BAM Key Details:
- The real estate world is buzzing with news of an acquisition that would signify an open challenge to Zillow. The question: Will CoStar acquire Realtor.com?
- Three anonymous sources have spread the rumor that Rupert Murdoch is in talks to sell Move Inc, the parent company of Realtor.com, to CoStar Group.
The real estate world is buzzing with news of a potential acquisition that would signify an open and nationwide challenge to Zillow.
If so, it wouldn’t be the first time they poked the bear. As Byron Lazine said on this morning’s Hot Sheet:
When you’re talking about the residential real estate space, it’s hard to find bigger news than this.
While CoStar won’t comment on speculation, three anonymous sources have spread the rumor that Rupert Murdoch is in talks to sell Move Inc., the parent company of Realtor.com, to CoStar Group.
News of this hit Reuters on Tuesday (January 24, 2023), with some corroboration from News Corp., with the caveat that these talks don’t guarantee the acquisition will actually happen.
That said, CoStar’s acquisition of Realtor.com would further cement the commercial real estate giant’s position in the residential real estate space—especially after other acquisitions like Apartments.com and HomeSnap.
No one expects Zillow to take that as anything other than a challenge—which, to be fair, it is.
Not a newb in the residential real estate space
Led by Andy Florance, CoStar has spent over $2 billion on acquisitions since 2014, leveraging its resources to become a major player in residential real estate data over the past ten years.
In 2014, it bought Apartments.com—a major competitor for Zillow with apartment renters—for $585 million. In 2017, it bought rental listing site ForRent.com for $385 million.
Then, in 2020, it acquired HomeSnap—a residential property search portal—for $250 million.
CoStar’s current market cap, at $32 billion, is more than double what it was in 2018—and makes ZIllow’s $10.5 billion pale in comparison. In 2020, around the time it acquired HomeSnap, Florance used the size of the residential real estate market as his argument for branching out beyond the commercial arena.
The estimated value of commercial real estate assets in the U.S. is $16 trillion [while the residential sector totaled $27 trillion in assets.] With the new addition of clients and information …we are almost tripling the size of our addressable markets.
Who’s afraid of some competition?
It’s a given, at this point, that CoStar’s acquisition of Move Inc., and, by extension, Realtor.com, would intensify the conflict with the real estate industry’s top power players—including Zillow.
Doesn’t seem like that’s an issue for CoStar. After all, with its feet already firmly planted in the residential space, this seems like a natural next step.
The potential acquisition would value Move Inc. at $3 billion, according to Reuter’s report. Considering News Corp. bought Move Inc for $950 million in 2014, that’s a nice bump in value.
Acquiring Move about nine years ago gave News Corp. a chance to expand its digital real estate services outside its home base in Australia.
One scrapped proposal could leave more room for CoStar
According to Reuter’s Tuesday report, Rupert Murdoch scrapped a proposal to re-merge News Corp with its estranged twin, Fox Corporation. With shareholders balking at the merger, he ultimately decided not to move forward with it.
News Corp. owns an 80% stake in Move Inc., with the remaining 20% owned by digital real estate subsidiary REA, which News Corp. also controls.
In 2013, before News Corp bought Move, the latter’s revenues were at $227 million. Fast forward to the 2022 fiscal year, and revenues have reached $700 million.
Who can blame CoStar for taking notice and seeing its potential?
Top takeaways for real estate agents
Whatever your relationship with Zillow and your dominant attitude toward it, real competition tends to bring about improvements that might otherwise sit on the back burner.
So, if this acquisition by CoStar happens, chances are good both they and Zillow will be hard at work trying to win over agents and consumers with one new feature after another. After yesterday’s news of MLSs joining together to launch Nestfully, we wonder if that platform will even be a contender.
Meanwhile, we can enjoy the market-by-market competition between the two—just as we can take note of each player’s performance in the rental space.
So even if Zillow doesn’t much enjoy the challenge, real estate agents and consumers may benefit from it.