Facebook and Other Ad Platforms Just Woke Up to Real Estate, a $27 Billion Sleeping Giant

And they're looking to challenge Zillow and Trulia

There's an online gold rush in realty. Getty Images
Headshot of Christopher Heine

It was Facebook on Monday and Nextdoor on Tuesday. Then today, Punchbowl became the third social-minded platform to announce real estate ad products in three days. The 11-year-old invitations platform unveiled its Modern Stamp product, which is aimed at people selling apartments and homes and wanting to wrangle in as many in-the-market folks to open houses as possible.

Modern Stamp lets real estate agents send messages under a pricing model the company says might evolve. For now, they pay on a volume-based scale, with $12 for 250 sent messages being on the high end (4.8 cents per send) and $99 for 300 messages (3.3 cents per) on the low end.

“Events are an important part of a realtor’s business,” said Matt Douglas, CEO of Punchbowl. “Modern Stamp is a beautiful, simple, effective way to stand out and drive increased engagement and attendance.”

Why the sudden flurry of ad announcements that seem aimed at online realty powerhouses Zillow and Trulia? Here’s why: Researcher Borrell Associates says the U.S. real estate industry spent $26.8 billion on advertising, making it one of the largest local verticals.

On Tuesday, Nextdoor, which aims to make $1 billion annually in advertising, revealed that agents and brokers can create official business pages on the 7-year-old company’s platform to enhance their personal brands locally. They can also purchase ads and branded listings so their Nextdoor profile—a photo, phone number, email address, etc.—is displayed after a viewer searches for new dwellings.

“It’s an opportunity for real estate agents to sponsor a dedicated section where they can connect and build relationships with neighbors,” Nextdoor CEO Nirav Tolia told CNBC.

On Monday, Facebook debuted an ad product—and this is almost hard to believe, given the social giant’s mobile-revenue focus in recent years—that represents its first that’s specifically for residential brokerages. Dynamic Ads for Real Estate let realtors target Facebook and Instagram users who have already searched for properties on a brokerage’s website.

“Real estate is an area we’re betting big on as a company,” Facebook’s real estate and financial services chief Keith Watts told real estate news site Inman. “We think it’s content that consumers want to see.”

At the same time, it’s hard to believe Facebook doesn’t want a major piece of the tens of billions of dollars Borrell suggested are in the offing each year in the U.S. alone. What’s clear is that online real estate advertising is hot.

Whether these three new players can put a dent in Zillow and Trulia—not to mention Google’s ad business through real estate searches—will be worth watching.

@Chris_Heine Christopher Heine is a New York-based editor and writer.