News Corp’s pending acquisition of realtor.com operator Move Inc. for $950 million in cash is “extremely exciting news in that it shows an eagerness for investment in real estate technology that expands far beyond the usual suspects,” says Edward Berenbaum, president of Washington, D.C.-based Century 21 Redwood Realty.
“Consolidation of the No. 1 and 2 portals is one thing, but this deal restructures the boundaries of who’s playing in our market,” Berenbaum said, refering to Zillow’s planned acquisition of Trulia. “Even though Yahoo Real Estate has traditionally received a ton of traffic, Zillow powers their search. Now we are looking at a situation where the third-largest portal, which bears the sacredly protected Realtor name, is powered by the same people that bring us ‘The Simpsons,’ ‘The O’Reilly Factor’ and The Wall Street Journal.”
The acquisition could aggravate resentment that some real estate agents feel toward the big listing portals, said Derek Eisenberg, founder of Hackensack, New Jersey-based Continental Real Estate Group.
Some agents resent that Zillow, Trulia and realtor.com attract huge audiences largely by providing consumers with access to information about homes on the market that’s collected by real estate brokers and agents. The portals then charge agents for marketing themselves on the sites. Eisenberg said he pays realtor.com $1,500 a month to feature his listings.
“I think that there was resentment that Move [operates realtor.com] in the first place” instead of the National Association of Realtors, Eisenberg said. Move operates realtor.com under the terms of an agreement with NAR that dates back to 1996. “Now a gigantic conglomerate has bought it.”
In addition to running realtor.com, Move aggregate a good chunk of the listings that appear on Zillow, Trulia, and other “third-party” websites not operated by real estate brokers and agents through its ownership of syndicator ListHub. Move acquired Point2’s syndication business in September, positioning ListHub as a distributor of nearly 85 percent of all listings.
While Move has always maintained that it would not use its control over listing syndication against realtor.com competitors, News Corp might take a different tack, said Justin Levitch, president of Washington, D.C.-based Real Living | At Home.
“Maybe Move’s stance on not pulling the plug on ListHub to Zillow will be different with News Corp,” Levitch said.
Berenbaum said that from a competitive standpoint, he doesn’t see any immediate direct implications for real estate brokers and agents.
“Real estate portals and real estate brokerages operate in related but separate markets. Portals make their money advertising our listings and driving leads our way,” Berenbaum said.
“This deal should breathe some excitement into the realtor.com platform, which has lost market share to Zillow and Trulia in recent years, and open up some additional channels for us to market our listings. As agents and brokers, the more people that see our listings, the more leads that come our way and the more options we can provide our clients. This is going to be fun to watch.”
Editor’s note: This story has been updated to correct that Move acquired Point2’s syndication business, not Point2 itself.