Real Estate

Is Microsoft Gearing Up To Compete With Zillow For Rental Market Share?

Company is hiring staffers in China for a “revolutionary” real estate venture focused on improving the search for long-term rentals.

Microsoft is hiring a team of engineers who will focus on a real estate venture called Bing Rentals.

The legacy tech company has been hiring staff  — all of them in Asia — as part of a secretive effort to create a “big global team” of employees working in real estate. 

Few other details are known about what the tech giant has in store, though job listings reviewed by Inman show that Microsoft is building a team focused on long-term rentals. It could make a competitive online rental search market even more crowded.

“We’re transforming the real estate industry into a revolutionary state where all of the rental tasks are done entirely online,” state more than a dozen job listings from March. “Our team is constantly experimenting and optimizing how search results are presented to users.”

The active listings were first reported by the China-focused news site PingWest. Microsoft declined to speak about its plans.

“We are unable to accommodate your request to speak with someone,” the company wrote. “Microsoft has nothing to share.”

The listings could mark another major tech competitor in the online portal space, which has increasingly focused on winning market share for rentals, a space that is largely dominated by major players like Zillow, Redfin and Apartments.com.

Redfin paid $608 million last year to acquire the rental search company RentPath as part of an effort to compete in the space and win future clients over the long term.

Renters today will turn into homebuyers tomorrow, so winning their attention before they start shopping for homes will be key to long-term success, Redfin CEO Glenn Kelman said at the time.

“We can’t have people build relationships with other websites for the first 30 years of their life,” and then try to attract them when it’s time to buy, Kelman said.

Companies entering the rental search space are creating a highly competitive market with some of the industry’s biggest players. CoStar, for instance, is moving aggressively into the online real estate space by creating and acquiring for-sale and rental marketplaces of its own.

Bing, Microsoft’s search engine that competes with Google, would mark another significant addition into the space.

It’s not immediately clear whether Microsoft plans to jump into the U.S. market or create a product for use in China.

The company has 15 active job listings dating back to March and posted as recently as two days ago. Most of them are based in the city of Suzhou, west of Shanghai.

The most recent posting, searching for a software engineer, says the employee would be a member of the Bing Whole Page team.

The team will work to “empower people with rental need to find their dream house efficiently.” Qualifications include experience in the apartment rental industry.

Email Taylor Anderson

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