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Record-breaking year for iBuyers: Why it matters.

2021 was a transformative and record-breaking year for iBuyers. More houses were bought and sold by iBuyers than ever before in overseas markets.

Why it matters: iBuyers are one of the leading disruptive models in real estate. Their ability to grow, in all types of markets, is an important signal as to what degree the traditional real estate transaction can be disrupted. We aren’t there yet in New Zealand, but we can prepare by watching what’s happening elsewhere. There are some lessons to learn. iBuyer Zillow imploded after the business grew too quickly. Meanwhile, the iBuyer US market share of home purchases hit an all-time high of 1.3 percent -- around 70,000 houses -- in 2021, remaining robust as 2021 came to a close

Even though Zillow stopped new purchases, it was on the hook to complete purchases that were already under contract. Competitor Opendoor smartly slowed purchases, due to seasonality, after a massive acquisition spree in Q3. Q4 saw iBuyer sales at record levels. Opendoor consistently sold more houses each month, demonstrating an expanding operational capacity to repair and sell houses at scale.

This is a critical metric to watch. Buying houses is the (comparatively) easy part; selling at scale is difficult.

What's next: 2022 is all about profitability.

The bottom line: 2021 was a massive year for iBuyers. In particular, Opendoor is approaching the scale it promised during its IPO. If its economics fall into line, the company is poised to be a significant force in real estate.

Mike DelPrete is a Global Real Estate Tech Strategist and an Independent Director of Tall Poppy Real Estate.