The burgeoning iBuying industry is giving smaller companies a chance to challenge the housing market’s behemoth: Zillow Group.

That’s according to a new report by Mike DelPrete, a real estate strategist who compared companies like Opendoor, which purchased more than 10,000 homes to renovate and sell in 2018, with Zillow, which bought fewer than 1,000. The term iBuyer stands for “instant buyer,” meaning companies that make cash offers for homes.

“Zillow has been the clear market leader, and there was no credible threat that could unseat it from its powerful position. However, the entry of iBuyers with a service that made instant offers on a home – online – was novel and compelling, just like the Zestimate in 2006.”

DelPrete, a scholar-in-residence at the University of Colorado in Boulder, Colorado, said getting a cash offer from an iBuyer is even better than Zestimate.

“What better way to value your home than an actual offer?”

What DelPrete’s report overlooks is Zillow’s deep pockets and its five-year plan to dominate the iBuying space. The company bought 686 homes in seven markets last year after starting Zillow Offers in April 2018, according to regulatory filings. The company plans to double its footprint to 14 cities by the end of 2019, and in five years it plans to purchase 5,000 properties a month, according to its fourth quarter report.

Most impressively, Zillow has $1 billion worth of firepower. It has expanded credit facilities to support growth in the iBuyer space.

“Zillow Group now has $1 billion of maximum borrowing capacity to support Zillow Offers’ rapid growth in 2019 and beyond,” the company said in its quarterly report.

Other iBuyers such as Opendoor and Offerpad also have plans to dominate. Last month, Opendoor raised $300 million while Offerpad announced a cash infusion that brought its total capital raise to nearly $1 billion. There are also aggregators like HomeLight and Offer Depot that collect and compare offers from iBuyers.

But Zillow remains the one to beat.

“We changed the way people shop for homes and now we’re transforming the transaction,” said Zillow spokesman Viet Shelton, when asked to comment on DelPrete’s report. “Zillow is already the starting point for most Americans’ home shopping experiences, and no matter how you end up selling your house, Zillow can help you.”

Last week, Zillow announced the launch of its own mortgage lender, Zillow Home Loans, a rebranding and expansion of Mortgage Lenders of America, a company it bought in November. In its February report to investors, it said it wants to originate more than 3,000 loans a month within three to five years, and have a 33% “attach rate” for people who sell their homes to Zillow. In other words, Zillow Offers, in addition to buying homes for cash, will funnel “move up” buyers to the company’s mortgage segment to fund their next home purchase.

Zillow founder and CEO Rich Barton said in a radio interview on April 1st that he sees Zillow Offers as an evolution of Zestimates. In fact, at some point in the future, a Zestimate and a cash offer may be the same thing, he said in an appearance on National Public Radio.

“Ideally, I would like to have the Zestimate be a live offer on every home in the country,” said Barton, adding, “It will take quite some time to get there.”

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