Like many industries, residential real estate is undergoing a digital transformation. In addition to the ability to browse homes online, consumers want tools like 3D virtual tours, digital floor plans, and video walkthroughs with agents. And younger generations expect even more.

According to a recent study from Zillow Group (NASDAQ:Z) (NASDAQ:ZG), over one-third of Gen Z and millennial consumers would be comfortable buying a home online. Collectively, these trends create an opportunity for disruption, and Zillow is leading the charge.

Here's why this stock could make you a millionaire.

Individual hold a clear glass screen on which a bar graph trends upward, fading from red to green.

Image source: Getty Images

A big market opportunity

In 2006 Zillow launched the first version of its website. This ad-powered marketplace brought transparency to the real estate industry, allowing consumers to browse listings and view home value estimates in real time. But Zillow has since expanded on that digital-first foundation.

Today, the company connects renters with landlords and homebuyers and sellers with agents, and it provides access to mortgage, title, and escrow services. This end-to-end approach streamlines transactions, removing the complexities created by third-party lenders and closing service providers.

Zillow also buys homes directly through its Zillow Offers business, giving sellers the certainty of an all-cash offer and the convenience of never having to list their homes. In short, Zillow simplifies residential real estate, one of the largest markets in the U.S. In fact, management puts the company's market opportunity at over $300 billion.

Two people viewing a Zillow 3D virtual tour.

Image source: Zillow Group

A strong competitive position

Zillow has become synonymous with real estate. Last year, 9.6 billion people visited the company's websites and mobile apps, making Zillow the most visited brand in the industry, according to Comscore. More importantly, because the company draws more viewers to its listings, Zillow can acquire customers at a lower cost than its rivals.

Likewise, its foundational Internet, Media, and Technology (IMT) business -- which comprises ad revenue from real estate agents, rental properties, and home builders -- is profitable. In fact, Zillow generated more gross profit in 2020 than any other tech company in the real estate space. That extra cash flow means Zillow can outspend its rivals.

Collectively, these advantages have translated into solid financial results.


Q1 2018 (TTM)

Q1 2021 (TTM)



$1.0 billion

$1.8 billion


Free cash flow

$139.8 million

$276.9 million


Source: Ycharts. TTM = trailing-12-months. CAGR = compound annual growth rate.

Zillow's financial performance is made all the more impressive by its recent transformation. With the launch of Zillow Offers in April 2018, the company started buying and selling homes directly. Of course, homes aren't cheap, and this business requires sizable upfront investments that erode gross profit.

However, management is moving up the learning curve. Zillow sold 5,337 homes in 2020, up 24% from the prior year. More importantly, the company reported a 9% gross margin in its Homes business in Q1 2021, up from 5% in Q1 2020. Investors should look for Zillow to maintain that momentum.

A bright future

Since Q1 2001, the median price for houses sold in the U.S. has climbed from $169,800 to $374,900. Put another way, home prices tend to rise about 4% annually. To add to that, millennials represent the largest generation in the country, and as they age into their homebuying years Zillow believes the number of U.S. households will rise 5% by 2025.

In other words, the residential real estate market should see rising prices and increased demand in the years ahead, meaning Zillow's market opportunity should only get bigger.

More importantly, I believe the future of real estate is more streamlined and digital, and Zillow's business model plays into that trend. Yet the company's trailing-12-month revenue of $3.4 billion represents a fraction of its addressable market. That's why I think this stock could grow tenfold over the next decade.

This article represents the opinion of the writer, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a Motley Fool premium advisory service. We’re motley! Questioning an investing thesis -- even one of our own -- helps us all think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer.