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Realtor.com Acquires Landlord Platform Avail

BiggerPockets
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Realtor.com Acquires Landlord Platform Avail

Move, Inc., parent company of Realtor.com, made headlines in the real estate world this week when they announced the blockbuster acquisition of Chicago-based firm, Avail, a leading platform making it easier for do-it-yourself landlords to manage their rental units with state-of-the-art online tools, educational content, high-class support, and more.

Some 90%+ of landlords use Avail’s free product suite, with some upgrading to its premium version, making Realtor.com’s move a big one. Experts in the industry believe this is a high-roller attempt to cement itself in the rental market, allowing them to amp up the competition against Zillow, which has been expanding its rental and home sales capabilities over the last decade.

What We Know About the Deal

Avail’s entirely digital platform brings independent landlords the essential tools they need to manage and market their listings efficiently and effectively. Whether it be helping renters purchase insurance, collect rent, sign leasing contracts, or perform maintenance, Avail has it covered, most of which for free. Even more impressive, Avail’s technology suite is about the only platform that offers this wide array of tools and nothing comes close to its low prices.

Related: Top 50 Housing Markets for Home Price Appreciation and Sales Growth in 2021

Realtor.com’s acquisition all but entrenches them in the rental market for decades to come, especially since Avail reports that there will be no pricing changes or “immediate changes” to its technology suite. Although the agreement’s details were not publicly released, based on an announcement from the companies, it seems that Realtor.com is erring on the side of continuity instead of potentially fracturing Avail’s customer base with alterations or a price hike.

“This acquisition is a key part of our strategy to make finding a home easier and more rewarding,” said David Doctorow, CEO of Realtor.com. “We believe that Avail is uniquely positioned to meet the needs of the DIY landlords and tenants in a large, growing, and underserved market. By combining Avail’s rental listing content and easy-to-use tools with Realtor.com’s large audience, consumer experience platform, and insights, we believe we can deliver more value to DIY landlords and tenants. I’m excited about what the tremendous team at Avail will add to the talented staff here.”

Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, Avail has been growing rapidly thanks to its digital suite of tools, making it a ripe target for larger brands such as Zillow or Realtor.com to pick up.

“We are excited about joining the team at Realtor.com and see this acquisition as a tremendous opportunity for our customers,” said Avail CEO Ryan Coon. “Leveraging Realtor.com’s industry expertise and scale will allow us to expand our platform capabilities and offerings so we can continue to deliver high-quality services, tools, and education to even more landlords and tenants.”

Avail has stated that as of now, there are no planned changes to any of its features or support, and that you can expect your account information to remain the same. Instead, expect stronger tools with the help of Realtor.com.

Related: Zillow’s In-House Brokerage Launches Next Month—Here’s What Agents & Investors Need to Know

Is This Realtor.com’s Push for Market Dominance?

To this point, Realtor.com hasn’t been actively acquiring brands and labels, contrary to Zillow, which has made multiple large and small purchases since its inception in 2006. To date, this is only its second acquisition, following its purchase of Remodelista in 2016, an online interior design tool.

But Avail is a major purchase, giving Realtor.com access to over 90% of independent landlords and making the use of their website more lucrative to renters and landlords alike. Zillow has already made deep strides into the rental market, acquiring firms like RentJuice in 2012, a software suite similar to Avail, in that it bridges the gap between renters and landlords through digital means. This has helped Zillow expand its rental efforts by allowing landlords and renters to communicate and pay rent directly through Zillow’s website itself.

Beyond renting, Zillow has also expanded into dominating the home sales market. Zillow Flex, a blanket referral network for real estate brokers has allowed them to expand their sale operations by not only collecting transaction data but also generating revenue by simply bridging real estate agents together.

Zillow’s Premier Agent program, where buyer leads are fed to a network of Realtor’s who pay for the service, has helped Zillow become even more entrenched in the sales market. Some agents have become highly successful, top agents at their firm based on Zillow alone, allowing the real estate behemoth to increasingly become a requirement for success in the industry, rather than simply nice to have.

Furthermore, Zillow Offers is a growing threat to real estate brokerages, as it has played an increasing role in the on-demand home buying market.

While Zillow and Realtor.com have been on equal terms for a while, Realtor.com may be sensing the moment and Zillow’s momentum. They’re realizing it’s time to act.

Perhaps with the purchase of Avail, Realtor.com can make a convincing push into the rental market—a segment worth $500 billion—and cancel out Zillow’s increasingly firm grip on home sales. We’ll keep an eye on future updates for you.

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Note By BiggerPockets: These are opinions written by the author and do not necessarily represent the opinions of BiggerPockets.