Zillow Halts Online Homebuying as COVID-19 Crisis Continues to Spread Uncertainty

The Seattle company joins competitors Redfin and OpenDoor in putting the brakes on internet home purchases in reaction to the coronavirus crisis
Updated: Mon, 03/23/2020 - 08:40
  • The Seattle company joins competitors Redfin and OpenDoor in putting the brakes on internet home purchases in reaction to the coronavirus crisis

Zillow is suspending its internet homebuying in all 24 markets in which it operates in response to the ongoing coronavirus crisis.

The Seattle-based company plans to continue marketing and selling homes through its online Zillow Offers platform, but is temporarily suspending plans to expand the program to other markets. The company last week stopped open houses in all markets where it operates to protect customers and its Zillow Offers partners.

"Given the concerns for public safety and rapid developments by governments that restrict local real estate activities, we determined it was prudent to pause our homebuying to preserve our capital," says Zillow Group Chief Executive Officer and co-founder Rich Barton. "We plan to restore Zillow Offers full operations once health concerns pass and local health orders are lifted."

Zillow joins rivals Seattle-based Redfin and San Francisco-based OpenDoor in putting in place a temporary suspension of internet homebuying.

As of March 19, Zillow’s home inventory stood at 1,860 homes, down from 2,707 as of year-end 2019. Existing-home sales jumped 6.5% this past February, compared with January, the National Association of Realtors reports.

That surge in home sales, however, was prior to the full impact of the coronavirus crisis taking root, prompting Washington Gov. Jay Inslee to issue an emergency proclamation March 16 ordering the temporarily shuttering of restaurants, bars and recreational facilities statewide and prohibiting all gatherings of more than 50 people. In addition, at least a half dozen other states have ordered lockdowns of nonessential businesses, including many real estate-related operations.

Figures curated and released by the Downtown Seattle Association offer a bleak assessment of the impact of the coronavirus crisis on the Seattle area economy. The data shows unemployment claims jumped 218% during the week of March 8, compared to the prior week — which only fuel uncertainty that also does not bode well in the short-term for the housing market.

“In the very near-term COVID-19  [coronavirus] will severely impact nearly 40% of all the jobs in King, Pierce, and Snohomish counties,” the DSA reports. “This could include layoffs or wage reductions.

“There are 419,400 workers in the most immediate-risk job categories in the tri-county area. Most of these occupations pay between $15 to $25 per hour, skewed to the lower end of the range.”

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