Zillow’s iBuying flop: Company listed nearly two-thirds of homes below purchase price

Firm is pausing buying for rest of 2021

Zillow CEO Rich Barton (Getty, iStock)
Zillow CEO Rich Barton (Getty, iStock)

Questions over the profitability of Zillow’s iBuying practices in the increasingly competitive space appear to be close to the operation’s troubles detailed in an Insider analysis.

Insider examined the company’s listings on October 27 in five markets: Dallas, Houston, Phoenix, Atlanta and Minneapolis. The outlet found almost 64 percent of the homes were listed for sale for less than Zillow paid for them, with a median difference of $16,000.

Of the 963 listings Insider reviewed, 616 were being listed for less than Zillow’s purchase price. The problematic listings were particularly noticeable in Phoenix and Dallas, where 93 and 81 percent of listings, respectively, were below Zillow’s purchase prices, respectively.

Across the five cities, only Atlanta saw the problem occur less than 60 percent of the time; the low listings accounted for about 28 percent in Zillow’s largest metro of inventory. The cities make up nearly a third of Zillow’s entire inventory.

Insider’s analysis came less than two weeks after Zillow temporarily shut down its iBuying program. The company claimed to be “beyond operational capacity,” stuck with a backlog of properties.

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The pause marked the second time in two years Zillow has ceased its home-buying operation since its launch in 2018. Ongoing labor shortages and volatile material prices slowing down repairs and renovations of purchased properties likely contributed to its recent backlog of pending property sales.

Zillow Offers allows homeowners to receive an offer on their home through Zillow’s proprietary technology, which can allow for a quick offer and sale. After the transaction, the property receives minor repairs before it’s put back on the market.

Zillow reported making $1.5 billion in revenue from its iBuying business during the first half of 2021. Insider reports Zillow CEO Rich Barton has said the company could hit $20 billion in revenue from iBuying annually in three years.

The four largest iBuying companies combined to purchase 15,000 homes in the second quarter. Zillow has aspirations to surpass that figure, however, and purchase 20,000 homes on an annual basis by 2024.

Zillow will announce its third-quarter earnings on Nov. 2, potentially shedding light on the success and failures of its iBuying business.

[Insider] — Holden Walter-Warner