The Real Deal New York

On the strength of lead generation, Move sees 15% revenue growth

Executives said "Connections for Buyers" is behind the uptick
By Meenal Vamburkar | May 11, 2018 12:30PM

Robert Thomson

Robert Thomson (Credit: Getty Images)

News Corp’s digital real estate business, which includes Realtor.com, earned $279 million in revenue in the first quarter, a 27 percent boost from a year ago, the New York-based company said in an earnings call Thursday.

At subsidiary Move, which includes Realtor.com and Doorsteps, revenues climbed 15 percent year-over-year to $115 million, the company said. That was largely thanks to Realtor.com’s brokerage lead generation service, “Connections for Buyers.”

Realtor.com is “still seeing continued growth, not only in New York, but around the country,” News Corp CEO Robert Thomson said on a conference call Thursday.

Move has been media mogul Rupert Murdoch’s push into real estate since he bought the company for $950 million in 2014. Move CEO Ryan O’Hara indicated last year that the company was beefing up Realtor.com’s New York presence, spending on advertising and developing closer ties to brokerages like Douglas Elliman and Halstead Property Group. In August, Move also made a deal to accept the Real Estate Board of New York’s new Residential Listings Service — a syndicated feed that all the city’s big brokerage firms funnel their exclusives into. Zillow-owned StreetEasy has refused to accept the REBNY feed.

Though StreetEasy holds more name recognition, the increased investment has boosted Realtor.com’s growth. The website saw about 61 million average monthly unique users in the third quarter — a 10 percent jump from a year ago, according to company executives. Increasing strength in the broader economy, including the job market, will support their real estate segment and help counter low supply, Thomson said.

Locally, both Realtor.com and StreetEasy will likely have to navigate the New York Department of State’s recent interpretation of advertising laws, which could render some lead-generation programs illegal.

During its earnings call Thursday, News Corp said it plans to rebrand its lead-management system “Real Suite” and launch it in the next few months.

“Having a very close relationship with agents and brokers is even more valuable today as we work with the industry to drive high quality lead volume and provide sophisticated market intelligence to sellers and buyers,” Thomson said.

Thomson noted Zillow’s foray into home buying, adding that the company’s move into home-flipping is “indicative of its long term intent.” Zillow recently expanded its Instant Offers program, saying it would become a direct player in the market by buying and selling homes. The company previously said it will begin buying up homes in Phoenix, with the aim of reselling the properties within 90 days.

News Corp’s overall revenues rose 6 percent to $2.1 billion, but the company posted a net loss of $1.1 billion, which included $1.2 billion in non-cash impairment charges and write-downs.