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Why Withhold Addresses for Internet Display?

What’s going on in Long Island?

Over the past week, we noticed that 66% of Long Island listings require prospective home-buyers to register on a website before seeing the address.

Why would a listing agent do this? These homes get 42% fewer online viewings on Redfin, and are on the market 54% longer.  And any listing that requires registration to show an address can hardly be found on Google.

It doesn’t make any sense. Perhaps some clients want privacy. But that can’t be the only reason. It seems like in most cases, rather than having to deal with every Tom, Dick and Harry off the Internet, listing agents decided to try to find a buyer through their own network, perhaps so they could earn both sides of the commissions.

We’ve seen a similar phenomenon in San Diego, where about 12% of listings aren’t published to the Internet at all. Is inventory-hoarding what’s really at work? What are the situations where limiting or entirely withholding Internet publication would increase sales?

I used to be more willing to concede that it might not matter much at the very high-end — where buyers may be more likely to handle everything face-to-face — but lately we’ve seen foreign investors browsing our site from Asia before coming to the U.S. to put millions in capital to work.

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  • 12 comments

    12 Comments so far

    1. Dave G August 11th, 2009 1:42 pm

      Glenn,

      What does this have to do with universal health care?

      Just kidding.

      I totally agree with you on this. I can’t imagine that a seller would be happy to find out that their agent is doing everything possbile to hog a deal. No one can believe it is in their best interests to “hide” their property from perspective buyers.

      I think it is unethical, unless expressly requested by the seller.

    2. Dave G August 11th, 2009 1:46 pm

      *prospective…oops.

    3. Benjamin Ficker August 11th, 2009 2:09 pm

      From the seller’s side: When it is soooo easy to find the information you want online these days, why be the idiot who still blocks the address from being found? Wolfnet (the IDX that many KW agents have) will place the home on the map, yet you still have to register to see the address. How stupid is that? (I believe that you can change that, but it was the default when they first launched it at KW).

      From the buyer’s agent side: I can’t tell you how many buyers I’ve worked with who decided to not waste my time at a home because they drove by it already.

    4. Al Lorenz August 11th, 2009 2:54 pm

      Greg,

      I think it is just the old school mentality of thinking they’re going to get more people to pick up the phone and call them. I think they’re wrong, and they actually get fewer calls. But, I guess its their IDX for now.

    5. Bill Ruppert August 11th, 2009 7:49 pm

      Some agents will do anything to get both sides of a transaction. This is the root of a lot of the evils in real estate, imho.

    6. Ki August 11th, 2009 7:50 pm

      I am seeing fewer and fewer agents do this. I don’t know if its the agents that are doing this or the clients. I have seen clients that want to sell their house but don’t want to market it (don’t want a sign, want 4 hours notice etc). And don’t really want anyone in there house because they are worried someone might pocket something in their house. I could see them not wanting the address on a public site for some strange reason.

    7. Don Reedy August 11th, 2009 8:20 pm

      Glenn,

      Interesting post, and I read through the links at Redfin leading up to this.

      Is it possible, just possible, that you’re seeing this situation through the eyes of a marketer, and not through the dispassionate eyes of another marketer? Let me explain.

      You, as Redfin, want eyeballs. You want, and need, as many as you can get, because the business proposition your bring requires it.

      Some agents, unlike Redfin, don’t want eyeballs. For them, eyeballs mean competition, and that’s not what they seek.

      After years of reading Greg’s posts about NAR, their criminal conspiracies, etc., I have come to think of the real estate business as separate, competely separate, from the profession. Of course those of us who seek higher ground, the greater good, a level playing field, excellence and transparency are eager to have walls broken down, education and information reigning supreme, and the informed client as the basis of our business.

      But, alas, NAR seeks the best for itself, the agents they serve, and not the clients of those agents. And, yes, there are plenty of agents that simply operate their business for profit, not for any other purpose.

      Will “revealing” their chicanery change the course of the real estate industy? I think not. Here in San Diego, where I practice, it is commonly understood how and why a small but active number of brokers and agents manipulate the listings from which they derive their compensation. Honestly though, Glenn, I have stopped being bothered by the thugs on the corner. I simply get a bloody nose once in a while, take some alley’s on other days, and always, always focus on the customer….not the crooks.

      So, my Northwest compatriot, continue to work on the best customer experience, and eventually Google will catch up. Continue to make every eyeball experience the best it can be, and don’t worry even one more minute about the 10, 20 or even 35% of the eyeballs you aren’t getting. Sure, 70+% of all buyers start their search, but where they travel, who they travel with, and their final destination really depends on the travel agent’s acumen.

      Tickets, anyone?

    8. Michael Fisher August 12th, 2009 10:19 am

      It does not matter that intermediary Bots post incomplete information that was not properly filtered to sites that serve only to drive eyeballs, increase web presence and impress Venture Capitalists. I believe my job is to bring qualified buyers and the agent they chose, with an offer acceptable to my sellers. I am marketing the seller’s home, using signs, lockbox, ads and web postings, as both of us agreed upon contractually. Other potential sellers notice the results of a quick sale at a good price and list their home with me. It only matters to them that I did what I was hired to do.

    9. Glenn Kelman August 12th, 2009 11:40 am

      @Michael Fisher, how does withholding the address help your client? Is it possible that it hurts your client?

      @Don Reedy, keep up the good fight. The thugs, if that’s what they are, never last…

    10. Erik Reilly August 13th, 2009 7:26 am

      Glen,

      IMHO I think you give way too much credit to Long Island real estate agents. Many are still waiting for the real estate listings to be printed, bound and delivered to the office. To think that they are hiding the address to try to get both side of a transaction gives many agents and agencies too much credit. The MLS here on Long Island has, as the default, “do you want to display address”? as NO. Many either turn in paperwork to an administrator in the office (who enters all the data and does not care) or isn’t aware that the option of showing the address exists.

      There are some great Long Island real estate agents out there, and I love when I get the opportunity to deal with them.

    11. David Losh August 14th, 2009 8:07 am

      I do a lot of on line marketing. What I found is that area specific is better than a net to a thousand fish.

      The best example is of a web company who gets calls from New York. The chances of conversion are slim. I have met people from “out of town” and here for the week end. My obligation is to my client so I accomodate on line prospects.

      It’s getting to be more and more about the shopping than about purchasing. Qualification gets more remote. If I list an Open House on the internet I get more people in the house than driving by.

      Actually it’s kind of a long list of why people would prefer to market a property locally than throw out a net beyond a point of interest.

    12. Sue Zanzonico August 16th, 2009 1:07 pm

      Unfortunately, the MLS feed that is provided to my IDX host doesn’t offer addresses, so I have little choice in that area. We also do not have a mapping features which I really miss…it would be great to be able to pull up a whole section and see all the homes on the market in that area.