CoStar Group: The standard in the real estate industry

CoStar Group: The standard in the real estate industry

August 04, 2021
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Andrew Florance founded CoStar Group in 1987 and it went public in 1998. CoStar owns a collection of top brands in the real estate industry, including CoStar, LoopNet, and Apartments.com. According to Morningstar, in a survey of commercial real estate professionals in 2018, 98% stated that they rely on either CoStar or LoopNet for commercial real estate data. Brokers pay an annual subscription to CoStar's suite of data. In the Q2 2021 earnings call, management stated that CoStar Suite's quarterly renewal rate reached a multiyear high of 94.5%. LoopNet, Apartments, and CoStar all achieved their highest renewal rates and they have been increasing for the last three years. 

CoStar has a competitive advantage due its ability to acquire information. CoStar's largest cost of revenue is related to research. Its vast scale allows it to update 92% of its 1M+ active listings every 30 days. A competitor could not easily replicate this information and it would take a massive amount of capital to even get started in this business. Proof of this was with Xceligent. Xceligent attempted to compete with CoStar for 20 years by stealing copyrighted content from CoStar. Despite investing millions into its business, Xceligent was not profitable and went bankrupt. Soon after the bankruptcy, CoStar raised its average monthly price for new brokers to $466 from $255 previously, displaying tremendous pricing power. The high-quality data is a small percentage of customers' cost structure but provides substantial financial benefits. Customers could lose out on attractive returns if it tries to go a cheaper route for its information. 

Management has a successful history of acquiring companies. CoStar acquired LoopNet for $860M in 2012 and Apartments.com for $585M in 2014. In 2017, CoStar acquired ForRent for $385M. Its latest acquisitions include STR for $450M in 2019, RentPath for $588M in 2020, and Homes.com in 2021. When CoStar acquired Apartments.com in 2014, it had less than $80M of annual revenue, growing about 10% per year. In Q1 of 2021, management noted that Apartments.com grew 21% y/y, its seventh straight quarter of 20%+ growth. The current revenue run rate for Apartments.com in $660M. Management prefers buying slow-growing companies where they can see strategies to accelerate the growth rate. Most of the companies CoStar acquired were growing low-single-digits and are now consistently growing double-digits.


CoStar is expected to have substantial growth ahead. From its Q2 2021 earnings call, management stated, "CoStar Suite had a strong rebound with growing record net sales. Apartments' record traffic growth and lead flow puts in a position to begin to share more of the value we're creating for our customers. LoopNet is growing traffic, revenue, and our primary goal of driving revenue signature ads is happening and happening well. Ten-X is really fantastic and gaining great traction. And Homesnap and Homes are well on their way in the process of transforming how agents, consumers buy and sell residential real estate. We didn't have time to talk about Realla, Belbex, BizBuySell, CoStar Real Estate Manager, THOMAS DAILY and Lands. They're all doing fantastic as well. And I wish one day they'd give me 2 hours for the call.

As we move to the second half of '21, we're working towards 2 important milestones. One is our goal of reaching $1 billion of annualized revenue run rate in our marketplaces and -- by the end of the year. And the second is we're going to run through our $2 billion revenue run rate overall. So some good milestones on our way to much larger numbers. But we're clearly strong in our core business right now as evidenced by our amazing traffic growth, our amazing renewal rates. And we're focused on building that core business but also working to triple our addressable market opportunity through investments in residential and international expansion.”

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