COO, MICHAEL SHAPOT TEAM
An MLS Keeps Everyone Honest
“In this business, you either co-broke, or go broke.”
It’s as simple as that to Daren Debel, COO of the Michael Shapot Team at Compass in New York City. To sell real estate in Manhattan, it’s a matter of cooperation and competition. But all too often, Debel says, the very thing that would make the market more efficient and dynamic, accurate data, makes it much harder to succeed than it has to be.
“If you’re a successful agent in Manhattan, you know that a lot of agents play games with data all the time,” Debel says. “They game the status of listings, so you can’t be sure whether it’s really on the market or not. I spend way too much time chasing down the truth. It’s like there aren’t any real rules.
“When I search, I just don’t see status changing like it should — so you see tons of listings that shouldn’t be on the system that are,” Debel continues. “But what agents don’t realize when they play games with status, is that they’re not only wasting time, but wrecking the professional image of agents who are honest.”
The Wild West
Debel says that Manhattan is a lot like the Wild West — except it’s perhaps one of the most important markets in the world, and there’s no logical reason why its data hasn't been corralled.
When Debel started in the business in 2007, his firm at the time used OLR, which ultimately connected to RLS. But OLR, for all of its deep data about Manhattan listings, isn’t in the business of policing it. And until recently, RLS could not enforce accuracy either.
Brokers could, and still do, use listing status as a marketing tool to attract clients.
“You see it all the time,” Debel says. “I’ll call a broker and ask about an apartment, and they’ll tell me it closed weeks ago when it’s still marked ‘active’ in the RLS. When I ask why, they’ll say they’re trying to market to everyone else in the building and want people to think they have listings.”
Debel says the practice makes him look uninformed to his clients, and it’s another reason that many clients feel that brokers are less reputable than used car salesmen.
“I spend way too much time confirming basic details,” says Debel. “It’s a lot of bait and switch, and it’s amplified by the lack of inventory. But what these agents don’t realize is that we’re in a shifting market. It’s a skills market these days, because consumers are smart and shop around. You can’t and shouldn’t compete by manipulating data. You either provide the service and expertise, or you don’t do business.”
Debel says he pays the cost of data manipulation every day.
“It affects me when I can’t tell a buyer whether a property is truly available. They go to StreetEasy — a public site everyone knows, where there are basically two statuses, active and closed — and they want to see it,” Debel explains. “But then when I look at OLR/RLS, it’s in contract with an accepted offer. My integrity is in question with my buyers.”
Would an MLS help Manhattan?
Debel says a real MLS, with enforced rules and compliance, would change Manhattan for the better.
“A real MLS helps honest agents succeed and takes dishonest agents out of the equation,” Debel says. “I’ve worked in a real MLS and it was remarkable. You could count on the data. There weren’t any games. You could just do business.”
Debel says that the best brokers in Manhattan have nothing to fear from working on an MLS that fines brokers for incorrect status or incomplete listings.
“It will be a mixed bag if there are fines, and I’m sure people will complain. But the cream rises to the top,” says Debel. “The people who are doing good business and are ethical will want the rules and fines. Good agents won’t care about fines because they’re doing business the right way. It won’t affect us.”
But, Debel says, bad agents will be forced out. “It will keep everyone honest.”
Brokerages shouldn’t be afraid of working in a real MLS either.
Resistance from the Big Brokers
“I find it funny that the two largest firms in Manhattan are members of MLSs in other markets, including HGMLS and MLSLI,” Debel says. He has a theory about why some major players have purposely kept an MLS out of Manhattan.
“They think they’ve got an edge right now because they have more than half of the listings in the city, and a deep well of data about them,” Debel explains. “But here’s what’s funny. The data that they want to hold secret isn’t actually listing data.”
Debel explains that it’s not that they don’t want to share the list price or status.
“What they have is insider information about the building amenities. It’s their ‘vault,’” Debel says. “It’s got everything they’ve collected over the years, like offering plans, and that’s their competitive edge. But all of that stuff? That won’t end up in an MLS anyway, so what’s the big deal?”
Debel thinks that many big brokers have a fundamental misconception of how an MLS works, and how it would work in Manhattan.
“An MLS makes it possible for brokers to do more business because they have accurate data,” Debel declares. “It’s for the 10 percent who are doing 90 percent of the business. It’s for the people who are running Manhattan real estate.”
“It’s for the 10 percent who are doing 90 percent of the business. It’s for the people who are running Manhattan real estate.”