For years, the biggest online real estate companies have battled for the hearts and minds of homebuyers, home sellers, brokers, agents, Realtors and more. And in the last few months, the landscape of online real estate has experienced several seismic shifts.
Now, the two largest players in the space are about to be become one and the company that used to be number one is about to have the backing of one of the largest media conglomerates in the world at its disposal.
It’s safe to say that a revolution is taking place, and it began with a shocking development.
First, the two largest players in the space, Zillow (Z) and Trulia (TRLA), elected to stop competing with each other, instead choosing to team up in an effort to dominate the entire online real estate market.
The two companies announced in July that they had entered into a definitive agreement in which Zillow would purchase Trulia for $3.5 billion in a stock-for-stock transaction.
The two companies will remain separate entities, though real estate agents will be able to advertise on both sites and gain access to combined tech efforts, the company's CEOs said when the deal was announced. The deal is still awaiting regulatory approval.
And just when the industry began to catch its collective breath, another bombshell announcement was dropped, this time by Move (MOVE), which operates Realtor.com for the National Association of Realtors.
Under the terms of the acquisition agreement, which was announced on Tuesday, News Corp will acquire all of Move’s outstanding shares for $21 per share.
What wasn’t initially clear when the Move deal was announced is just what the News Corp acquisition means for Realtor.com, NAR, and the industry as a whole.
In an exclusive interview with HousingWire, Move CEO Steve Berkowitz shares the details of how the deal came together, what it will mean for Move and his thoughts on the future of real estate.
Berkowitz told HousingWire that he views the shifting landscape of online real estate as a positive for Move.
“We see Zillow and Trulia coming together as an opportunity,” Berkowitz said.
“What you will have now is two vigorous competitors vying for the hearts of the consumers,” Berkowitz added. “The industry will benefit from these moves. This will help the consumer understand the role that the Realtor plays. The difference between our competitors and us is the humanity that the word Realtor brings.”
Berkowitz said that despite the increasing popularity and acceptance of online real estate sites as a part of the real estate transaction, he doesn’t anticipate the human element ever disappearing from the home buying process.
“Humanity is something that we don’t think will ever move out of the transaction,” Berkowitz said. “Zillow is a cold, calculated estimate. It’s just numbers going into a database. A home is more than that. The home is the center of its own social network.
“There are roughly five million transactions a year. Those are transformational for the consumer. The role the agent plays is much more than just facilitating the transaction. They’re offering that sense that the transaction is life-alteringly important.”
Berkowitz said that he views the timeline of the Zillow/Trulia deal as another positive for Move.
“The ambiguity and timing of the Zillow/Trulia deal is an opportunity for us,” Berkowitz said. “Our competitors promised cost savings in 2016. I can promise that you will see the impact of (the Move deal) in 2015.
“I think you’ll see us look for ways to get off the ground running. We’ll take this runway we have and focus on building our constituencies.”
Click below for more of Berkowitz's thoughts on Zillow/Trulia and the future of real estate.