Real estate search portal Zillow boosted website and mobile traffic to new highs and added nearly 5,000 real estate agents to its subscriber base in the first three months of the year, helping the company surprise analysts with a 70 percent jump in revenue from a year ago, to $66.2 million.
Those gains came at a price, as a massive 2014 consumer marketing campaign helped drive a $6.3 million first-quarter loss– less than analysts had predicted. Investors bid up Zillow’s share price in after-hours trading, helping the company’s share price recoup some of the 9 percent loss for the day.
At 52,968, the number of Zillow “Premier Agent” subscribers at the end of March was up 56 percent from a year ago. The portal grew its subscriber base by 4,654 agents in the first 90 days of the year, or about 52 a day.
Each of those agents was also spending more — $286 a month, on average, compared with $259 at the same time a year ago. Nearly 60 percent of new Premier Agent sales in January, February and March came from existing Premier Agents buying more advertising, the company said.
Revenue generated by Premier Agent subscriptions was up 77 percent from a year ago, to $46.2 million. Display ad revenue was up 62 percent to $12.9 million, and revenue from Zillow’s Mortgage Marketplace grew 45 percent, to $7.1 million.
Average monthly unique users during the first quarter were up 51 percent from a year ago, to 70.7 million, with mobile and Web traffic peaking in March at nearly 77 million. Traffic continued to grow into April, with close to 79 million monthly uniques.
Sales and marketing expenses were also up 76 percent, to $35.9 million, as Zillow embarked on a $65 million 2014 TV, radio and online advertising campaign.
“We’re continuing to ramp our marketing investment, and plan to be firing on all cylinders through the busy spring and summer home shopping season, which also helps increase value and opportunity for our agent and broker partners,” Zillow CEO Spencer Rascoff said in a statement.
Editor’s note: This story has been updated to remove an erroneous reference to Zillow’s first quarter loss exceeding analysts’ expectations. Analysts polled by Thompson Reuters expected the company would lose 24 cents per share, or 50 percent more than the 16 cents per share loss the company reported.