'Zillow Offers' joins growing iBuyer market in Jacksonville

Zillow's new real estate service spreading across Florida

By Tarik Minor - Anchor, I-TEAM reporter, Louis Bolden, WKMG-TV investigative reporter

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - In Jacksonville's hot housing market, there's a new way to sell your home that claims to be a lot more predictable and convenient than traditional real estate sales.

Homeowners can sell their house with the click of a mouse on Zillow.com.

Zillow Offers launched for the first time in Florida this summer and just announced Jacksonville is one of the next cities on its expanding list.

The benefit particularly helps sellers who need to sell fast and might not have the time for open houses, random showings and home improvement, according to Zillow.  

Andy Baxter has sold two homes in the traditional manner by listing with a realtor, but when he decided to sell his next one, he tried the new approach.

"Virtually all of it is done online, which I am very comfortable with," Baxter said.

He's one of the first in Florida to use Zillow Offers and said convenience was one of the biggest benefits.

Veronica Figueora is a real estate agent working with Zillow in Central Florida. She says the whole idea is to make selling a home as simple as possible.

"It's a very seamless process with complete transparency," she said.

First, go to Zillow.com or the Zillow app and select "Sell with Zillow Offers." Then answer a few questions about the residence and upload some pictures.

Zillow will then present a no obligation initial offer, according to Figueroa -- "usually between 48 to 72 hours," she said.

One of Zillow's key selling points is that hey're trying to make home selling hassle free, so owners don't have to fix up the house before putting it on the market.

Zillow Offers buys homes on an "as-is" basis. The company will send a home inspector to check the house before entering a contract.

Sellers can back out at any time with no obligation up until they sign the contract, and the seller chooses the closing date, according to Figueroa.

Sellers also won’t have to leave the house spotless because there won’t be any showings, she said.

But with that convenience, Round Table Realty Broker Howard Flaschen warns it comes with a price.

"In some cases, I've seen that convenience and that security that it's going to close on a certain date that you pick, can cost the home seller $50,000 of their home equity, and a lot of times, that is not something that is shared with them upfront."

Flaschen told the I-TEAM, people selling their homes should be aware of the fees associated with an iBuyer. He said eliminating the traditional real estate agent can often lead to unknown costs.

"A realtor fee might be 6 percent plus transaction fees or a negotiated amount. What an iBuyer might say is, 'Look, you're not going to have to pay a realtor so you're going to save that commission amount.' However, many times these iBuyers, like this example right here, will charge a transaction fee of a service charge - and it can range anywhere from 7 percent up to 11 percent. This particular example is at 8 percent," he said. 

A spokesperson for Zillow Offers tolds the I-TEAM there are no hidden fees and said it's 100-percent transparent. The spokesperson went on to say that Zillow charges the seller an average of 7 1/2 percent to buy the home, compared to an average 6 percent homeowners would traditionally pay.

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