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With iBuying Gone, How Will Zillow Grow Now?

By Matthew Frankel, CFP® – Nov 23, 2021 at 6:32AM

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Zillow has a lot of options, but the future is very uncertain.

After several years of promoting iBuying -- or "instant buying" -- of houses as its most exciting growth driver, Zillow Group (ZG -2.47%) (Z -2.67%) surprised investors by pulling the plug on the business for good. In this Fool Live video clip, recorded on Nov. 8, Fool.com contributor Matt Frankel and Industry Focus host Jason Moser discuss how Zillow could invest the billions of dollars on its balance sheet to create new growth avenues. 

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Matt Frankel: I want to see what Zillow's going to do from here. They ended the quarter with 9,790 homes in inventory, and another over 8,100 under contract to buy. That's a lot of houses. When they unload to sell all those, they're going to have roughly $5 billion of cash on their balance sheet. I'm wondering what they're going to do with that.

What I'd like to see Zillow do is become the Kayak of iBuying, where they partner with Opendoor and Offerpad and Redfin. You can go to Zillow and get your get offers on your house from all of them and decide which one is best for you. Zillow makes some money off that, doesn't take any of the risk. The other three get some lead generation, so it's a win-win for everybody. I would like to see them do something like that. If Zillow's management's listening, please take that advice. But I'm disappointed, iBuying was probably the big part of my thesis with Zillow. But it's really the way they went about it. I never fault a company for walking away from a business that's not working if they do it the right way.

Jason Moser: Yeah, I agree. I think I tweeted something out to that extent, too. It's easy to pile on. I respect the decision, I respect them getting in there and saying, "Hey, you know what? This isn't working, let's go ahead and bag it." It's a good investing once in there. You get an investment and it's not working. If there's a thesis has changed or it's busted. Being able to admit you're wrong and then moving forward, that's a great quality to have.

I do want to ask you a couple of things, so No. 1, don't you get the feeling that real estate agents are just relishing this news? Because this has traditionally been a very difficult market to disrupt. Traditionally, it's been a very difficult market to disrupt. It felt like Zillow was helping blaze that trail, leading the way to doing that. I feel like real estate agents are looking at this and saying "Yeah, you know what? We told you it was harder than you thought," and they're feeling OK about it.

Matthew Frankel, CFP® owns shares of Offerpad Solutions Inc and Zillow Group (C shares). The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Opendoor Technologies Inc., Redfin, Zillow Group (A shares), and Zillow Group (C shares). The Motley Fool recommends the following options: short November 2021 $65 puts on Redfin. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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