A Florida developer has turned to a new online marketing push as competition for buyers grows tighter and increasingly Web-based due to many of those buyers coming from overseas.
The St. Joe Co., which owns about 500 miles of waterfront land in northwest Florida, has entered an agreement with SecondSpace Inc. to market its properties and communities across the company’s real estate Web sites.
SecondSpace, a Bellevue, Wash.-based Internet startup backed with venture funding, in July launched two real estate Web sites targeting the growing vacation-homes market.
With LandWatch.com and ResortScape.com, the company aims to connect people to their next second home or land for sale and also to provide information about local services in the towns where their properties are located.
For St. Joe, the decision was driven by the company’s desire to reach beyond its traditional pool of buyers, which generally have come from Alabama, Texas and Georgia, said Jerry Ray, senior vice president at St. Joe. “We wanted to reach out to folks in the Midwest, Northeast and even abroad. More and more of Florida’s real estate business is centered in Europe,” he said.
Working with SecondSpace will give St. Joe access to consumers using the Web company’s search technology, which offers up properties that are both perfect matches and near-matches to a person’s query.
St. Joe will also have access to data and analytics about consumers searching for their properties at the SecondSpace Web sites, which Ray said the company intends to tap when starting new developments.
In the first phase of the partnership, hundreds of St. Joe properties are now available for sale on ResortScape.com and LandWatch.com, the companies said.
St. Joe is a publicly held company based in Jacksonville, Fla., and is one of the state’s largest real estate developers.
The deal is among the first major industry partnerships for SecondSpace, which was founded in 2006 by two Internet veterans — former Classmates executive Anil Pereira and former Microsoft technical leader Alok Sinha. The team received $6.5 million in venture capital from Ignition Partners and an undisclosed partner.
The second-home market includes some 43.8 million owners, according to Census Bureau data, and SecondSpace hopes to fill a niche with what it calls a “lifestyle marketplace” to give consumers all the information they need for their “home away from home.”
Second-home sales accounted for 36 percent of all existing-home and new-home sales in 2006, down from a 40 percent share in 2005, according to the National Association of Realtors’ latest research. Investment-home sales dropped from a 28 percent share in 2005 to a 22 percent share in 2006, while vacation-home sales rose from a 12 percent share in 2005 to a 14 percent share in 2006.