The Propertyfinder home search site is buying HotProperty.co.uk operator Sherlock Publications for £5.6 million, uniting the two under the growing real estate interest in Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp (NYSE: NWS) as it squares up to market-leading RightMove.co.uk.
News Corp and RealEstate.com.au bought Propertyfinder for £14 million in 2005 and News International made a “multi-million” investment last year in search ads-supported free property listings startup Globrix.
Sherlock, which started out by publishing its HotProperty and Rental magazines in 1995, claims 1,300 listings customers and 170,000 listings. The acquisition is all about challenging RightMove.co.uk. Propertyfinder said the acquisition of the number-six UK property site makes it number-two to the leader and means both its customers and those of HotProperty.co.uk can get listed at each site for one cost.
With the rate at which news publishers have been buying property sites over the last few years, to shore up their falling print classifieds, it’s a wonder there are any left to acquire. With repossessions rising and house prices set to reverse amid tougher economic conditions, this year could prove an important one for the sector.