Readers Respond to Zillow’s Failed Effort to Flip Portland Houses

“Speculative buyers who will not be living in a property should be charged steep anti-speculation taxes to discourage turning housing—a basic need—into the stock market. It’s unethical.”

Last week, WW reported on the effects of Zillow, a publicly traded online realty company, attempting to flip Portland houses using an algorithm (“Zombielandia,” Nov. 24, 2021). The result: Dozens of homes sit vacant across Portland. Residents of one block in the Piedmont neighborhood say a Zillow-owned home was occupied by squatters. Here’s what our readers had to say.

IsThereNotCoffee, via Reddit: “So, with a good swing, I could hit a baseball to this house from my porch. There’s no fucking way anyone’s going to fork over 600K for a place around here. Unless they’re laundering money. Or there’s a full-time growing operation in the basement that I’m unaware of.”

dzerres, via wweek.com: “Zillow chose the wrong angle—taking possession of physical real estate and trying to manage the showings and negotiations electronically online is ridiculous. Zillow should have provided a sales, advertising, contract writing, and closing service to the sellers, thus eliminating the obnoxious, overpaid real estate agents and their ridiculous fees—that’s where money can be made.”

firtopanx, via Reddit: “Their algorithm may work in a neighborhood full of cookie-cutter houses, but here the variation in value between two houses with identical stats can be tens of thousands of dollars. I feel like they could have asked anyone who’s ever bought a house here and learned their system was desperately flawed. But also, fuck ‘em. Hope they lose their shirts.”

Kate Bowden, via Facebook: “Nobody has brought up the point I thought looking at these homes. You can see the price they paid and it was also pretty clear they didn’t actually do any flipping work. Why would anyone want to pay more than what Zillow paid to get the house a few weeks earlier? Also, they didn’t think about the skepticism people would have with a Zillow-bought home. They were not offering market value to the sellers.”

Graham Hackett, via wweek.com: “Kudos to the previous owner for taking advantage.”

@Brick_MoJo, via Twitter: “When a whole bunch of us move next year, this is a big part of why.”

Eva, via wweek.com: “Speculative buyers who will not be living in a property should be charged steep anti-speculation taxes to discourage turning housing—a basic need—into the stock market. It’s unethical.”

@plant_warlock, via Twitter: “It’s fun to see Zillow lose money, but this article:

—Glorifies real estate agents and flippers.

—Notes the low supply and high price of houses in Portland with no examination of the causes.

—Has anti-homeless rhetoric.

—Doesn’t connect the dots between the above two issues.”

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