The best home sale sites for NYC are The New York Times and Brownstoner because of their comprehensive listing inventory and the ability to contact listing agents directly.
Zillow, StreetEasy and Realtor.com have impressive search features, but do not make it to the top of our list because of the difficulty in contact the listing agent vs a random agent who has paid to advertise, and also because of incomplete listing inventory in the case of Zillow and StreetEasy.
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StreetEasy is a great, locally designed website originally made just for NYC and its unique inventory of co-ops, condos and townhouses. It’s easy to use and offers many great search features, such as an ability to search by an exact area that you can draw using their map search feature.
The selection of listings on StreetEasy is not as comprehensive as it used to be, primarily because of a recent tiff between its parent the Zillow Group and the Real Estate Board of New York (REBNY).
Essentially, the Zillow Group has refused to accept a direct feed from the REBNY RLS because doing so would entail agreeing to various rules imposed by REBNY.
Instead, StreetEasy continues to get its listings data from a variety of third party RLS data vendors and directly from several of the larger brokerages.
This conflict originated when StreetEasy changed its business practices in 2017 with the rollout of its advertising program “Premier Agent.” StreetEasy had attained such a local dominance in NYC and listing agents were so used to receiving inquiries directly that the rollout of this advertising program caused much distress in the real estate community.
All of a sudden, direct buyers had a much harder time reaching the actual listing agent, and could much more easily click a generic “contact agent” button which re-routed their inquiry to a “Premier Agent” who had paid to advertise.
The second change that caused much consternation in the NYC real estate community was StreetEasy’s decision to begin charging $3 a day per rental listing.
This caused the site’s rental listing inventory to drop by as much as half, although many of the listings arguably might have been spammy open listings.
Because of StreetEasy’s decision to aggressively monetize its leading position in NYC real estate advertising, many notable brokerages are still holding out today and refusing to syndicate their listings to StreetEasy until they agree to accept the REBNY RLS feed and play by REBNY’s rules.
As a result, before all of this conflict happened in 2017, we would have wholeheartedly recommended StreetEasy as the de facto winner of the best home sale sites in NYC. However, we believe they may have squandered their market lead and the trust they had with the real estate community. Furthermore, because their listing inventory is no longer comprehensive, we can no longer recommend them as the best home sale site in New York City.
The New York Times offers a comprehensive selection of listings for sale in NYC on its website. The interface is easy to use, and you can also filter for unique features like a property being sold For Sale By Owner.
We recommend using The New York Times to begin your search because this website currently doesn’t intercept and intermediate buyer inquiries. Unlike other sites, The New York Times will send your message to the listing agent when you inquire on a listing vs re-routing your inquiry to a random agent who paid the website money to intercept leads.
The New York Times is also a very popular newspaper, and as a result sellers can also list in the classified section of the physical newspaper in addition to its website.
Before the advent of StreetEasy, The New York Times had virtually a monopoly on real estate advertising in NYC. In fact, the NY Times used to get away with charging hundreds of dollars per listing, if purchased individually.
From our recollection, the NY Times wanted $140 for a two week listing, and more if you also wanted a snippet in the classified section of their physical newspaper. Brokers with lots of volume could purchase bulk rate plans starting at $1,000 a month.
However, the hallowed newspaper lost a lot of market share to new entrants like StreetEasy, Brownstoner and other popular sites which never charged brokers to list properties. Many brokers decided that it simply wasn’t necessary to list on the New York Times when they already had ample exposure elsewhere.
However, all of this changed in late 2017 when The New York Times decided to stop charging brokers to list on its site and go along with industry standards. In October of 2017, The New York Times started accepting the REBNY RLS data feed which meant that it automatically started showing all member brokers’ listings, without charging them for it of course.
As a result of this dramatic shift, The New York Times has become quite popular once again, and its popularity as one of the best home sale sites in NYC is now undisputed.
Realtor.com is a very popular search website nationwide which has recently targeted the NYC market. The website now offers specialized search filters for New York City, which appear only if you search for properties in the city.
For example, you can search for property types unique to NYC such as condos, co-ops, townhomes or condops. You can also search for building amenities unique to the NYC market such as doorman, elevator, laundry room, outdoor space, parking / garage and pets allowed.
This website is a great place to start your search since it takes a feed from REBNY and as a result has a comprehensive listing inventory. It may also be a great place to start if you’re looking to meet a buyer’s agent. That’s because these guys operate a similar advertising system to StreetEasy’s “Premier Agent” where buyer inquiries are intercepted and re-directed to random agents who have paid to advertise.
As a result, we think the website suffers from a critical fault because inquiries are not routed to the listing agent, but rather to a random agent who has paid to advertise on the listing. As a result, it would be irresponsible for us to recommend this site as one of the best home sale sites in NYC. However, this site has a lot of promise to make it to the top of our list should they change their advertising practices.
Brownstoner is a locally produced search website, originally focused on just the Brooklyn real estate market. It has since expanded to cover all areas of NYC and has a simple but easy to use interface.
A great advantage of searching with Brownstoner is that you actually get routed to the listing agent!
As of this writing, Brownstoner doesn’t attempt to re-direct listing inquiries to random agents who pay to play.
Much to the relief of listing agents across the city, the names of the listing’s rightful owners are prominently displayed with a large contact button.
We also think the layout and the interface at Brownstoner is done right. There are photos and floorplans at the top in just the right size, with a listing description right below. The site doesn’t clutter its property pages either. There are only a few key details that are included, such as the property type and monthly fees.
We heartily recommend Brownstoner as one of the best home sale sites for NYC, especially if you’re a beginner and just starting your search!
November 2019 Update
We can no longer sincerely recommend Brownstoner as one of the top home sale sites for NYC because it no longer appears to be comprehensive in terms of listings. We have heard anecdotally from our partner brokers that they have started charging a hefty monthly fee to have a brokerage’s listings feed sent to them. In contrast, most real estate portals will happily take the REBNY RLS feed directly for free.
Zillow is a very popular, established real estate search engine that’s used nationwide. Zillow owns StreetEasy which is focused on the NYC metro area; however, Zillow also offers its own search features for the city.
An interesting feature about Zillow is that listings are placed as tiny circles on top of a map. As a result, you can more easily only click on listings in the exact area you’re interested in.
Keep in mind, this feature can get overwhelming in densely populated areas like NYC where there are many listings. If you don’t filter your search criteria to whittle down the number of search results, this interface could become so cluttered as to be unusable.
Even though Zillow does operate the original version of Premier Agent, it seems that the listing agent is at least presented as one of typically four options for a buyer to contact. This is an improvement over other sites like StreetEasy or Realtor.com where there is only one contact agent button, which directs your inquiry to a random agent who paid to advertise.
We are mixed on Zillow primarily because it is not specifically geared towards the New York City market, but are pleased that it at least presents the listing agent as a contact option for interested buyers. While we cannot recommend this as one of the best home sale sites in NYC, it certainly has potential if the interface is improved and all interception of buyer inquiries ceases.
Disclosure: Hauseit® and its affiliates do not provide tax, legal, financial or accounting advice. This material has been prepared for informational purposes only, and is not intended to provide, and should not be relied on for, tax, legal, financial or accounting advice. No representation, guarantee or warranty of any kind is made regarding the completeness or accuracy of information provided. Hauseit LLC is a Licensed Real Estate Broker, licensed to do business in New York under license number 10991232340. Principal Office: 148 Lafayette Street, New York, NY 10013.