Fast-growing Chicago-based brokerage @properties revealed Tuesday that it has acquired Suburban Jungle, a company that helps consumers choose communities and promises high-quality leads to agents.
Suburban Jungle described itself in a statement Tuesday as a “technology and advisory firm that offers pre-search consultation services.”
In a phone conversation with Inman, Alison Bernstein — founder and president of the company — said interested consumers typically engage with Suburban Jungle when they’re looking to move from a larger city to a more suburban area. Those consumers either fill out an online questionnaire or talk to a Suburban Jungle strategist, and then via the company’s app get a narrowed-down list of communities that meet their various requirements.
Bernstein added that many suburbanizing consumers are faced with hundreds of possible destinations, and her company’s goal is to pare down the options to just those that will suit a consumer best.
“The biggest question that people have is where to live,” she explained, “not necessarily what to live in.”
Agents who are interested in Suburban Jungle can sign up, get vetted, and then start receiving referrals from among the consumers using the firm. So for example, if a family wants to relocate from New York City to a quieter upstate community, they might talk to a strategist about commute times, local taxes, home prices and other factors. Then their contact information would go to an agent in the community that Suburban Jungle recommends.
The service is free to consumers and does not charge agents to sign up and start receiving leads. Suburban Jungle makes money by splitting commissions with agents when they close deals. The companies did not disclose the split rates. Thad Wong — @properties co-founder and co-CEO — told Inman the splits vary by market.
According to Bernstein, Suburban Jungle’s strategists are not real estate agents, which means they give consumers impartial consultations without worrying about selling property.
Wong said Suburban Jungle’s vetting process and relationship with consumers allows it to have an average 40 percent conversion rate, which Wong added is vastly higher than the industry average.
“In the business, when you see a 40 percent conversion rate that’s obviously enticing,” he added.
Acquiring Suburban Jungle, then, gives @properties a powerful referral and lead generation source right at a time when referrals are one of the most debated, and lucrative, features in real estate.
The companies did not disclose financial details of the deal.
Bernstein — who founded Suburban Jungle in 2004 — will stay on after the acquisition and continue running her firm. Wong said Suburban Jungle will also continue to operate autonomously, though @properties should have agents handling leads the newly acquired company produces.
Suburban Jungle currently operates in nine markets including New York City, Chicago, San Francisco, Boston, southern Florida and several major cities in Texas, among other metros. The company will work with any consumers in those markets, though Wong said it tends to draw from the luxury end of the spectrum.
The goal now is to leverage @properties resources to help expand Suburban Jungle even further, while also growing its technology platform.
Wong co-founded @properties in 2000 and since then the company has carved out a niche as a technology-oriented brokerage. Based in Chicago, the firm now has more than 4,000 agents in 65 offices across nine states. The company also made headlines earlier this year for launching its first franchise in Detroit, and then soon thereafter expanding franchise operations into Wisconsin.
Mike Golden, also a co-founder and co-CEO at @properties, ultimately described the new acquisition as a “marriage between two high-tech, high-touch companies that share a goal of introducing more consumer and agents to an amazing buy-side experience.”
“Certainly, there are synergies that can drive growth for both @properties and Suburban Jungle,” Golden continued in a statement, “but our main focus is supporting [Bernstein] and her team to make a great service even better.”