current and historical, has been entered by the agents themselves, and considering that the brokerages on EELE today constitute over 90% of all the listings in the Hamptons, there really is no horse race.

    If you believe that Realnet, with its antiquated codebase is going to be something new on the horizon after Streeteasy works on it, I think I have a bridge I could sell you. The fact is, that almost all of RealNet’s data is now obsolete, since just last week most of the major brokerages firmly agreed to stop updating it, especially for OREX.

    There never was a race, just a transition. EELE is replacing RealNet, and while there may be other ideas out there, it will be a long time before something can compete with the market share that EELE, and its broker association, EEREA, have created.

    • Hamptons Speculator

      Thanks for sharing your insight Rob. We know you’re a pioneer and industry expert. We’ll correct the inaccuracy around the EELE brokerage count.

    • Mike Miller

      Well well, looks like Mr. Florio’s assessment of the situation was as accurate as the claims of EELE being “good” for the community.

      A piece of untested crap, foisted on agents in order for brokerages to make more money, period. It was never in the interest of agents.

      Any agent working for a brokerage that tried to force them into this system should question just how much these agencies have their best interests in mind.

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