Zillow (NASDAQ:ZG) just reported solid third-quarter 2014 results, and the market isn't pleased.
Shares of Zillow fell over 9% after it said quarterly revenue climbed 66% year over year to $88.6 million, or just above Zillow's previous guidance for revenue of $87 million to $88 million. This, in turn, helped the online real estate specialist swing to an adjusted net income of $0.13 per diluted share, compared with the $0.04-per-share loss it incurred during the same year-ago period. Analysts, on average, were only looking for earnings of $0.08 per share on sales of $88 million.
Zillow also enjoyed a record 86 million average monthly unique users during the third quarter. That's an increase of 41% year over year and includes a new all-time record of nearly 89 million monthly unique users in July. Mobile visits climbed 70% year over year, and around 500 million homes were viewed on Zillow with mobile devices in September alone. For perspective on that pace, Zillow CEO Spencer Rascoff said that more than 700,000 homes would be viewed on mobile devices over the course of Zillow's subsequent one-hour conference call.
Next -- and in keeping with Zillow management's assertion last quarter that "advertisers are clearly following audience" -- Zillow added another 4,059 net new Premier Agent advertisers in Q3 to bring its total to 60,877. Average revenue per advertiser simultaneously reached a company-record $349, up 32.2% year over year. Even more encouraging, Premier Agents who have been on Zillow's platform more than 12 months spent 65% more than they did in the same year-ago period. All told, total third-quarter Premier Agent advertiser revenue climbed 86% to $65.6 million.
Meanwhile, though the Mortgage Bankers Association reported a 36% year-over-year decline in originations in Q3, Zillow Mortgages saw loan requests grow 18% year over year to 7 million. As a result, Zillow mortgages revenue grew 24% year over year to $7.1 million. Finally, display revenue climbed 30% year over year to $16 million, highlighting what management described as continued execution by their sales teams in a "challenging environment."
So why the drop? Look no further than Zillow's guidance, which was provided in the subsequent conference call.
Specifically, Zillow sees current quarter revenue of $89 million to $90 million, representing growth of roughly 53% at the midpoint of the range. For the full year, Zillow also raised its revenue outlook slightly to a range of $322.5 million to $323.5 million. That would have been well and good, but analysts' models were already predicting fourth-quarter and full-year revenue of $91 million and $324 million, respectively.
For perspective, Zillow CFO Chad Cohen said fourth-quarter guidance reflects the impact from selling through high levels of inventory and seasonal slowing into the fourth quarter. It also includes decelerated year-over-year revenue growth of 20% from the display business, mostly stemming from reductions in advertising spend by financial institutions. Even so, Cohen also pointed out that that's technically superior growth to that of the broader display category. What's more, Cohen says, Zillow is perfectly content "underinvesting" in the display business in favor of focusing on its more promising Premier Agents platform, which is easily the biggest driver of marketplace revenues.
The Trulia buy
Finally, we should keep in mind that Zillow's adjusted results exclude $13.2 million -- or $0.33 per share -- in costs related to its impending acquisition of Trulia (UNKNOWN:TRLA.DL). Based on generally accepted accounting principles, Zillow posted a net loss of $0.40 per share, compared with a net loss of around $0.03 per share during the same year-ago period.
Rascoff also said that Zillow recently certified compliance with its second request for information from the Federal Trade Commission and said it's "optimistic about the [expected early 2015] timing of the deal's closing." Assuming all goes as planned, Rascoff reiterated Zillow's intention of keeping separate what the company views as largely complementary Zillow and Trulia consumer brands.
In the end, Zillow and Trulia are both growing revenue quickly today. Trulia announced only a few days ago, for example, that its Q3 revenue had climbed 67% to $67 million. But over the long term, just remember that these results are a drop in the bucket compared to the $12 billion agents spend on advertising each year.
Steve Symington owns shares of Apple. The Motley Fool recommends and owns shares of Apple, Bank of America, and Zillow. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.