Duane LeGate

Duane LeGate

Commissions, Inc. CEO Duane LeGate is a humble guy, but a rich one.

According to my sources, the sale of of his company to Fidelity Financial went for somewhere in the $250 million range, a hefty price tag for a real estate software company that is only five years old.

Not quite a mega Powerball lottery win, but close enough. The 50-something entrepreneur built a highly-prized company culture that was equally profitable and growing like a weed, attracting the interest of many buyers. Fidelity got the prize.

Also stalking Commissions, Inc. were other “strategic buyers” and some private equity companies.

While experts say it is not a hyper-active M&A market, buyers and sellers are poised for more and more deals in the coming months, according to my banking sources.

One thing that has changed: There are more buyers than just Zillow and Move. Other strategic players like Fidelity Financial are active in the market.

Fidelity has not only placed bets on technology companies but also traditional brokers, like Pacific Union and at least one in L.A. that I could not sniff out the details on.

Other strategics allegedly active are Serrent, CoreLogic, Black Knight and Constellation.

And do not discount real estate outsiders. Expedia bought HomeAway. You never know —Google and Facebook may get active in this sector — but I have no scoop on that one. And there are many others who always eye the real estate market with envy.

The times are great for real estate tech companies who might entertain an exit. You have big services companies, portals, large brand names and tech up-and-comers who want to find solid acquisitions.

Also changing the landscape is the entrance of private equity firms who believe the housing market is turning (finally) and will create opportunity for already growing companies like Commissions, Inc.

The reason LeGate got such a big valuation is the number of private equity firms swarming around the Florida-based company.

The franchise companies, at least Realogy, is also expected to make further moves beyond the Zip Realty deal two years ago.

My gut tells me Realogy is eying the indie broker segment, not necessarily to fold them into one of the brand franchises that they generally do, but to be get a beachhead in this growing segment.

Out of the ashes of the 2008 Lehman collapse, a new generation of indie brokers are emerging, who are good at branding, culture, collaboration and smart on technology. And they are often focused on millennial customers and agents, customer service and better servicing their agents. They often invest or partner with local tech firms and are building out their own applications, bots and APIs. The owners are often younger and represent of the old model.

They are not cookie-cutter franchise brands.

Companies like Hawaii Life, @properties in Chicago and Climb in San Francisco come to mind.

Funding for tech startups is also surging with $1.7 billion invested last year for commercial and residential and it is on fire this year as well. Companies like Boomtown, Redfin, Placester and Compass have all done recent rounds in excess of $20 million.

This may not the best time to sell your house, but it is a great time to sell your real estate technology company.

Email Brad Inman

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