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Real Estate Board Debuts Listing Site

09/27/2007, By Theresa Agovino

Thursday launched, a site enabling homebuyers to view roughly half the properties for sale in Manhattan along with a smaller chunk of the properties available in the other boroughs.

Over the next two months, the board will spend roughly $300,000 promoting the site, which allows consumers to search criteria such as price, property type, number of rooms and neighborhood. Ads will appear on New York City buses starting this week and in local publications such as New York magazine beginning Oct. 3.

The trade group was hoping to create one-stop shopping for consumers looking for homes in New York. But several of the city’s largest brokerage firms including the Corcoran Group Inc., Prudential Douglas Elliman, and Bond New York Real Estate Corp. opted not to participate in the launch, although they could join later.

Whether they do or not will be crucial for the New York Times, which could lose a significant portion of its lucrative residential real estate advertising.

For example, Bellmarc Realty President Neil Binder says he spends “hundreds of thousands of dollars” annually in the Times. Moving his listings to the REBNY site would have lowered that to around $40,000. However, he doesn’t think the site will attract much traffic initially because it wasn’t marketed before the launch and he thinks people will still look to the Times for listings.

“I’m anxious to see how it is promoted,” says Mr. Binder.

Steven Spinola, the Real Estate board’s president, says it wouldn’t have made financial sense to promote the site before it was ready and that he’s confident that the skeptical firms will join “sooner rather than later.” He says he isn’t trying to compete with the Times.

Atco Residential Group founder John Wollberg says his company will pare back its advertising in the Times because the trade group’s site provides an inviting alternative for promotion. He says the Times’ real estate site is cluttered with ads from everything from developers to brokers that detract from the ads for the listed properties.

The board’s site does accept advertising but individual brokerage companies aren’t allowed to buy space. A moving company and a mortgage broker are among its advertisers.

“I’m not interested in having all those ads over my ad (for my listing),” says Mr. Wollberg. “I don’t like that.”

The site’s listing must comply with the ethics regulations of the Real Estate Board and Mr. Spinola says that benefits consumers. For example, regulations would require a listing to be removed immediately after it is sold so brokers couldn’t play “bait and switch” with consumers.

Brokerage firms need to pay an overall fee to list their properties on the site plus $100 for each of their brokers. Listings must be exclusive to the brokerage.

Mr. Spinola says that since building owners list their rental units with numerous brokerages, there aren’t many rental offering on the site. He says the board is working to lure more rentals

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