Sridhar Natarajan, and
November 2, 2021, 12:15 AM GMT+5:30Updated on
Zillow Group Inc. is looking to sell about 7,000 homes as it seeks to recover from a fumble in its high-tech home-flipping business.
The company is seeking roughly $2.8 billion for the houses, which are being pitched to institutional investors, according to people familiar with the matter. Zillow will likely sell the properties to a multitude of buyers rather than packaging them in a single transaction, said the people, who asked not to be named because the matter is private.
A representative for Zillow didn’t immediately comment.
The move to offload homes comes as Zillow seeks to recover from an operational stumble that saw it buy too many houses, with many now being listed for less than it paid. The company typically offers smaller numbers of homes to single-family landlords, but the current sales effort is much larger than normal.
If successful, the sale would make a dramatic dent in Zillow’s inventory. The company acquired roughly 8,000 homes in the third quarter, according to an estimate by real estate tech strategist Mike DelPrete.
Zillow shares dropped 8.6% to $96.61 on Monday. The stock had slipped 22% this year through Friday after nearly tripling in 2020. The company is scheduled to report earnings on Tuesday.
Read more: Zillow’s Zeal to Outbid for Homes Backfires in Flipping Fumble
Zillow recently said it would stop making new offers in its home-flipping operation for the remainder of the year, though it continues to close on properties that were already under contract. The decision came after the company tweaked the algorithms that power the business to make higher offers, leaving it with a bevy of winning bids just as home-price appreciation cooled off a bit.
An analysis of 650 homes owned by Zillow showed that two-thirds were priced for less than the company bought them for, according to an Oct. 31 note from KeyBanc Capital Markets.
“I think they leaned into home-price appreciation at exactly the wrong moment,” said Ed Yruma, an analyst at KeyBanc.
Zillow put a record number of homes on the market in September, listing properties at the lowest markups since November 2018, according to research from YipitData. It also cut prices on nearly half of its U.S. listings in the third quarter, according to Yipit, signaling that its inventory was commanding prices lower than it expected.
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Led by Chief Executive Officer Rich Barton, Zillow is best known for publishing real estate listings online and calculating estimated home values – called Zestimates – that let users keep track of how much their property is worth. The popularity of the company’s apps and websites fuels profits in Zillow’s online marketing business.
But more recently it has been buying and selling thousands of U.S. homes, practicing a new spin on home-flipping called iBuying that seeks to offer sellers a better way of selling a home.
Zillow invites owners to request an offer on their house and uses algorithms to generate a price. If an owner accepts, Zillow buys the property, makes light repairs and puts it back on the market.
The company bought more than 3,800 houses in the second quarter, making progress toward its stated goal of acquiring 5,000 homes a month by 2024. The increase in purchases left the company struggling to find workers to renovate the properties.
Read more: Wall Street’s Favorite Suburban Housing Bet Is Getting Crowded
Zillow and its chief iBuying competitors, Opendoor Technologies Inc. and Offerpad Solutions Inc., often sell homes to single-family landlords in the normal course of business. Investors bought roughly 9% of all homes Zillow sold in the first quarter of 2021, Bloomberg previously reported.
Investors have been buying single-family rental homes during the pandemic, chasing the inventory-starved housing market for properties they can buy and rent. That should help Zillow find buyers, said Rick Palacios, director of research at John Burns Real Estate Consulting.
“I bet Zillow can sell to single-family landlords at a profit given how hungry those groups are for inventory,” he said.