In an attempt to return to profitability, foreclosure data site RealtyTrac has trimmed its workforce by nearly 30 employees and is moving away from some media partnerships that drove traffic to the site but were deemed "not profitable."
RealtyTrac Senior Vice President Rick Sharga confirmed a report on the blog VendorAlley.com that the layoffs took place last week, calling the move a "surgical workforce reduction" that leaves the company with about 100 employees.
The layoffs — of about one-quarter of the company’s workforce — did not involve senior managers and took place on a selective basis across the company, Sharga told Inman News.
"We didn’t just take ‘X’ percent across the board," Sharga said. The layoffs took place in underutilized areas of the business, or where the company had "deeper bench support" so as not to affect "anything mission critical," he said.
According to online metrics company Hitwise, RealtyTrac’s vast database of foreclosed and bank-owned properties makes it one of the 20 most-visited real estate sites on the Web. But the site has steadily been losing market share in recent months, according to Hitwise’s monthly traffic reports.
Hitwise estimates RealtyTrac was the 18th most-visited Web site in the real estate category in August, with 0.9 percent of all traffic in the category. That’s down from a recent peak of 10th in November 2008, when the site captured 1.32 percent of traffic in the category.
According to Hitwise, RealtyTrac was the second most popular real estate site on the Internet for much of 2007, behind only Realtor.com.
Sharga said RealtyTrac has its own internal traffic numbers, but acknowledged traffic "is probably off its peak," which he attributed in part to a decline in home sales and in consumer credit-card spending. …CONTINUED
Users typically pay for the company’s subscription-based services with their credit cards, gaining access to the company’s vast database of bank-owned (REO) properties and homes making their way through the foreclosure process.
But Sharga said RealtyTrac is also being "a little more selective" about how it drives traffic to the site.
"We’ve been in some media deals that weren’t profitable to us," Sharga said. "They were delivering traffic, but not profitable traffic."
Sharga declined to name those deals. According to the company’s Web site, RealtyTrac provides foreclosure data and services to MSN Real Estate, Yahoo! Real Estate, HomeGain.com, Homes.com, Earthlink, Cox.com, Living Choices, The Wall Street Journal’s Real Estate Journal, and Primedia.
But "organic" traffic from search engines is RealtyTrac’s fastest-growing area, Sharga said.
"We’re ramping up on search — it’s a more cost-effective way at the end of the day to drive traffic," Sharga said.
The company is also diversifying its revenue stream, with programs like the RealtyTrac Agent Network, which connects homebuyers looking for REOs and short-sale opportunities with agents who advertise on the site. Sharga said about 8,500 agents are participating in the program, which is "a growing part of the business."
RealtyTrac also sees other opportunities for growth in advertising and sales of data to businesses like mortgage companies, hedge funds and housing analysts trying to project where housing markets are headed, Sharga said.
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