Zillow Group Inc. is taking a break from buying U.S. homes after the online real estate giant’s pivot into tech-powered house-flipping hit a snag.
Zillow, which acquired more than 3,800 homes in the second quarter, will stop pursuing new home purchases as it works through a backlog of properties already in its pipeline.
“We are beyond operational capacity in our Zillow Offers business and are not taking on additional contracts to purchase homes at this time,” a spokesperson for Zillow said in an email. “We continue to process the purchase of homes from sellers who are already under contract, as quickly as possible.”
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 home is worth. The popularity of the company’s apps and websites fuels profits in Zillow’s online marketing business.
They are known for their marketing prowess, so if you’re like me, you probably wondered if they just cooked up a great excuse – and/or if was there any more to the story.
I know one homeowner who got a quote from ZO about a month ago that was around the retail value of the home. Two weeks later, ZO revised their quote downward by 5%, and claimed it was due to ‘market conditions’, not a pipeline backlog. But there’s no obligation for them to tell the same story everywhere.
Let’s check their market conditions.
These are the MLS stats for the broker from Corona who has 91 agents handling the bulk of the Zillow listings for Southern California:
Solds between April 18 – July 18th:174
Average Days on Market: 14
Median Days on Market: 6
Solds between July 19 – Oct. 18th:273
Average DOM: 26
Median DOM: 22
ACTIVE LISTINGS TODAY:294
Average DOM: 29
Median DOM: 21
They were in love with the frenzy, and were able to sell half of their listings in the first 6 days on the market. But today, most of their active listings have been on the market for weeks, and are still unsold.
When their home isn’t selling, amateur sellers cancel their listing and wait for a ‘better market’.
Speaking of Zillow, they also said in this June article that San Diego home prices would rise 24.7% by May.
How are we doing?
There has never been a great measuring stick for home prices, but let’s look at the most common ones:
Yikes – it looks like home prices have been fairly flat over the last 2-3 months, at least according to the standard ways of measuring. Pricing doesn’t have to rise 2% every month to get to their 24.7%, but having upward momentum is critical because once we roll into Plateau City, it gets harder to convince buyers to overpay. They are already cooling their jets:
San Francisco leads the 50 largest U.S. metros in the share of homes sold for 30% over their list price or higher at 7.4%. It’s followed by the hot market of Buffalo, NY, where 6.2% of homes sold for more than 30% over list, and Austin (5.3%). All shares in these markets are up substantially over the first quarter.
The markets with the most homes sold for half a million or more over asking in the second quarter are San Francisco (657), San Jose (283), Los Angeles (99), Seattle (88) and Miami (74).
Can we find the six that sold for $1,000,000 over list? I went looking for that needle in a haystack, but couldn’t find any. If you know of the properties that for more than a million dollars over list this year, let us know! The 2021 numbers are staggering, given the pricing:
San Diego County First-Half Sales, All Property Types
Sales Over $3,000,000
Record pricing, and record sales at the same time – what a frenzy!
The ibuyers are borrowing money like crazy to build their inventory of homes to flip. Opendoor doesn’t have the brand-name awareness of Zillow, so they are advertising a lot and buying homes directly off the MLS. Zillow has everyone’s email address so they are able to reach their users directly. Both have been fairly well-compensated during the 12-month frenzy – will it continue? From this article:
Opendoor Technologies Inc., which buys homes from consumers and lists them for resale, is in talks with lenders for a new revolving credit facility of roughly $2 billion, according to people familiar with the effort.
The company, which is rapidly accelerating the number of homes it purchases, plans to use the proceeds to help increase acquisitions, said one of the people, who asked not to be named because the matter is private.
A representative for Opendoor declined to comment.
Opendoor, led by Chief Executive Officer Eric Wu, pioneered a data-driven spin on home-flipping known as iBuying. After the company buys a home, it makes light repairs and seeks to resell it, profiting by charging sellers a 5% fee for the convenience of an easy sale.
The company acquired 8,500 homes in the second quarter, more than double the number it bought in the first three months of the year, according to an statement Wednesday. It also had roughly 8,100 additional houses under contract at the end of June.
Opendoor uses debt to fund acquisitions, and had just under $4 billion in borrowing capacity under existing revolving credit facilities as of the end of June. The company had drawn $1.8 billion on those facilities, according to a filing.
Zillow Group Inc., Opendoor’s main competitor, has also moved to increase its firepower for home purchases. The company borrowed $450 million through a first-of-its-kind bond offering earlier this month.
Zillow’s recent activity has been more consistent than Opendoor’s, so let’s look at the Zillow numbers to see if the convenience they offer sellers is paying off. Zillow currently owns 138 homes in San Diego County, and of those, 72 are active listings and 38 are pending. They have sold 48 homes this year – here are the 13 they have closed since July 1st:
List Price on the Flip
They have a consistent 2-month turnover between the day of purchase, and the day of sale, so it’s a quick $553,600 profit, or an average of $42,585 per sale – though they had to pay out close to half of that in buyer-agent commissions (all fix-ups are included in their purchase prices). It’s a good thing that sellers aren’t in a hurry – Zillow is currently six weeks behind in responding to purchase requests.
Sellers are leaving some money on the table, but as long as Zillow is flipping every home, buyers will still have the same amount of inventory to consider – it’ll just be at a higher price.
It’s probably no surprise that a well-branded company that spends $100 million per year on advertising has made an impression on the consumer. On the other hand, agents are independent contractors running around hoping to sell a house. The impression that leaves on consumers isn’t always great.
I have suspected that consumers rely on their zestimate more than we’d like to admit.
It’s been around for ten years, so it’s familiar and easy. Because there isn’t any other internet tool like it, homeowners follow their zestimate and fantasize about their equity position – and start believing. Zillow sends regular reminders which reinforce that there might be something to it.
When I’m talking to sellers, if my price is different than the zestimate, I better have a good explanation. Likewise, I don’t mind when the zestimate is above my list price. If buyers happen to believe in the zestimate’s accuracy, then it helps make my listing look like a deal.
But the truth is that the zestimate is wildly inaccurate and heavily manipulated by Zillow to suit their own needs – especially in their quest to buy homes from coast to coast.
A good friend has been contemplating the sale of this home in Santa Monica. We have watched the zestimate rise steadily over the years, and once it touched $8,000,000, we thought it would be a good time to put it on the market and hope the zestimate would help propel the sale.
As we prepared to launch the listing, I monitored the zestimate closely:
June 16th Zestimate
The zestimate had gone up $362,339 in the last 30 days, and was well into the $8,000,000s. We planned to list for $6,950,000, which would have looked very attractive, relatively.
The next day, our zestimate got revised.
June 17th Zestimate
Whoa – it dropped $3,284,879 in one day???
We had committed to at least conducting some price discovery, so we listed for $6,950,000 on June 22nd.
What did Zillow do?
They changed the zestimate to the EXACT list price,
They suggested a sales range evenly around the list price
They erased the history of the $3,284,879 drop from five days prior:
June 22nd Zestimate
The zestimate went from $8,195,161 to $4,910,282 to $6,950,000 in less than a week.
You’d be crazy to trust anything they say.
It was the erasing of the previous drop that is the most disturbing – which they have done for years. If you drop $3 million in one day, then stick with it – don’t recreate history just to make yourself look better.
Our listing in Fire Mountain is back on the market.
The buyers, who according to their agent were in love with the house and the price, decided to cancel because of what they found out about the city restrictions. The City of Oceanside won’t allow short-term rentals because the driveway is only 20 feet wide, instead of 24 feet wide. Long-term rentals are fine.
Though the short-term rentals are controversial and we really can’t predict their future, it was enough for the buyers to say no – they didn’t want any unusual restrictions that could possibly affect their kids’ future once they take over the house. The buyers had planned to live there for the duration.
We are getting an assist from Zillow – their zestimate has gone up nicely since we hit the open market:
Here’s the zestimate from the day before the listing was inputted:
Because Zillow is buying homes in the area, it helps them to keep their zestimates artificially low. If they were legit, and kept the zestimate at the lower amount even though the list price was substantially higher, then fine – that’s your opinion. But when it fluctuates with the list prices, it’s a sham.
Because there is so little information available, the consumers rely on anything they can find, and the zestimates are the best-known valuations available – even though they can change by $400,000 in a day.
They are happy to buy your house for the amount of their zestimate, which in this fast-moving market can only mean that sellers are leaving money on the table – it’s just a matter of how much. But sellers – who have been cocooning more than ever – may not have a feel for the real estate business or the differences between agents and who just want quick cash will likely jump at their offer to purchase.
Zillow has opened up as a brokerage as well.
They are masterful at blurring the distinction too, because they are still very dependent upon realtors spending billions to advertise on Zillow. But check out their latest video that encourages home sellers to call Zillow, and if it weren’t for the broker ID at the 0:33-minute mark (for three seconds), a viewer would think that this sale was handled by a Zillow agent.
Commercials like these are building their brand as the go-to destination for home sales.
It will just be a matter of time before they replace their partner agents with their own licensed employees to process your paperwork.
Jim the Realtor is legit - I interviewed three brokers; he said list price should be $100,000 higher than the other two brokers; listed it with him and had all cash (no financing) offer in two days, five day contingency period, closing in two weeks - and it closed at his recommended list price. I could not recommend anyone more than I recommend Jim the Realtor.
When we moved to San Diego in 2005 we rented a big house on Mt. Soledad (La Jolla) with 180 degree ocean views for the same payment as a mortgage on a dump in Chula Vista. Clearly something was wrong. Yet, the media was full of the usual happy-talk nonsense, so I was glad to find Jim's blog. I've followed his honest assessments and data since.
We decided to sell and move to AZ at Thanksgiving. Dec. 1st we met with Jim to sell our home. We closed today (29 days later). Jim orchestrated a feeding frenzy -- we had 25 showings in 2-1/2 days, multiple offers, and sold for well over asking price. I'd say he earned his commission! We have owned and sold homes in 5 different States always using experienced, productive, full-time realtors. Jim outshines them all.
You don't decide to sell and close 29 days later over Christmas (with COVID lockdown) without some miracles. Donna was amazing at performing lots of those miracles and ensuring that everything was done right and on time. They are a terrific team with a very responsive and professional network.
Where do we begin..2020 has been a year for everyone. When COVID hit and shut down both my husband and my businesses, we were left with a mortgage and very little income coming in. We were stressed, scared and felt stuck. We made the hard decision to sell our home and move out of state. We contacted the Klinges' and spent a good hour going over what we hoped we could accomplish. Jim and Donna came over with comps in hand and suggestions on improvements to get our house ready for the market. It was overwhelming to think about, but Donna was there and one step ahead in every scenario. Basically we just approved what they suggested and Donna handled literally everything. We placed our house on the market and within the first day we had multiple offers well above asking price! We couldn't believe it. We were overjoyed! Jim countered the offers to weed through them, and everyone came back with way more. It was amazing, and we are ?? sure it was because of the staging and repairs the Klinges suggested we do.
Due to unforeseen dishonesty from the buyers lender, we hit a big hurdle when trying to close. We had already moved out of state and were shocked when three days before closing the lender dropped a bombshell on the buyers and us. However, Jim and Donna handled it like veterans, not afraid to play hard ball and represent their clients. After a few phone calls with us, and several between Donna and the lender, they had a plan B-Z to make sure we were taken care of. In the end we closed with even more money than we ever thought possible and with very little work from us. The Klinges handled this entire "2020" worthy event with the utmost professionalism and did everything in their power to not only make this as smooth as possible for us, but we also walked away with more money from the sale of the house than we ever hoped for. After working with Jim and Donna, you don't ever use anyone else. They are hands down the best team to represent you in any scenario.
Working with Klinge Realty Group was a great experience! They are very responsive, professional and knowledgable about the real estate market! I would definitely recommend Klinge Realty Group.
Jim and Donna Klinge made the sale of our condo extraordinarily easy. They know the market and gave us sound advice backed by details and very considerable experience, reflected both in the initial pricing and subsequent negotiations. They work together as a team and are always available to talk. We had a few challenges with our property and they were able to coordinate the resolution to everything, including items that I would not think would ordinarily be their responsibility to handle. They made the whole process effortless on our part. They are folks with high integrity and we cannot recommend them highly enough.
Review for Member: Donna Klinge
I cannot believe there are no reviews of Donna yet, ugh!! She is the secret sauce of the Jim Klinge/Donna Klinge combo! I will touch on Jim here, but Donna is why I'm so totally loyal to these two (no offense to Jim :)).
I consider myself a rather savvy buyer/seller. I've bought/sold 7 times in about 15 years. On the buy side, Jim is the PERFECT combo of: completely digitally savvy (he will pull data all day long until you feel comfortable with your chosen house, area, school district, anticipated appreciation rate...anything!), he's super well respected and known in the area by other agents, an amazingly cool but strategic negotiator, is totally devoid of desperation for a sale/commission, and more.
Then once you get into contract phase, Donna literally handles every last and final detail in a concierge-like manner -- totally shielding you from the daily back and forth, noodling and annoyances of the buyer's requests. She solves it ALL; it's miraculous what that woman accomplishes over and above what is even expected in a buy/sell transaction.
On the sell side, Jim and Donna do the same, but even moreso. Donna in particular truly takes everything off your plate: she'll manage getting the house painted, the carpets replaced, she'll go on site (as she Jim both did for me when selling our rental properties) to work with the renters and make sure the house is ready to show -- freeing me to have to take time off of work to do so. They work with A+ integrity, too, so you know you are serving all parties fairly and lawfully throughout.
A home purchase/sale is the most considered you'll ever make. HIRE A SAVVY AGENT, not a friend!, and get what you need out of the transaction. Jim and Donna are our agents for life.
Jim and Donna Klinge are by far the most professional, personable and responsive realtors I have ever worked with. They provide VIP concierge level service in every area of the process of selling your home. My home was marketed so successfully that we received an offer the day after our first and only open house. Thanks to Jim's pricing and negotiating, our house is now the highest sold in our community. Jim's vast experience means he has worked with several realtors and knows the market all over north county. Donna is AMAZING in processing everything in the transaction. She scheduled trades people to work on the house in preparation for the sale as well as the repairs needed before closing. She communicated clearly every step of the way about what would be happening. She took the weight off my shoulders for the whole process. I will always use Jim and Donna for my future real estate needs and I whole heartedly recommend them to anyone buying or selling a home.
Jim and the team at Klinge Reality are without a doubt the best in the business! Not only was Jim helpful and extremely knowledgeable, he was patient and determined to help me find my first home. Jim and his team have been in the business for many years, and it shows. Jim is a wealth of knowledge and was my biggest proponent despite the temperature of the competitive market. I ended up getting the perfect property in my dream neighborhood all thanks to Jim. From the day my offer was accepted, Donna was a real lifesaver. She was extremely helpful, responsive, and knowledgeable when it came to every minute detail, and held my hand through the process. As a first time home buyer I had no idea what the process would entail, but Donna curtailed every concern I came across and made the escrow process feel seamless. Jim and Donna provided me the best home buying experience, and I am very grateful for all they did for me. It was truly a pleasure to work with Jim and Donna and I am already looking forward to the next time we work together!
Review for Member: Richard Morgan
Richard is an amazing realtor! He has high integrity and genuinely cares about his clients and their needs. Richard paid close attention to what I was seeking in a home and was very patient in our search to find it. I would highly recommend Richard and will use him for future transactions. Truly a different kind of realtor experience!
Could not be happier with my experience with Jim and his team. He helped me sell a very unique and challenging property. Throughout the entire process he was always available, honest, transparent, trustworthy, and always put my interests as a seller first. A (rare) true professional! During close of escrow Jim went above and beyond to complete the deal. It would not have been possible without his experience, fantastic team, and pure dedication. Highly recommended!
Thanks Jim and Donna Klinge!