Real estate information providers were passing ships last week. The winners and losers just happened to literally be a world apart. Stateside darlings Zillow (NASDAQ: Z ) and Trulia (NYSE: TRLA ) rose 15% and 12%, respectively, on the week. Chinese players E-House (NYSE: EJ ) and SouFun (NYSE: SFUN ) saw their shares fall by 10% each last week. The double-digit-percentage moves in both directions paint contrasting portraits, but it's not as good or bad as you might think.
Let's start with the Chinese sinkers. E-House and SouFun fell as investors retreated out of China's growth stocks, but if anything, the only substantial news out of the companies was positive.
SouFun, a website operator emphasizing home improvement, furnishings and other real estate topics, should have moved higher after announcing a new ADS-to-share ratio that essentially equates a 5-for-1 stock split. It didn't.
There was some encouraging news out of E-House on Friday. Tencent's agreeing to shell out $180 million to E-House for a 15% stake in its previously wholly owned Leju, a provider of real estate online services that E-House is proposing to take public as a stand-alone entity. It didn't matter. The market just wasn't interested in Chinese equities.
The market's reception was far kinder to the real-estate portals toiling away closer to home.
Jim Cramer had some kind words to say about Zillow on Wednesday's Mad Money show. Zillow also helped make its own luck by introducing a new platform where potential home buyers can get a mortgage provider's pre-approval letter in just minutes. Zillow claims that this is the first time that this kind of offering -- something that will make it easier for aspiring buyers to sway sellers into entering into a sales contract -- is being made possible on desktop and mobile platforms.
Trulia announced the residential real estate website's first national marketing campaign. Trulia is investing $45 million in this "Moment of Trulia" campaign that's aimed at women between the ages of 25 and 44 and will be promoted across various media platforms.
Trulia's "Look" commercial is now airing on TV.
Despite the week's disparity, investors have generally been skittish when it comes to real-estate plays. Zillow is the only one of the four stocks to be trading higher in 2014. But if the real estate market proves that it can hold its own in this climate of rising rates, it won't take long before investors buy back into all four companies.
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