“There are so many synergies here that it really made sense to do something together,” Urban Analytics managing principal Michael Ferreira told RENX.
“We’re going to leverage our two technologies and create some pretty exciting platforms for our customers,” Zonda chief executive officer Jeff Meyers said during the interview.
Urban Analytics is a multifamily and urban data and analytics company formed 25 years ago to offer real estate data to developers, planners, financial institutions and other industry stakeholders in Vancouver, and later in Calgary and Edmonton.
It provides tools and intelligence services to help partners interpret statistics to allow them to make better decisions and maximize the value of their real estate investments.
“We’re a small company that’s grown quite a bit over the past five years,” said Ferreira. “We’ve expanded into Calgary and Edmonton and expanded our product lines from just tracking urban condos and townhomes to tracking the purpose-built rental market and the land transaction market.
“We also have an advisory arm that does fairly well. But when you’re in Western Canada, you’re always looking east because that’s where the big markets are. So I think it’s natural that we’d want to be in Toronto and Montreal, and from there look at some other markets that make sense in Ontario and Quebec. I think Ottawa is a natural for expansion, also.”
Ferreira said the acquisition by Zonda will accelerate its expansion plans, reducing its growth window from five to 10 years down to one or two years.
While the purchase price wasn’t disclosed, Ferreira said: “If the number wasn’t good for both sides, the deal wouldn’t have happened. I think it was a fair price.”
What Zonda does
Newport Beach, Calif.-based Zonda was formerly known as Meyers Research, which was founded in 2006 by Meyers. It provides real-time market data and advisory services to the homebuilding industry, including homebuilders, land brokers, developers, mortgage lenders, finance professionals and building product manufacturers.
Zonda’s platform is more suburban-focused and this acquisition will enable it to add urban market coverage to its existing suite of solutions and become involved with properties ranging from townhomes to high-rises that weren’t part of its mandate in the past.
“We’re really excited to expand throughout Canada and have identified 11 cities in the U.S. that we’ll launch it into as well,” said Meyers, who grew up in Vancouver and has known Ferreira since 2009.
“We’re building a budget as we speak to grow into other markets. One of the exciting parts of this acquisition is our ability to throw more resources at it.”
“There isn’t a company that tracks the urban market in the U.S., and I don’t think we have consistent coverage of the single-family and suburban market in Canada,” said Ferreira.
“With the Zonda platform, there’s an opportunity there for us to bring that into Canada and do a better job of tracking suburban markets and single-family detached product specifically.”
Zonda was created by New York City-based private equity firm MidOcean Partners in December 2018 through the merger of Meyers Research and Hanley Wood. The intent was to leverage their respective data products, Zonda and Metrostudy, to offer data spanning the full homebuilding life cycle.
“We went from a media-centric platform 10 to 12 years ago to a data subscription platform,” said Meyers. “We brought the two largest U.S. data providers together and we’re now the No. 1 provider in the United States.”
Zonda also has a media arm that includes Builder, Multifamily Executive, Remodeling, Architect, Concrete Construction, Affordable Housing Finance and Journal of Light Construction. They provide news and resources to their target audiences, and Zonda also holds related events and webinars.
While Meyers said 75 to 80 per cent of Zonda’s revenue is derived from providing data, the media platform enables it to better market its services.
Meyers said Zonda has an audience database of more than two million participants and is looking to expand that in Canada, where it may also stage events to better engage building industry members.
Last year, Zonda acquired Scottish satellite imagery and artificial intelligence technology company Bird.i.
Its imagery processing technology shows how things are changing on the ground, allowing for more timely and better-informed decision-making throughout the building process, providing a competitive advantage for users in land procurement, design, supply chain and other areas.
“About 70 per cent of our data now is collected through satellite imagery and machine learning,” said Meyers. “We used to be feet on the street and now we’re eyes in the sky.”
Ferreira said Bird.i’s technology will be valuable in providing real-time construction status updates to clients and he believes it will also attract new customers to its services.
Zonda also acquired Phoenix-headquartered residential market research firm Belfiore Real Estate Consulting last year.
Zonda and Urban Analytics will be co-branded initially to capitalize on the name and reputation the Vancouver company has built over the past quarter-century.
Zonda has approximately 1,000 employees and about 40 open positions in the United States and Canada it’s actively trying to fill. There won’t be any staff reductions at Urban Analytics arising from its acquisition.
“The team will only expand,” said Meyers.