CoStar Agrees to Change Homes.com Ads After Realtor.com Challenge


CoStar has agreed to change some key advertising claims regarding its Homes.com residential portal amid a contentious back and forth with bitter rival Realtor®.com, following a recommendation from the Better Business Bureau (BBB) as both companies continue to battle viciously over metrics, measurements and market share.

Realtor.com’s parent company, Move, Inc., had previously challenged how CoStar had compared web traffic numbers between Homes.com and Realtor.com with the National Advertising Division of the BBB, a program that claims its “public interest mission” is “to ensure that advertising claims are truthful and accurate for consumers and that advertisers operate on a level-playing field.”

According to a release from the BBB, CoStar’s top-time monthly visitor figure was misleading because it included web traffic to several other CoStar-owned websites, and recommended that the company cease touting that specific figure, as well as claiming it had doubled Realtor.com’s traffic. CoStar is complying with that recommendation, according to the BBB.

“We’re pleased the National Advertising Division saw through CoStar’s smoke and mirrors and put this issue to rest with the recommendation that CoStar withdraw their false advertising claims of 156 million monthly unique users for Homes.com and having double the traffic of Realtor.com,” said Realtor.com CEO Damian Eales in a statement.

In a statement, CoStar Group General Counsel Gene Boxer made it clear that while the company was changing its advertising, CoStar is not backing down from the bigger claim that Homes.com (as well as the “Homes.com Network”) had surpassed Realtor.com in the so-called “portal wars.”

“Homes.com is the No. 2 most-visited residential real estate portal, far surpassing Realtor.com, and the Homes.com Network has double the traffic of Realtor.com,” Boxer said. “Apples to apples, Realtor.com is losing the portal wars, and losing big.”

The dispute over advertising and traffic numbers comes as the fight for market share in the crowded residential real estate portal space continues to rage, with Zillow the undisputed top-dog and a handful of other companies vying for a piece of the increasingly valuable pie. CoStar has turned little-known Homes.com into a major contender after acquiring the company in 2020, relying on a billion-dollar ad blitz and a focus on different monetization strategies than its competitors.

Realtor.com, a more established player, has pushed back sharply against the newcomer, as Eales took public shots at CoStar at the National Association of REALTORS’® (NAR) legislative meetings back in May, and more recently filed a lawsuit accusing CoStar of gaining access to proprietary information through a former Realtor.com employee.

Eales and Realtor.com have also previously pointed out the fact that CoStar was using more than one website in its Homes.com traffic numbers, and continued to dispute the accuracy of even the base numbers touted by its rival. 

In a statement, Realtor.com said that CoStar does not provide “independent verification” for any of the web traffic numbers, and claimed that third-party traffic data puts Homes.com as the fourth-most trafficked real estate portal.  

Comparisons are “apples-to-oranges,” Realtor.com claimed, and said the company believes the specific numbers are “grossly inaccurate.”

“The contrast with CoStar is becoming increasingly clear,” said Eales “CoStar has misled Homes.com customers while Realtor.com has remained focused on growing a quality audience and quality leads for both buying agents and listing agents.”

While the decision to back down on the specific 156 million traffic number could be seen as a significant pullback, Homes.com has tremendous ambition and has already made deep inroads with its monetization of the websites, claiming $86 million in net new bookings this year with a long-term target of between $2.5 and $10 billion.

Boxer said CoStar will continue to stand by its numbers, and its business model—and seemingly has no intention of letting up the public criticism of its rival.

“Consistent with (the National Advertising Division’s) decision, CoStar will continue to advertise that fact and disclose the number of unique visitors to the Homes.com Network and Homes.com,” Boxer said.  Realtor.com keeps trying, and keeps failing, to hide the facts. We couldn’t be happier to continue spreading the word about the success of Homes.com, and in compliance with the NAD’s recommendation, the success of the Homes.com Network.”





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