Property Grunt

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Curbed Conquers the World

Just spotted this in the New York Times.

October 30, 2007
Not All Is Gloomy in Real Estate: A Blog Network Attracts Capital
The residential real estate market may be troubled, but property-focused Web sites are still attracting visitors and investors., a popular real estate blog network with sites in New York, San Francisco and Los Angeles, has obtained $1.5 million in financing to expand into new cities and add staff members. According to Lockhart Steele, the network’s publisher, traffic is growing 10 percent a month and the site is drawing national advertisers.

Nick Denton, Mr. Steele’s boss when he was managing editor of the Gawker Media blog network, and Zach Nelson, chief executive of NetSuite, a maker of business software, are among the individual investors. Gawker Media also invested.

In some respects, sites like Curbed are insulated from the woes of the real estate market in a way that traditional sites may not be. “We’re not just about real estate,” Mr. Steele said. “People come to the site to talk about their neighborhoods and about life in the city.” This wide focus has helped Curbed draw advertisers like American Express and Volkswagen, Mr. Steele said.

At greater potential risk are national-focused sites like and that depend on an active market of buyers and sellers to thrive. Nonetheless, Zillow, which estimates home values, last month obtained $30 million in its latest round of financing, bringing the total to $87 million for the site, which was started less than two years ago. And its traffic in the third quarter was 20 percent higher than in the period a year earlier, according to Spencer Rascoff, Zillow’s vice president for marketing and chief financial officer.

It has also begun posting home listings provided by brokerage firms. The first of these to participate is ERA.

“The housing slowdown has actually increased people’s appetite and interest,” Mr. Rascoff said. “In a crazy market like this, both buyers and sellers are trying to get an edge.”

Advertising-supported sites seem, at least for now, to be on safer ground than those that rely heavily on “showcase listings” that sellers pay for.

“Any site that charges fees to brokers will be hurt the most,” said Steve Murray, editor of the newsletter Real Trends., run by the National Association of Realtors, remains the top real estate destination on the Web, with more than five million unique visitors a month — down only slightly in the last six months, according to Nielsen/NetRatings. If the downturn lasts long enough, “everyone suffers,” said Brad Inman, founder and publisher of the real estate news service Inman News. During bad times, “there’s always an uptick first” in real estate advertising, he said. “Nobody’s free of the dark shadow of a down market.”

Still, Mr. Inman was one of the lead investors of, in part because Curbed “is not a direct real estate play,” he said. “I didn’t even think of it in context of the market.”

I want to congratulate Lockhart Steele on this great news. Curbed is the pioneer in the field of real estate blogging and I am happy to see that they are not only still around but they are expanding their operations. For all of you investors out there consider Curbed a value stock. They have only just begin to lay a smackdown of profitable proportions.

This news also serves a motivator to get off my duff and put some ideas I have for the Property Grunt to use. More on that later.