The drawn-out regulatory process around Zillow’s $2.5 billion acquisition of Trulia certainly slowed down the fast-moving company, with CEO Spencer Rascoff telling GeekWire on Tuesday that the 7-month journey was “long and arduous and stressful.”
But now that Zillow has officially swallowed Trulia, the 2,000-person strong Seattle online real estate powerhouse is looking to once again put its foot on the gas.
And among the first priorities is making sure that the listing feeds coming into Zillow and Trulia are accurate and complete, an issue that will be highlighted in April when Move Inc.’s ListHub business — now owned by News Corp. — stops syndicating listings to Zillow.
Zillow has relied on those listings for three years, and will lose a “few hundred thousand” listings when the partnership ends. Zillow currently shows more than 3.5 million listings on its site and mobile apps, and prides itself on having the most up-to-date house listing data.
In a conference call with stock analysts Wednesday morning, Zillow CEO Spencer Rascoff spoke at length about the listing issue, saying he analyzes the numbers daily. He declined to offer specifics on how many listings Zillow has recovered to date, but he did cast an optimistic view.
“I am very pleased with our progress in this area,” said Rascoff, adding that about a dozen employees at Zillow are working on securing MLS partnerships and direct feeds.
There’s certainly no love lost between Zillow and Move Inc. — with Rascoff tossing some bombshells at the News Corp.-owned property as it relates to listing syndication.
“When we announced that we were parting ways with News Corp. a couple months ago, we were really freed from the constraint of being reliant on a competitor for listings — a competitor whose incentive was to continue to send Zillow inferior listings in order to advertise that their own Web site had higher quality listings,” Rascoff said. “That was a liberating moment, and we have been fortunate in the last several months going and getting direct listings feeds from MLS after MLS.”
Rascoff noted that two of the three largest multiple listing services in the country are now syndicating listings to Zillow, and dozens of other agreements are in the pipeline. (Interestingly, the Northwest Multiple Listing Service, which is the largest listing agency in Washington state, does not automatically feed listings to Zillow).
Zillow also will be helped next month when Errol Samuelson — a former Move Inc. executive who joined Zillow as chief industry development officer last March — will once again be able to work at the online real estate company. Move Inc. sued Zillow and Samuelson shortly after the executive joined the real estate company, alleging that he stole trade secrets. As a result, a Washington state judge sidelined Samuelson for the past year, with the former Move president unable to work on securing partnerships with multiple listing services for Zillow.
“I am feeling good going into the next couple of months as we see more and more MLSes choosing to send listings feeds,” Rascoff said in Wednesday’s conference call.
Interestingly, this is one area where Trulia is stronger than Zillow. Trulia claims 125 syndication agreements with multiple listing services, and Rascoff said that Trulia has about a year head start on inking those relationships.
“The momentum that Trulia has in acquiring these listings feeds bodes very well for our MLS Direct initiative,” Rascoff said. “It is rapidly becoming accepted in the industry that if one chooses to send a listing feed to News Corp., which powers Realtor.com, you also send a listing feed to Zillow Group, which powers Zillow, Trulia, HotPads and other sites. It really makes no sense to send a feed to News Corp. and not to Zillow Group, given Zillow Group’s significantly larger audience scale and other benefits…. That has become widely understood in the past couple of months, and you will see more and more MLSes — almost every week — getting on board.”
Don’t think that because Zillow has successfully consumed Trulia that all competition is going away in the online real estate sector. Not in the least.
In fact, News Corp. — through its Move Inc. business — is taking direct aim at Zillow.
And the listing issue, not to mention the Samuelson lawsuit, is at the heart of the matter.
Given that, Rascoff stressed that Zillow is not sitting on its heels now that the Trulia deal is complete.
“We have always had competition,” he said.
Even so, Rascoff added that Zillow is well positioned to thrive.
“I like our chances,” he said. “We’ve got great people and we’ve got great assets and we’ve got great brands. And we have a great running head start. But we are not resting.”
Previously on GeekWire: Zillow closes $2.5 billion acquisition of Trulia, plans to cut 350 staffers… Layoffs hit Trulia as Zillow acquisition set to close today… Zillow CEO Spencer Rascoff: Cultural similarities will help avoid rifts in Trulia integration