Realtor.com and Co Move to News Corp - Australian @REA_Group to take a stake

What do you mean you didn't see this coming? Move, owner and operator of Realtor.com, has agreed to be acquired by News Corp for less than $1bn.

With Zillow taking the fast-growing Trulia out of the game, there was only really Move left to draw Realtors and brokerages away from the large gravitational pull of 'Zulia'.

And second place by proxy has a real allure about it. Ask Zoopla investors how they feel about their £900m floatation as copycats of the dominant Rightmove: they couldn't be happier.

But in case you didn't know, Move isn't second in everything. For one, it has direct listings access to over 800 MLSs in the US. Even better, many of those listings you see on Zillow, come from subsidiaries acquired by Move.

At just over half a billion dollars of market cap, Move was always cheap for the $200m+ revenue they brought in. I thought it odd that Trulia sold itself to Zillow, rather than buying Move itself (which would have been easy with a market cap 3x that of Move).

So anyway, the past is the past, and the future is News Corp. The same News Corp that is a majority shareholder in the world's largest property portal group: REA. REA for the uninitiated operates realestate.com.au 'Down Under' and the Propertyfinder brand in many other geographies (like Dubai).

And REA are really good at what they do. And what is it they do? Squeeze ever-increasing amounts of money from the crippled hands of Real Estate Agents.

You have to feel for Real Estate Agents. I, for one, don't think they will ever die out. People want an intermediary to sell their home. But the last 14 years since Property Portals changed the industry have seen Real Estate Agents completely lose control of their collective businesses. The public see agents as 'in the way' or 'not good value'. And they heap praise on Property Portals that serve them endless amounts of phantom listings. People are just weird.

There is a point to all my bleating: Real Estate Agents in the US are not all the same. Many act as buying agents, scavenging a fee off the seller's agent. This doesn't happen in the UK or Australia, where fees are 1.5% and 2.5% respectively (compared to the 6% norm in the US). 

How do buyer's agents survive? Zillow. Zillow uses them. Zillow makes most of its money from poor, hopeful buyer's agents trying to score a client. Advertise on Zillow, and you'll score buyers as clients, often with your branding on someone else's listing. Smart, eh?

So with Zillow feasting off the desperation of the demand side agents, Move have the opportunity to tie up the side that matters: supply.

Without supply, those buyers will just go elsewhere. Possibly even to the seller's agent. And that, my friends, is what Move still controls via its license to 'operate' Realtor.com on behalf of the National Association of Realtor (NAR).

We'll see if anything changes. It's unlikely, according to respected Realtor Joseph Rand who says the Realtors will carry on as they have been. I certainly wouldn't disagree with him. But I do hope he's wrong and Move introduce some awesome innovation for agents to match the golden brands they sit on.

Funny that this man will be Realtors' new knight in less than shiny armour:

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