MortgageReal Estate

HereÕ how much Zillow is paying to get into the mortgage business

Company reveals cost of Mortgage Lenders of America acquisition

Zillow’s stock tanked on Wednesday after the online real estate giant released softer-than-expected guidance about the company’s expectations for the near-term, but that wasn’t the only big piece of news that Zillow released.

Zillow also disclosed, for the first time, exactly how much it is paying to get into the mortgage business.

One week ago, Zillow closed on its acquisition of Mortgage Lenders of America, which marked its official entry into the mortgage lending space.

Zillow has had a presence in mortgages for some time, with its sites acting as a lead generator for lenders who advertise on the site.

But now, Zillow will begin mortgage lending itself, through the soon-to-be-rebranded Mortgage Lenders of America. The plan, at least at first, is for Zillow to offer mortgages to consumers who use its direct homebuying program, Zillow Offers.

“Getting a mortgage is often the hardest, most complicated part of buying a home,” Greg Schwartz, Zillow Group president of media and marketplaces, said last week. “We acquired MLOA, which we will rebrand in 2019, so we could streamline, shorten and simplify the home-buying process for consumers who purchase homes through Zillow Offers.”

But just how much is Zillow paying for its entrée into the mortgage space? $65 million, as it turns out.

Zillow revealed the cost of the MLOA acquisition in its 10-Q filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, which was filed in conjunction with the company’s third-quarter earnings.

According to the SEC filing, Zillow paid the entire purchase price of $65 million in cash.

The company notes in the filing that getting into the mortgage lending business is a cash-intensive business, with money needed on the front-end to fund the mortgages it originates.

To that end, the company said that it acquired two warehouse lines of credit, which it plans to use to fund the mortgages originated by MLOA.

The company also cautions investors that it move into the mortgage business could have a negative impact on the company’s bread and butter (advertising from real estate agents and lenders) in the short-term.

“Our guiding principle is to build our business by making decisions based primarily on the best interests of consumers, which we believe has been essential to our success in increasing our user growth rate and engagement and has served the long-term interests of our company and our shareholders. In the past, we have forgone, and we will in the future forgo, certain expansion or short-term revenue opportunities that we do not believe are in the best interests of consumers, even if such decisions negatively impact our short-term results of operations,” the company said in its SEC filing.

“In addition, our philosophy of putting consumers first may negatively impact our relationships with our existing or prospective advertisers. This could result in a loss of advertisers, which could harm our revenue and results of operations,” the company continued.

An example the company provides as evidence of this phenomenon is that some real estate agents choose not to purchase its Premier Agent advertising product because the company displays a Zestimate (Zillow’s algorithmically derived home price estimate) on their for-sale listings.

But the company said that it believes its important to consumers to have a “valuation starting point” on all homes, so the company provides a Zestimate for each listing in its database and will continue to do so, even at the detriment of advertising dollars.

“Our consumer focus may also negatively impact our relationships with real estate brokerages, MLSs, and other industry participants on whom we rely for listings information. Our Zillow Offers product and our acquisition of MLOA, for example, may be perceived as impinging upon the business models of real estate agents, brokerages and lenders, which may cause them to terminate their listings agreements with us or, with respect to brokerages and lenders, cease advertising with us,” the company added.

“Such risks could have a materially negative impact on our results of operations,” the company continued. “Our principle of making decisions based primarily on the best interests of consumers may not result in the long-term benefits that we expect, in which case our user traffic and engagement, business and results of operations could be harmed.”

Despite that, the company believes that getting into mortgages is the right move. We’ll see.

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