During the housing bubble, websites focused on the real estate sector sprung up like "for sale" signs in a hot neighborhood. Over the past couple of years, out of sight of the headlines, those companies have been merging and buying each other out. It's called "a roll-up," and it happens when a sector begins to mature.
In the last couple years, Zillow snapped up New York apartment site StreetEasy and HotPads. Trulia bought Market Leader and last month was rumored to be close to buying Realtor.com. Today came the biggest deal yet: Zillow said it agreed to buy rival Trulia for about $3.5 billion. The pair will create the proverbial 800-pound gorilla for online real estate. Part of the reason for the merger-mania is that when it comes to online real estate, bigger is pretty much always better.
"In internet-based economies, scale matters a lot," says Nic Retsinas, a professor of real estate at the Harvard Business School. "And as the two largest players in this marketplace, the possibility of them coming together gave them advantages of scale."
Together Zillow and Trulia will command more than 60 percent of online real estate traffic. That mega-market share is a big part of the reason we’re seeing this deal.
"As one company takes a leadership position, it amasses enormous capital," says Glenn Kelman, CEO of real estate site Redfin. "So you see Wall Street really rewarding the number-one player in the space and that gives them the capital to buy other companies."
The real estate market is recovering slowly, but the online real estate space is booming. Redfin is growing by 50 percent a year.
Growth is likely to continue as more people get online and the internet generation comes of home-buying age. "People do love to look at what their house is worth," says Richard Green, director of the USC Lusk Center for Real Estate. "And, let’s face it, they want to look at what their neighbor’s house is worth."
Still, Green doesn’t think we’ll see many more mergers of this kind. He says most of the deals that could be done have been done.
One-click online shopping is changing how we shop. Stores with leases as short as a day are proliferating — meaning a storefront can be a designer clothing store one day and a test kitchen the next.
From October 2013 to June 2014, more than 57,000 unaccompanied minors have migrated to the United States, most from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras. One solution for dealing with these children is to send them back home, a plan both President Obama and congressional Republicans endorse.
But with that many kids and toddlers being juggled around the system, that simple-sounding solution could actually create an even bigger strain on resources.
"Money would help deal with the influx now," says Esme Deprez, U.S Border Reporter for Bloomberg Businessweek. "We’re seeing shelters overwhelmed, we’re seeing processing centers that are run by border patrol agents completely overwhelmed, courts overwhelmed as well. The system is being stretched at every turn."
The White House has asked Congress for $3.7 billion in emergency funds, but Deprez says there is not a lot of hope that Congress will act.
"They’re going on break for five weeks on July 31," says Deprez. "So, even if they do pass separate bills in the House and Senate, we don’t know if they’re going to come to an agreement and reconcile the two."
If Congress were to approve the emergency funds requested, it would include $879 million to pay for the minors’ prosecution, deportation and to help expedite their court hearings.
"The bulk of the money would go to care for the newly-arrived children and the shelters," says Deprez.
Listen to the full conversation in the audio player above.
The Colorado attorney general has asked the state's Supreme Court to stop same-sex marriages.
Congress has reached a bipartisan deal to reform the Department of Veterans Affairs, after nearly two months of tense negotiations.
The airline industry and its unions support the bill, which would allow them to list ticket prices without taxes and fees. Consumer groups say that will lead to deceptive marketing.
The National Labor Relations Act of 1935 (NLRA) "guarantees basic rights of private sector employees to organize into trade unions, engage in collective bargaining for better terms and conditions at work, and take collective action including strike if necessary."
Despite the NLRA, some companies still threaten their employees with lowering their pay or hours and even with termination if they discuss their pay with other employees.
"Gag rules are illegal," says Nancy Koehn of the Harvard Business School. "But there is no question that they are alive and well in America."
There are many disadvantages for workers who don’t know if they’re getting paid fairly or not, says Koehn.
"If you have no sense of what your pay is on some kid of latter of compensation across the organization, you have no sense of what kind of organization this is in terms of how they reward people for a job well done," says Koehn.
Listen to the full conversation in the audio player above.
Russia says it will appeal an unfavorable decision by a court in The Hague. The Permanent Court of Arbitration awarded $50 billion to shareholders of the defunct Yukos oil company.
NPR's Emily Harris reports on the Muslim holiday of Eid in Gaza, where one where one family traces the course of three weeks of war in broken bread, temporary shelters and mourning for their dead.
The slice of retail aimed at America's most budget-conscious consumers is consolidating. Dollar Tree is buying Family Dollar for $8.5 billion, a deal encouraged by activist investors Carl Icahn and Nelson Peltz. The new company will have 13,000 stores, making it a more formidable competitor — in size, at least — to Wal-Mart.
A new salvo has been fired in the fight over teacher tenure. A group led by former TV anchor Campbell Brown filed a complaint in New York state court, arguing that tenure laws are preventing the state from providing every child with the "sound, basic education" its constitution guarantees.