I thought I would follow-up my previous January post covering the real estate January Effect with a February update. As interest rates decline and we are entering prime home buying season (spring to early summer), we are seeing suprising resilience in the online real estate and mortgage category. The BIGGEST surprise is that Zillow traffic has ramped significantly in the month of February. This is very interesting. Zillow has made a number of big announcements around acquiring more listings. There is a high correlation between traffic, nationwide coverage, and the number of listings that a web site has. Zillow recently broke through the 1 million listings barrier which is a major milestone for the company. I wonder if the recent uptick in traffic has to do with increased refinance traffic.
In Tier Two of online real estate, HomeGain appears to be on a tear growing reach nicely over the past three months. This is largely due to HomeGain’s significant affiliate network and SEO investments. BuyerLink is the growth engine for that business and is probably doing well in this environment.
All players in the mortgage lead generation industry (BankRate, LendingTree, LowerMyBills) are seeing increased consumer demand for information around refinancing their mortgage ever since the Fed made its aggressive rate cuts in January. Notice significant traffic increases in January which appear to have declined in February. LowerMyBills and LendingTree seem to be experiencing steadier traffic levels. It is clear that both LendingTree and LowerMyBills have reduced their ads spends significantly over the past six months. I have been impressed by Experian swapping out LowerMyBills ads with ClassesUSA where appropriate in their banner advertising strategy.
Notice how Zillow reach (or unique visitors) seems to be increasing but pageviews have been declining. Interesting trend. Maybe an indication of more people checking the value of their home versus spending increased time searching for homes for sale or neighborhood information.