The VOW Debate Heats Up As Jury Still Out Regarding Privacy Issues

The recent Amy Tennery article in The Real Deal, Should brokerages take a ‘VOW’ of privacy has people talking a great deal about the arrival of VOW’s (Virtual office Websites) to the Manhattan real estate marketplace and whether or not the consumer’s privacy is being violated.

Real estate pros say that VOWs, also known as "Virtual Office Web sites," can give agents a backstage pass to their clients’ predilections. VOWs allow buyers to view an agent’s listings — and those belonging to other brokerages — all on the same Web page.

But VOWs present serious invasion of privacy issues and as a result can be a real turn-off to homebuyers, critics say.

VOWs can track your buying behaviors. For example, if a buyer tells a broker that she has a budget of $1.2 million, but the broker sees the buyer checking out $1.5 million listings on the company’s VOW, the broker could potentially push the buyer to make a larger purchase than she had talked about.

As most of you know, I’m a huge fan of technology, transparency and anything that makes the real estate industry more efficient and consumer friendly.  This is precisely why I embraced things like blogging and video before the masses.  It is also why I immediately embraced Matt Daimler’s Buyfolio (to which we at HPG and most of our buyer’s give a major thumbs up so far).  And of course it is precisely why I got so excited about our VOW.

It sounds like a great idea on the surface and indeed in my opinion it is…MOSTLY.  My buyers are now capable of searching all NYC listings data directly from The Heddings Property Group website. But, when I announced the unveiling of our AllAccessNYC service on March 12, I was unaware of just how much data was going to be farmed from my client’s searches.  It is for that reason that: 

I am announcing today that we have officially disabled access to ALL analytics features from our VOW.  So while our buyers maintain all the functionality of the search site, NO ONE at the Heddings property Group will be permitted to track searches in any way whatsoever.  

In an industry so laden with mistrust, I feel that it is absolutely imperative that our buyer’s privacy be protected.  With our AllAccessNYC site, we are indeed "VOWing" to respect and honor that privacy.

After all, If the lines of communication are so poor between our clients and us that we need to "spy" on them, then we should consider how we are operating our businesses and whether or not we are keeping the consumer’s best interest the priority. 


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