Steve Eisman, the “real life” investor played by Steve Carroll in the film “The Big Short,” who, for real, called the Housing Crisis in 2008 is now calling on the demise of Zillow in his most recent interview with The Real Deal. Eisman believes Zillow is struggling to recover from “the stagnation of its home-buying business,” according to The Real Deal interview.
Now a portfolio manager with the investment firm Neuberger Berman, Eisman recounted the evolution of Zillow when it launched its IPO in 2011 to its acquisitions of StreetEasy for $50M and Trulia for $$3.5B to the slowing of its revenue growth to only $1.3B while the company’s stock fell in June 2018.
The Real Deal researched Nasdaq data about Zillow and found that investors have shorted $1.27B of Zillow’s stock, or approximately 21.7% of the company’s stock available for trade in the public market.
Eisman is luke-warm at best about the iBuyer model and, of course, Zillow is now an iBuyer with “overly inflated confidence in the iBuyer model.” He said, “If you’re bullish on (Zillow), you’re really bullish on the iBuyer model. I think an execution challenge of what Zillow can make of the (iBuyer) model while trying to turn around the core business that has slowed is not just big challenge…it is a huge challenge. In our view, (Zillow’s) app is their bet…but the execution is not going to be easy…” in this slowing market.
Rich Barton, Zillow’s CEO, did not comment on Eisman’s remarks but referred other media markets, including InmanNews, to his company’s positive earnings call in May of this year. He did, however, say that he has “high expectations” for Zillow’s economics model.
Other investors are less bearish about Zillow than Eisman. Brad Benning, a senior research analyst with the Craig-Hallum Capital Group told InmanNews that 50%-70% of home sellers in Phoenix get a quote from Zillow before they list their home for sale. Benning also told Inman that he anticipates “volatility along the way” for all iBuyer models, and Zillow specifically, but that “the amount of traffic Zillow gets to their site should put them in a leadership position…” within this market sector.