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The rise of property portal Habitaclia and its acquisition by Schibsted Spain

Updated: Nov 25, 2020

The success of Spanish property portal and its recent acquisition by Schibsted Spain for an undisclosed amount, highlights how important it is to execute well in one market to achieve success, says Javier Etxebeste, the co-founder of Daybat, a business intelligence firm that works with online classifieds ventures.

Habitaclia, which lists homes for rent and sale across Cataluya, the Balearic Islands and Andorra, turned over €6.8M during the first three quarters of 2016 - an increase of 36% compared to the previous year.

The portal has proved itself as a dominant force in Catalunya and has risen slowly since its inception 15 years ago; Etxebeste attributes the brand’s success to its execution.

“Habitaclia has a very strong position in Catalunya, which is a very differentiated area: it has a different language, it has a sense of identity,” he tells PPW.

Because of its prominence in northeastern Spain, Etxebeste says the portal decided to try and diversify across the country,  a move that was unsuccessful and ultimately forced Habitaclia to revert  its attention back to Catalunya.

“So the key message here – and maybe Habitaclia is the exception – is that there is a role to be played in emerging markets: you don’t need to fight for the whole dominance of the nation and lose, you can actually position yourself very well in one area and wait for the right exit,” he says.

And this is exactly what Habitaclia has done.

The importance of intelligent execution

“ Together, with a great team including CEO Javier Llanas, Jose Maria Merino, and others; this business has been built slowly by its founder Jordi Peña,” Etxebeste explains. “It seems he hasn’t particularly innovated a lot, but what he does is he executes very well. In the end, it’s execution that matters.”

Including its latest acquisition, Schibsted Spain now owns two of the three biggest property portals in the country, if you include Fotocasa. But Etxebeste maintains that mergers and acquisitions aren’t everything, and that executing well is sometimes all it takes to be number 1, as is the case with Idealista, Spain’s leading portal.

“The advantage that Schibsted has is that they have a strong position in every approach, in verticals, horizontals and mobile apps,” Etxebeste says.

“They used to have two brands in the horizontal general classifieds space which was  Segundamano, which is now Vibbo, and Milanuncios which they still maintain. That’s a great position to start with, because the market is so fluent and dynamic. But similarly, every time they make a decision with one brand, that affects their position across the whole portfolio. That seemed to be what happened when they migrated Segundamano to VIbbo to react against Wallapop. In the process, this affected Fotocasa´s traffic.

The country’s leading property portal doesn’t ‘seem to have this problem; however.

“For idealista it’s more simple: they have one model, three countries and only one thing to focus on,” Etxebeste says. “And that’s execution.

“When you think about how REA dominated Domain, or with or any other country, it’s execution that really matters,” he explains.

“If your competition is winning with a new formula, you can always replicate it; it will take you some time but you can replicate it. If you can’t execute well it doesn’t matter how creative you are.

“To me - in emerging markets; sometimes they forget that. They think it’s a question of merger and acquisitions, and investment. All those things are important if you want to be number one, but the true recipe for success is stellar execution and that is not easy to replicate.”

This article was originally published in Online Marketplaces

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