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The Ratings Game: Zillow stock dives after analyst highlights two-thirds of homes bought are underwater

Shares of Zillow Group Inc. took a dive Monday, after KeyBanc analyst Edward Yruma highlighted how most of the homes the real estate services company purchased, with an aim to flip them, were now worth less than what they paid for them.

The stock

shed 5.8% in midday trading. Although the stock was still up 13.6% since closing at a 13-month low of $86.00 on Oct. 18, which was the day Zillow said it would stop buying U.S. homes after building a big backlog, the stock was still down 51.1% since closing at a record $199.90 on Feb. 16.

Don’t miss: Zillow pauses home buying — raising ‘red flags’ about the real-estate market.

“Zillow may have leaned into home acquisition at the wrong time, and we believe earnings may be at risk due to its current home inventory ($1.17 billion at 2Q21),” Yruma wrote in a note to clients.

Yruma said it completed an analysis of 650 homes in Zillow’s inventory, or about one-fifth of the homes owned, and found that 66% are currently listed below the purchase price at an average discount of 4.5%.

Of the 650 homes Yruma analyzed, the cities in which the company had the highest percentage of homes that were listed below the purchase price were San Diego at 94.3%, Phoenix at 93.4% and Mesa, Ariz. at 92.6%.

The city with the most homes listed below the purchase price was Phoenix with 71. Charlotte, N.C. had 70 and Las Vegas had 52.

“While we do think that [Zillow’s] issues are likely transitory in nature, we do think it highlights the importance of strong property level and market data,” Yruma wrote. “From a [long-term] perspective, we maintain that [Zillow’s] changing customer focus (the agent is the customer in the IMT business vs. the consumer in homes) may for unanticipated (and likely negative) compromises.”

Yruma reiterated the neutral rating he’s had on the stock since February 2020.

The stock has tumbled 24.8% year to date, while Zillow’s Class A shares
which were shedding 7.6% on Monday, have sunk 28.2% this year. In comparison, the iShares U.S. Home Construction exchange-traded fund

has run up 30.3% and the S&P 500 index

has gained 22.8%.

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