May I cut in? Move, Inc. acquires Listhub

Move, Inc. has acquired ListHub for $13 million in cash.

Lots of interesting – and important – angles here. My first meeting of the day starts in 20 minutes, so here are just a few quick thoughts:

Move reaches beyond the Realtor.com domain, thinks network

For years, Move watched as new listings sites went directly to brokers, then to listings syndicators then to MLSs to build properties that edged in on its turf. It cut some big distribution deals (with MSN, for example) but the restrictions placed upon the company by the NAR operating agreement prevented them from fully leveraging these relationships – from either a traffic or monetization perspective.

That changes now. With a robust syndication engine (and a ton of partners already built-in) Move is not only prepared to compete with the myriad listings sites that have sprung up in the past few years – they can now leverage them by controlling the flow of listings and, also, I would imagine, take a piece of the advertising dollars sold on top of them on these sites.

Syndication cleans up its act

There’s been a lot of chatter in the industry the past few months about the sorry state of syndication. Some of this is self-interested messaging from IDX providers and others who must adhere to MLS rules syndicators can often circumvent, but a lot of it is also true. Poor data quality; loosey-goosey terms of use; the fact that I can launch a “property portal” today and have 3 million listings from benighted brokers and MLSs on it tomorrow.

Move has always positioned itself as the gold standard for listings quality, comprehensiveness and timeliness. This acquisition enables them to apply the people and process that make that happen to the syndication fiesta.

Interloping on the “Interlopers”

 

I hate that word, but it’s part of the Move lexicon – introduced by former CEO Mike Long to denigrate sites like Trulia, Zillow and HomeGain. Many of these sites were airlifted by companies like ListHub, which did the hard work of dealing with brokers and MLSs while the online companies worked on less onerous projects.

Well, now, Move has cut-in on the dance between these two to effectively control a major listings pipeline. There are, of course, other syndicators (Point2 being the most prominent) but this nonetheless disturbs a space that has been largely undisturbed for over five years.

A longer leash

There was lots of talk last week in the wake of the revised NAR/Move operating agreement along the lines of “The gloves are off; Move is free to innovate” It’s a little more complicated than that. There were a few other issues. But it is safe to say that we will likely see more competitive initiatives from Move in the coming year than we have in the last 5 combined.

We’ve entered the 9th inning

Bottom line: Move has been a public company since 1999. It has lost money almost every quarter since then. It’s time to get something going, don’t you think? Kudos to Move CEO Steve Berkowitz for pushing to make it happen.

With Zillow at 10 million + uniques, a deal with Yahoo! and a hunger for an IPO in 2011 something had to give.

It gave. The next 12 months in online real estate will, I think, be decisive.

Off to my meeting, more to come “

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