Realtor.com rentals division expands reach, nurtures future buyers
Since acquiring rental management software company Avail in 2020, Realtor.com has doubled the size of the team and plans to grow its rentals footprint.
- Gaining access to Realtor.com's listing platform has greatly increased the exposure landlords receive for their listings.
- Avail co-founder Ryan Coon wants to create an experience "that’s great for renters today who eventually will become first-time home buyers."
- Future growth opportunities include the addition of floor plans and virtual tours.
Two years into its push into the rental market, Realtor.com is finding fertile ground that could mean more business for other parts of the company.
In December 2020, Realtor.com acquired Avail, a rental management software company that offers tools for renters and landlords across the country. Avail services include digital leases, a payment portal and maintenance tracker — helpful resources for small-scale, DIY landlords.
It’s a difficult market to capture because it is so fragmented, but it’s also vast, said Ryan Coon, who co-founded Avail and now handles the rentals segment for Realtor.com as the category manager.
Since it became a part of Realtor.com, Avail has helped landlords broaden their reach, exposing their listings to about eight million visitors on the site each month. It has also seen growth internally: When Avail was acquired, about 50 employees came with it. That number has now more than doubled, Coon said.
Investing in future buyers
The growing rentals division has spurred a shift in the overall perception of Realtor.com, which previously was associated primarily with for-sale listings, Coon said. By making an investment in rentals, not only has Realtor.com broadened its audience, but it is positioning itself to add new homebuyers.
“We want to build this best-in-class consumer experience that’s great for renters today who eventually will become first-time home buyers,” Coon said. “We want to help guide them through that entire journey of finding that right rental for them today and making that process as seamless as possible. Then, if and when it’s right for them, we’ll help guide them into a home that they may be looking to purchase.”
Growth in the multifamily arena, technology
Coon said Realtor.com is ready to expand its rentals division. In January, Realtor.com will begin increasing its presence in the multifamily arena. Currently, they support one large multifamily company; in 2023, Realtor.com will switch to an open model, enabling them to partner with multiple companies and provide consumers with more information as they look for rentals in every ZIP code in the U.S., Coon said.
Realtor.com is also working to simplify the rentals process, continuing a march toward an e-commerce format that mimics the experience of booking travel or hotels, for example. A future version of the platform may include virtual tours with floor plans, ideally providing an immersive online experience that can give renters the confidence to sign a lease sight-unseen.
“We envision something that is best for the consumer,” Coon said. “It alleviates a lot of the challenges that have happened around the industry, around fair housing, around communication, around preference and affordability. It can be solved with technology.”
While the large multifamily landlord partnerships present a new avenue for growth, Coon is also optimistic about bringing on more mom-and-pop landlords. In the current market, homeowners with locked-in low interest rates might be hesitant to sell — but still need to move — giving rise to more “accidental landlords.”
For Coon, transitioning from CEO of a smaller company to part of a larger firm has been a great experience, giving him a chance to tackle big-picture challenges like growing the company’s audience with input from others.
He said the acquisition also supercharged what was already a fast-growing company. At the time of the acquisition, the country was about eight months into the pandemic, necessitating the need for better technology to handle rentals.
“It’s been a lot to absorb. We’re on this fun journey and it is fun to be on that trajectory."
Correction: An earlier version of this article stated that Avail will be increasing its multifamily presence. Realtor.com will be increasing its multifamily presence, while Avail will continue to focus on smaller landlords.
Write to Dave Gallagher.