The online real estate giant is launching its Zillow Offers program in the bay area, the 22nd U.S. metro market in which sellers can enter their information online and get an initial cash offer within 48 hours. Following a home inspection, they can close in as little as seven days. Or if they don’t want to sell to Zillow, they’ll still receive a free analysis of what other homes are going for.
"It’s a great platform but it’s not going to be for everyone,'' said Joe LoCicero, whose Land O’ Lakes firm, 54 Realty, will be Zillow’s exclusive agent in the Tampa Bay area. "If the seller wants to go the traditional route, they’ll get a market analysis by a licensed professional to show what they can get on the open market.''
Zillow is joining an already crowded field of ‘iBuyers'’ (the “i'' stands for “instant”) that includes Opendoor and Offerpad. All of the companies tout the convenience of quickly selling a home without the need for open houses, frequent showings and the risk that a sale will fall through at the last minute.
Records show that the iBuying market remains small in the Tampa bay area. Since 2017, Opendoor and Offerpad have purchased a total of 958 homes in Hillsborough County; last year alone, nearly 27,000 homes were sold in the county. Zillow could have an advantage over its competitors, though, because its name is much better known thanks to its popular online "Zestimates'' of home values.
Andy Baxter decided to try Zillow Offers this year when he had to sell his three-bedroom, two-bath pool home near Orlando because of a job relocation. He said he instantly got an offer for what he thought the house was worth— about $375,000.
"I equate it with CarMax,'' he said, referring to the nationwide company that buys used cars. "You go in, they give you a price, if you’re offended you leave. If not, you walk out with a check.''
Baxter said the Zillow inspectors found "the usual things'' — some holes in the walls from pictures and gutters that needed cleaning. They also wanted to power wash the deck.
"They didn’t try to pick the house apart,'' he said, "and when they made their original offer, they put some money in for repairs. They were very upfront, they don’t bait and switch.''
Sellers have complained that some iBuying companies chisel down the initial offer by thousands of dollars due the alleged need for extensive repairs.
Baxter, who works for an educational nonprofit and now lives in Salt Lake City, Utah, said his sale closed in August three or four weeks after he first contacted Zillow. "That was my choice: it could have been sooner, he said.
Zillow charges a "convenience fee’' that averages 7.5 percent, similar to what other iBuyers charge but slightly more than the typical real estate commission. That’s because iBuyers "are going to manage all the risks for you,'' LoCicero said - "the time on the market, the holding costs, anything to get the home prepped for sale.''