The portal wars are heating up. In an attempt to reach residential listing portal supremacy, CoStar Group (the parent company of Apartments.com and Homes.com) will air four advertisements during this Sunday’s broadcast of Super Bowl LVIII between the San Francisco 49ers and the Kansas City Chiefs.
“The Super Bowl is a deep part of American culture and it grabs a disproportionate share of everyone’s mind,” Andy Florance, the CEO of CoStar Group, said. “So, it is the best place to get attention on a brand.”
One of the ads will be for Apartments.com, while the other three will feature Homes.com, CoStar’s residential listing platform. All four ads will feature celebrities, including Jeff Goldblum, Dan Levy and Heidi Gardner, as well as a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it cameo from Florance.
When it came time to select talent for the ads, Florance said Levy and Gardner, who starred and co-wrote in Saturday Night Live’s Zillow skit in February 2021, were no-brainers.
“Dan Levy and Heidi Gardner are two incredible talents, and they are clearly in tune with the way America looks at real estate online,” Florance said.
He noted that both Levy and Gardner helped to write CoStar Group’s Super Bowl ads.
CoStar said it plans to continue running the commercials throughout the rest of 2024, including during major TV broadcasts like the Oscars and the NBA playoffs.
The company has been hyping the Super Bowl ad spots through a series of consumer-facing ads on YouTube featuring Levy, Gardner and rapper Lil Wayne. The advertisements promise “a powerful new home-shopping platform,” and end with the date of this coming Sunday.
“We began by teasing the commercials, and particularly the talent and the celebrities in the commercials, to create interest, and that will drive a little more attention to the commercials when they run in the Super Bowl,” Florance said.
In a video discussing its marketing strategy, also released this week, CoStar tells real estate agents that it plans to run the Homes.com ads on streaming platforms, broadcast TV and digital radio, as well as during major events. It also notes that it has spent roughly $1 billion to “drive 80 billion impressions” and reach “more than 90 percent of households.”
“No other competitor comes close to our investment to drive leads to all agents,” the video states.
Part of this investment, Florance said, was to build content on roughly 21,000 neighborhoods across the U.S., as well as nearly 100,000 high schools, elementary schools and middle schools.
“When people buy a home, they are not just buying a home, they are buying into a community,” Florance said.
The firm is no stranger to large marketing spends. In 2015, CoStar spent $100 million in consumer marketing to promote the revamped Apartments.com site.
“I think now everyone is familiar with ‘Change your apartment, change your world,’ and Jeff Goldblum playing Brad Bellflower, but that was a big bet for us. We invested a lot in that and we are investing three or four times as much in this campaign,” Florance said. “People spend a lot more money on their home than they spend on beer or Doritos, so it’s important that our marketing is commensurate with how important real estate is in people’s lives.”
CoStar, which has long been known as a commercial real estate listing giant, began making a play for a slice of the residential listing pie when it acquired Homesnap and Homes.com in 2020 and 2021, respectively.
In September 2023, Homes.com recorded more than 100 million unique monthly visitors, a 1,290% year-over-year increase, according to the firm. Meanwhile, Realtor.com reported 74 million unique monthly visitors and Redfin recorded 52 million unique visitors in Q2 2023. The massive jump in unique monthly visitors propelled Homes.com to the No. 2 spot among the most-visited residential real estate platforms, trailing only longtime leader Zillow.
Looking ahead, Florance feels it is only a matter of time before Homes.com overtakes Zillow.
“We are confident that we have built the best site possible for both the agents, and the home buyers and seller,” Florance said. “We’ve climbed from No. 5 or 6 to No. 2, but we are just beginning to market our brand to consumers. This is the next stage in the development of Homes.com. We are playing the long game.”