Trade Me’s new owners have made a conditional offer to buy a real estate web site partly owned by Spark in a deal which might be subject to Commerce Commission approval.

Trade Me said an offer was on the table for homes.co.nz which says it has 1.8 million houses on its site, gets 400,000 users every month and has 24 employees.

Head of Trade Me Property Alan Clark said: “We’ve reached a conditional agreement with Homes.co.nz to purchase their business. Homes has a great suite of tools for New Zealanders interested in property, that they’ve built up over the last few years. As New Zealand’s favourite place for property, Trade Me is always looking for ways to improve and be more useful to Kiwis, so we’re looking forward to Homes being part of Trade Me’s Property offering to Kiwis.”

Trade Me would refer the purchase to the Commerce Commission in the coming days to ensure that entity was happy there are no competition issues.

“We’re confident the Commerce Commission will be happy with the purchase but we’ll go through the process with them and know more in the coming months,” Clark said.

“For now it is business as usual for both sides and we’re not commenting further until we’ve heard more from the commission,” he said.

A Commerce Commission spokesperson could neither confirm nor deny any application by Trade Me to buy homes.co.nz.

She referred to merger application being added to case registers. No application from Trade Me appears on that list currently.

“For confidentiality reasons, we are unable to comment on any discussions that we may or may not have had prior to an application being registered,” she said.

Trade Me was this afternoon displaying 21,849 properties on its site.

Homes.co.nz says it appeals to New Zealanders’ interest in property.

“Kiwis’ love of property is in our DNA. Whether it’s the excitement of buying or renting your first home, the pride of a DIY home improvement or finding the best real estate agent in your neighbourhood – we can help with all the property information you need,” it says

In 2018, homes.co.nz announced that Spark had increased its stake from 14.2 per cent to 22.5 per cent.

An inquiry was sent today to homes.co.nz but no response was received.

Peter Thompson, Barfoot & Thompson managing director, said today he would not give the possible deal much thought until it won any regulatory approval which could be needed but he had heard about it.

“It’s got to go through the Commerce Commission. It’s the same as the Herald has got the web site OneRoof. I suppose it’s a company looking forward and how they enhance their business,” Thompson said.

“It’s the least of our worries at the moment,” Thompson said, referring to Covid-19 and changes the real estate sector was undergoing, having to find new ways to work to serve customers.

“It’s a bit like online auctions – 12 months ago, we didn’t have that,” he said.

Bindi Norwell, Real Estate Institute chief executive, said she was not particularly surprised about the possible purchase by Trade Me. She was reluctant to comment until it had been officially confirmed, but said homes.co.nz had invested in services to make its platform more user friendly lately.

The web site had become a popular place for people to look at property valuations, Norwell said but she sought confirmation of an application to buy before saying more.

Mike Bayley of Bayleys Realty Group said he had not heard of the takeover but made inquiries among staff who he said thought homes.co.nz had already been sold to Trade Me.

In 2016, the Herald reported how homes.co.nz was soon to be expanded.

Jeremy O’Hanlon of homes.co.nz said the details of more than 1 million New Zealand residences, flats and apartments were now accessible, giving up-to-date valuations on each residence and its site.

“These are all things you’ve had to pay for in the past,” O’Hanlon said then, explaining how the information was drawn from authorities including councils, which hold property records. “We’ve got the sales history, estimated value and we’re now working with Westpac and IAG to add new data sets.”

The site’s computer model uses the data, historic sales and trends in each area, which is updated monthly, to give people an idea of an estimated value. Property sales history, recent sales, monthly homes estimate and rating values are on the site.

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