Fidelity National Financial (NYSE: FNF) and VISTAinfo (formerly Nasdaq: VINF) have completed their merger, and are forming a new company called Fidelity National Information Solutions (Nasdaq: FNIS). What does the merger mean to MLS organizations, brokers and agents?
Well, we're not quite sure yet, but it looks scary for competitors, including Homestore .
Fidelity National Financial is one of if not the largest providers of title insurance and real estate related products and services, with five major regional and national brands under its wing - Chicago Title, Fidelity National Title Insurance Company, Alamo Title, Security Union, and Ticor Title (western region) giving it approximately 30 percent market share nationally in title services.
Last spring, FNF purchased RISCO, arguably the third largest MLS vendor from defunct dot-com iProperty.com, and now it is buying VISTAinfo, the market leader in MLS information systems. RISCO's specialty is serving small to mid-size MLSs (serving 1000 agents or fewer) with browser-server (Internet-based) MLS information systems. Before merging with FNF, VISTAinfo was the largest vendor of MLS legacy systems, and like its rival Interealty (a close second in number of seated agents served) is attempting to transition as many of its mid to large-sized MLSs to the Internet from older client-based legacy systems. Why the rush to the Internet? e-Mail. Sending an e-mail directly isn't possible on older dial-up systems where software must be closed down and a browser opened before e-mail can be used. With Internet-based systems, e-mail is a built-in utility and can be used to forward consumer-ready listings, comparable reports, and other time-sensitive information that helps Realtors maintain a competitive edge with a mouse-click. Agents who aren't e-mail ready might as well be using smoke signals. New MLS systems are designed for communication, which ranges from marketing to transaction management to after-closing affinity services management.
VISTAinfo offerings include MLS information management services, environmental disclosure services and productivity software and solutions for brokers and agents. Under the terms of the new merger, Fidelity National Financial will combine some of its holdings with VISTAinfo - the assets and operations of IDM Corp., Market Intelligence, Inc., Fidelity National Credit Services, Fidelity National Tax Service and Fidelity National Flood Services.
Collectively, these services will make FNIS the first "to effectively address the full range of needs for database information and services required by lenders and real estate professionals in a property transaction."
Now, what's interesting is that FNIS is not going to include the services of RISCO. RISCO is remaining with the parent FNF. According to FNIS spokespersons, the management team for RISCO will be heading the MLS division, promising "more synergy than meets the eye."
FNIS promises to explain shortly why the company has divided its resources in order to develop the strengths of both groups as company officials wait to announce additional news regarding the merger and its synergies with the parent company FNF.
So far the explanation is that the new company will provide "customized bundling of multiple listing service systems, a wide array of productivity tools, real estate tax services, credit reporting services, flood compliance services, automated valuations and appraisal services, and other products derived from a national real estate information database of over 100 million properties."
Sounds like property evaluation services have just been taken to a whole new level. The question is how will the agents and brokers benefit? Will they cash in as referrers, like some of the new affinity services such as Home-Link? Has FNIS just removed territorial boundaries by making these services available as part of a national database? Has FNIS just put together the first risk management-based MLS system? The first national affinity-services systems courtesy of the local MLS?
"Fidelity National Information Solutions will transform the way in which property database information products and services are delivered to and used by real estate professionals, lenders and homeowners," said Eric Swenson, president and COO of Fidelity National Information Solutions. "No other single company provides the vital business intelligence needed throughout the entire homeownership cycle, from purchase through refinance and eventually the sale of a property."
FNF has a 77 percent interest in FNIS with the remainder of shares owned by VISTAinfo shareholders and other investors. Fidelity National Information Solutions is expected to have first year annual revenue of approximately $230 million.