I was amazed that there hasn’t been much fanfare about Costar’s recent purchase. Costar is the largest commercial property data company (Loopnet, Costar, Apartment.com, etc…) with a market cap of 35 billion dollars. The Homesnap purchase is an indicator of things to come. What does this purchase mean for residential real estate? Why is this so important?
Who is Costar and Homesnap
Homesnap is a national search portal that serves 240 multiple-listing services (MLS) nationwide. It gets listing data from those platforms and 500 other data sources. It currently has 1.3 million active listings on its platform, which is free. And it claims 300,000 agents use it regularly, including 50,000 who pay extra for a “pro” version.
Before now Costar was focused primarily on the commercial market. They have built/acquired various platforms and basically “own” the commercial space with the largest commercial MLS, Loopnet and their flagship product, Costar which has unrivaled data on large commercial properties (lease and sale information). They also own apartment.com for rental units. Anyone in the commercial space is familiar with their products and likely uses them.
Why is Costar’s purchase so important to residential real estate?
The purchase of Homesnap gives Costar a landing pad into the residential real estate market. With Costars money/firepower they have significant heft to put behind Homesnap and/or their technology to alter the residential space. Currently there are three major players in residential real estate: Zillow, Realtor.com, Redfin, and the new addition Costar/Homesnap.
Costar’s foray into the residential market is significant as they will be a sizeable competitor to the other large three players. This further shows the deep consolidation that is occurring within the industry.
Consolidation of the residential real estate industry
Whomever holds the data, holds the gold! As we have seen with Zillow, the value of the data in the residential market is unprecedented. As the market undergoes further consolidation there will be additional demands to further “monetize” this data. What this means is that someone will pay for the valuable data and the most likely candidates are realtors, multiple listing service, mortgage brokers, and lenders.
With the critical residential data now in the hands of fewer participants pricing power will increase. For example, realtors will have to pay more to get a prominent placement on Zillow. As we have seen, many times these same data providers can quickly become competitors with the data they have. For example, Zillow has rolled out instant offers which bypasses the traditional real estate broker and buys and sells properties with their own in-house staff.
Costar’s purchase of Homesnap passed by with barely a whisper in the residential real estate market. Unfortunately, the purchase is the start of a huge wave in residential real estate, immense consolidation into the hands of three or four players while everyone else is left behind. With the huge consolidation will come increasing pricing ability that realtors, lenders, mortgage brokers will pay for in one way or another. It also could signify new competition. Just as Zillow is now competing with realtors with its instant offers program, look for new entrants to continue this trend. The wave is only getting bigger in residential real estate and smaller rivals will quickly perish or get acquired by one of the big three or four.
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Written by Glen Weinberg, COO/ VP Fairview Commercial Lending. Glen has been published as an expert in hard money lending, real estate valuation, financing, and various other real estate topics in Bloomberg, Businessweek ,the Colorado Real Estate Journal, National Association of Realtors Magazine, The Real Deal real estate news, the CO Biz Magazine, The Denver Post, The Scotsman mortgage broker guide, Mortgage Professional America and various other national publications.
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