The real estate brokerage specialist is disrupting an industry that could use a little cage-rattling, but last night's preliminary fourth-quarter report may find you opting for a catnap instead.
ZipRealty posted a loss for the period, with revenue inching 6% higher to hit $23 million. Expanding into eight to 12 new markets will help grow the top line by 10% to 15% during 2007, but the red ink will continue.
Lackluster growth? Near-term deficits? Is ZipRealty really that special?
It can be. Unlike its old-school brokerage peers like Realogy
ZipRealty charges as little as 4.5% to 5% in commissions. Yes, it will still give a third-party broker a piece of the action for bringing in the eventual buyer. However, ZipRealty will also treat the actual buyers to 20% of the commission it is set to receive.
ZipRealty's advantage is that despite the localized expansion, it still maintains a strong Web-driven presence. Sure, IAC/InterActiveCorp.'s
ZipRealty is willing to take chances. It made headlines last year for going all Web 2.0 on us by allowing website visitors to comment on listings that they had seen in person. There are flaws in that, of course. You can talk down a house you like. Sellers can submit fake glowing reviews. However, you have to admire the guts of ZipRealty.
So keep an eye on the company. We know that losses will happen, given the costs of rolling into so many new markets. The company's emphasis on retraining brokers so that they perform better in this bothersome market won't come cheap, though I don't know if that's the answer in riding out the cyclical lull.
Then again, if ZipRealty eventually earns the nod of our Rule Breakers newsletter service, I would be disappointed if it ever took the logical path between two destinations.
Keep rattling that cage, ZipRealty. Slap on some muddy shoes while you're at it, too. I hear a rival is baking apple pie for an open house around the corner later today. Let's stop by for a spell.
Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz isn't interested in selling his home, even if he recognizes that the once red-hot South Florida market is cooling off quickly. He does not own shares in any of the stocks mentioned. He is also part of the Rule Breakers newsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early. The Fool has a disclosure policy.