BrokerageHousing MarketiBuyersReal EstateReal Estate Tech

Zillow banks on ‘housing super app’ to guide it to safety

Executives say further development in Zillow’s “Five Pillars of Growth” key to creation of super app

Rich Barton is glad Zillow made the choice to shut down its disastrous iBuying program a year ago.

“Twelve months later, we feel we made the right decision to wind down our iBuying operations, particularly given how this year has played out and I am pleased that as of September 30th, we have no more inventory on our balance sheet,” the firm’s co-founder and CEO told investors during Zillow’s third-quarter earnings call Wednesday evening.

But while Zillow executives were happy to discuss the downfall and resulting cleanup effort involved in the firm’s failed iBuying adventure, they were less forthcoming on details about the “housing super app,” executives have been teasing since the start of the year.

“Zillow’s vision of a housing super app is to create a single digital experience to help customers across all of their real estate needs including buying, selling, financing and renting, serving as one ecosystem of connected solutions for all the tasks and service related to moving,” Barton said. “Customers want this super app. It is a very large business opportunity and given Zillow’s brand strength, audience and technology capabilities, we are in an advantageous position to deliver.”

Executives noted that further growth and developments related to the firm’s “Five Pillars of Growth” would be key to solidifying and executing their vision for Zillow’s housing super app. While the company is not there yet, Barton and Zillow CFO Allen Parker felt that the firm’s third quarter 2022 performance was setting it on the right path.

Revenue was down 12% year over year for the quarter to $438 million.

Zillow’s net income loss of $53 million was much improved over the third quarter in 2021, in which the iBuying business resulted in a $329 million loss, but represented a decline from the $8 million net income loss it suffered in the second quarter of 2022.

We all fall together

Like the real estate agents who buy advertising on its platform, Zillow has suffered from the housing slowdown brought by soaring mortgage rates.

“We are not immune to the challenges in the housing market right now,” Barton said. “We’ve seen 30-year mortgage rates spike over the last few months to more than 7%, a level that hasn’t been reached in 20 years. Big weekly swings in rates continue to occur as well. This volatility has impacted our funnel as our connections suffer while buyers decide whether or not they want to be on or off the sidelines in this current market.”

Despite recording a net loss for the quarter, Zillow executives told investors that the firm performed better than expected, especially its IMT segment, which includes offerings such as marketing, software and Premier Agent. Overall, the segment generated $457 million in revenue, down 5% year over year, with Premier Agent contributing $312 million in revenue, a 13% drop from a year prior. According to Zillow, the stronger than expected performance of Premier Agent is due to better than anticipated conversion rates, conversion rates, customer connections and retention rates, while the annual decline was attributed to the overall slowdown in the housing market.

With the housing market slowing down, analysts and investors were concerned that Premier Agent’s relatively strong performance would not continue as agents look to cut costs and transaction sides decrease. Zillow, however, remains positive.

“We continue to see our demand customer demand slightly stronger than industry and we are seeing our lead transaction rates from that demand improve and they are slightly higher than our expectations,” Parker said. “As Premier Agents look to obtain quality leads in a challenging market, what we are seeing is that our best performing agents are relying on our platform and we so we are seeing retention that is pretty strong around our best partners.”

Time to experiment

As Zillow looks to further test concepts for its housing super app, executives said it plans to continue expanding some of the pilot programs it has launched this year. At the moment, pilot programs include a real time tour booking feature, which is currently only available in Atlanta, changes to Premier Agent, which it began testing in Q2 in Raleigh and Denver, and the Zillow Home Loans partner network, which is also being tested in Raleigh.

“We have a partner that has created a team solely built to serve Zillow customers in order to provide a much more integrated customer experience,” Barton said. “Now with roughly 15% customer adoption rate of Zillow Home Loans in Raleigh, our new approaches to serving Zillow customers in this market give us increased confidence in our strategy of integrating and improving our mortgage product experience.”

In addition to these initiatives, Barton noted that teams at both Opendoor and Zillow are working hard to launch a joint product, the result of the firms’ strategic partnership announced in August, in the first quarter of 2023.

Even as the housing market, brokerages and agents faces strong headwinds in Q4 and heading into 2023, Zillow executives say the company has a bright future.

“Having led Expedia through 9/11, Zillow through the financial crisis in 2008 and early COVID in 2020, we have experience staying relatively steady on the gas when others are slamming on the breaks,” Barton said. “We are well aware of the dangers on the road, but our vehicle is charged up and handling well, and we see opportunity on the road ahead.”

Latest Articles

Real estate agents are staying put: Relitix HW+

Real estate agents are moving much less between brokerages than the post-pandemic peak seen in the summer of 2021, Relitix’s inaugural Agent Movement Index™ shows. The index shows the relative degree of movement between real estate brokerages by experienced agents and is indexed to the level of mobility in January 2016. The graph shows that, […]

Sep 26, 2023 By