Zillow’s flips flop, hurting profits but benefitting homeowners



The streets aren’t being easy on Zillow, which is reportedly losing money on homes it bought to flip, but are instead proving flops. 

The real estate company has paused its home buying operation, Zillow Offers, after an algorithmic tweaking to make higher home offers failed to keep up with the real estate market, Bloomberg reported this week. This resulted in Zillow overpaying for homes it couldn’t resell even for the sale price, let alone a profit, Bloomberg reported

The failed buying spree has benefited some homeowners, who sold houses to the company at rates which turned out to be overmarket. These winners of the real estate fumble include seller Abidemi Bolatiwa, who sold his Phoenix four-bedroom to the company for $531,300 in late September, saving money on a Zillow convenience fee cheaper than what a traditional agent commission would have cost, according to Bloomberg. Zillow listed the property for $505,900 10 days later, but it didn’t sell, so the company cut the price to $494,900. 

After a real estate agent made him a lower offer than Zillow, Richard Flor of the Phoenix suburb Tolleson, Arizona decided to sell to the company this summer. Zillow paid him approximately $412,000 and charged only a 1 percent fee on the sale of his three-bedroom, three-bathroom rental property. Two weeks later, after making light repairs, Zillow listed the property for $387,000 — $3,000 less than what the agent had offered. 

On Oct. 18, Zillow announced it would stop making home buying offers, thus pausing the home-flipping program which has failed to turn a profit since being started in 2018. 

“Prices turned on them and they got a little bit flat-footed and they were probably a little too aggressive on the bidding,” RBC Capital Markets analyst Brad Erickson explained to Bloomberg, regarding where Zillow’s market strategy failed. While a loss, though, the failure won’t hurt the company too badly. “​​They probably don’t care so much. It’s not as important at this stage of the game to make money,” Erickson added.

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