The competition in the US real estate portal space that has been intensifying in recent months seems set to ratchet up even further after comments made at a realtor conference in Las Vegas.
Inman Connect is a conference organised by agent publication Inman.com which brings together agents from across the United States as well as many from the property portal industry who are keen to win them over.
The latest edition of the conference saw both CoStar CEO Andy Florance and Move Inc CEO David Doctorow give some interesting comments on the state of the portal industry.
CoStar's entrance into the world of residential real estate began in earnest last year with the acquisition of Homesnap and the development of the Homes.com portal and increasingly sees the company brush up against Zillow.
Before yesterday's stage conversation with industry figure Brad Inman, CoStar founder and CEO Andy Florance had already given a couple of soundbites about his firm's new residential rival including a less than subtle insinuation that Zillow's model is tantamount to blackmail during CoStar's Q3 earnings call on Wednesday.
Using language that made it very clear which Seattle based real estate portal giant he was referring to, CoStar's CEO yesterday referred to a competitor's model as listings "hijacking" laying out the hypothetical scenario in which a realtor comes along and paints over a rival's yard sign.
“There would be outrage and no one would accept that situation because what this guy has just done is he has hijacked the listing,” Florance said of the hypothetical scenario.
The negative comparisons didn't end there. Florance went on to compare the model with mob extortion:
“That feels like the guy who comes by your corner shop from the mafia and says you wouldn’t like a fire would you?”
Since its entrance into the residential market, which includes a deal to build the first public-facing broker portal in New York announced earlier this month, CoStar has touted the 'Your Listing, Your Lead' rhetoric - an attempt to differentiate its model from that of Zillow's which sells leads on to third party realtors.
Judging from the reaction on Twitter, Florance's comments had the desired effects, making realtor's question the status quo of the portal landscape in their industry:
Andy Florance at #ICLV — what would we do if “Zilter” spray painted their logo with contact information for competing agents on our yard signs? So why do we allow it online?
— Joe Rand (@josephrand) October 28, 2021
Also on stage yesterday was David Doctorow, CEO of Move Inc the majority Newscorp-owned parent company of Zillow rival Realtor.com. Although not as inflammatory, Doctorow's comments were equally as interesting when it was put to him that portals don't have agents' interests at heart.
Realtor.com announced yesterday that the portal would feature real-time offers from leading iBuying company Opendoor as an extension of the portal's 'Seller's Marketplace' initiative which sees potential sellers presented with information around non-traditional selling options as well as selling through a listing agent.
Doctorow said that listing through a realtor is still the "right option for most people" and that he believes in giving users access to independent advice.
“Our agents are our customers. Our angle for that is to help agents grow their businesses.”
“We are not trying to take commissions out of the system. We are not trying to shift commissions to us.”
The American real estate marketing landscape could well become a much more competitive three-way split soon. While Zillow has had to pause iBuying, seen acquisition roadblocks from the FTC and seen its share price drop over 50% since February, CoStar is moving in on its turf and Realtor.com has reportedly been making traffic gains relative to Zillow as well.