Expect more real estate tech acquisitions, consolidation

Commentary: Zillow overdue for a big move?

Summer’s nearly here. And by all accounts the spring homebuying season seems to have been a resounding success.

So, now that the sun is finally out, how have the real estate portals been fairing in the six weeks since my last report card?

Mergers and acquisitions image via Shutterstock.
Mergers and acquisitions image via Shutterstock.

Let’s run down the list.

Again, I feel the need for a full disclaimer: The grades I’m assigning have absolutely no mathematical or scientific basis to them. But the rules I have for myself in this exercise are simple — no two companies can have the same grade, which forces me to be a bit ruthless at times.

Zillow

Zillow’s had a good run with a sweep of the Webbys in the real estate category and record Q1 earnings. On the product side, they announced new Zillow Market Snapshots, which give a quick overview of market conditions for about two dozen metro areas. Finally, Android users got a treat, too, as the Zillow app now pushes driving directions to nearby favorites.

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Grade: B+

Zillow’s team and its board have to be happy with their growth and numbers. But still, I have this nagging sense that, on the product side, Zillow is overdue for a big move. Personally, I want to be blown away again. I know they have it in them.

Trulia

Big month for Trulia. They bought Market Leader for $355 million in a mix of cash and stock. Oh, and also found time to launch some cool new visualizations and build an app for something that you stick on your face.

Grade: A+

The Market Leader deal is huge and, while it’s certainly not the first time a portal has bought a real estate software provider, the ripples will continue to be felt throughout the industry over the coming months. Expect more acquisitions and greater consolidation among vendors, and lots of chatter as brokers start to come to grips with what this merged entity means.

And while the company deserves kudos for scooping the rest of its competitors, I’m not sold on the Google Glass demo.

Realtor.com

Move also announced its Q1 numbers and showed positive growth. In a surprising move last month, they stepped back in the mergers and acquisitions (M&A) ring and acquired the consumer app Doorsteps. Terms of that deal were not released, however. They also added a Rentals app to their suite of mobile products.

Grade: A-

The Doorsteps acquisition was a pleasant surprise, showing that the company still has the vision to see laterally into the industry and pick out complementary pieces to its portfolio. I expect the acquisition war to continue at a good clip through 2013 and into 2014, as all sides continue to stack their teams.

The biggest news this go around, however, certainly has to be the battle cries that came out of NAR’s midyear conference to unshackle the portal and let it enrich its user experience to compete more effectively with its peers. We’ll wait and see how that goes down.

Redfin
Redfin expanded into its fifth new market this year, moving into California’s Inland Empire. It also released its redesigned Home Value Tool, a Web app that lets consumers create their own mini-CMAs using live MLS data.

Grade: A

The Home Value Tool may very well be one of the most disruptive tools I’ve seen recently. Putting that real MLS sales data in the hands of consumers is not only buzzworthy but, I think, ends up a net positive for the company. Redfin knows that more educated buyers and, now, sellers means its agents can be more productive, since they simply act as order-takers and deal-closers. This might not sit well with a traditional agent’s notions of value, but I think the company is betting this will move the needle over time.

That’s it for the big four that I’ve been tracking. Any others I should be keeping an eye on?

Joel Burslem is with 1000watt, a marketing, design and strategy firm focused on real estate. Reposted with permission from 1000watt blog.


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