Real Estate Connect: IAC Sees Vertical Integration

IAC is pushing extremely hard on real estate, where it sees synergistic developments from owning LendingTree (mortgage referrals), The Home Loan Center and RealEstate.com (Web lead generated brokerage services).

Speaking at Inman’s Real Estate Connect conference last week in San Francisco, IAC President and COO Doug Lebda and RealEstate.com President Bret Violette hammered home the point that IAC’s house of brands will be critical to the individual success of each brand.

“Without vertical integration, we would have been road kill,” says Lebda. He notes that major vertical initiatives include a behavioral targeting initiative across all the IAC brands. There is also a company-wide, GPS-fed mobile initiative. All this is reinforced by IAC’s status as “the biggest buyer of advertising on the Web.”

The company has gotten especially savvy about Web marketing since two years ago, when “we got our clocks cleaned by a competitor,” says Lebda. “We have learned our lessons and now apply them.”

Still, “it’s going to take time. You need a lot of capital to grow that business,” Lebda says. In fact, IAC has been losing $20 million a year in real estate for two years running. If the strategy succeeds, of course, IAC will end up being a powerful player in the real estate industry.

But Lebda notes that the company is far away from becoming a monopolistic threat (like the banks, which are still prohibited from entering the brokerage business). “There is plenty to go around. We have less than 2 percent market share.”

Traffic-wise, IAC is getting 1 million unique visitors per month to RealEstate.com, and 2million uniques to its real estate verticals “including everything,” notes Violette.

RealEstate.com itself is staffed with 4,000 agents, up from “zero” last year. “They get the best in class training.” They also get extremely efficient lead generation. “While consumers are signing up on the Web, we are already dialing agents’ cellphones.”

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