Brad Bellflower’s Company Acquires ForRent.com for More Than a Song

CoStar Group announced today that it is acquiring ForRent.com, adding it to a portfolio that already included Apartments.com, which it purchased in 2014 and Apartment Finder, which it purchased in 2015. The price tag on this purchase is $385 million, with $350 million in cash and the remainder in stock.

From the Wall Street Journal article about the sale:

Landlords have listed apartments online for more than a decade, partly on sites developed by newspaper owners worried about their loss of traditional print ads. In 1998, a venture of the Times Mirror Co. , Tribune Co. and Washington Post Co. purchased the company that went on to build Apartments.com.

In recent years, large investors such as CoStar and Zillow began to make big bets on the business. Currently there are 46 million rental households, up from 35 million in 2004, according to CoStar.

Competitors also include RentPath Inc., which is owned by private equity giants TPG and Providence Equity Partners. Major players like Facebook Inc., Google Inc. and Craigslist also get an enormous amount of traffic from people looking for rental apartments.

The rental segment is now Zillow’s fastest-growing marketplace, according to remarks made by Chief Executive Spencer Rascoff during the company’s second quarter earnings call. He said the business grew 64% year over year in the second quarter.

 

CoStar Getting Aggressive With Apartments.com

Today’s Wall Street Journal has an article about how CoStar is investing aggressively to expand and improve Apartments.com. From the article:

Since acquiring the site early last year for $584.2 million, CoStar has spent about $80 million to update the technology and expand its scope, deploying thousands of researchers to visit and photograph 400,000 rental properties. It even charters airplanes to circle cities in search of leads on new construction.

The site was quietly relaunched last week. Next month, CoStar will unveil a $100 million marketing campaign featuring actor Jeff Goldblum as an eccentric Silicon Valley executive touting the new Apartments.com as a “game-changer.”

The stakes in the ILS sector are high and the competition is heating up:

At the same time, landlords are spending more to advertise their apartment buildings online. According to Kip Cassino of Borrell Associates Inc., which tracks ad spending, landlords will spend $1.5 billion online in 2015, up from $630 million last year.

Not surprisingly, the competition for those marketing dollars is growing. Apartments.com competes on the national level with Zillow Group Inc. and Craigslist Inc., as well as with dozens of local sites in major cities across the country. Seattle-based Zillow, a dominant player in listings for single-family homes through Zillow.com and Trulia.com, a recent acquisition, has been buying up rental-focused listing sites for several years. Purchases have included HotPads, PostLets, RentJuice and New York-focused StreetEasy.

The rest of the article contains some interesting numbers, including what kind of revenue CoStar expects to earn on its Apartments.com property in coming years, and it also focuses on the fragmented nature of the current ILS market. Interestingly, it doesn’t mention many of the players in the apartment market like Apartment Guide, Apartment Finder and ForRent, but does mention Zillow, Craigslist and Move.com. I expect we’ll hear from our friends at the Guide, the Finder and ForRent soon in response to this.