Zillow's CEO is bullish on blockchain

Spencer Rascoff discussed the tech behind cryptocurrencies, the looming buyer's market in 2020 and more during a video interview in New York

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The hype around cryptocurrencies and blockchain hasn’t resulted in many massive transformations for the U.S. real industry — at least not yet. But Zillow CEO Spencer Rascoff believes that the latter technology, a broad term for online ledger systems that can be used to keep track of all sorts of information, will prove as important as the internet itself, as he revealed in a new video interview at the Yahoo Finance All Markets Summit in New York.

“It’s important to separate in your minds, especially for skeptics, the difference between blockchain and crypto,” Rascoff said “Blockchain is to bitcoin, as the internet is to .coms in the first bubble.”

New real estate startups have popped up using blockchain for everything from transfering property ownership to making offers online. But it is often confused with highly volatile cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and Ethereum — just this week, the cost of Bitcoin dropped $200 to just above $6,000 before rising to close to $6,500.

Such fluctuations make any cryptocurrency a high-risk investment — but that should not stop people from seeing blockchain’s potential to disrupt industries like real estate,” Rascoff said.

“When Pets.com became a punchline, for a few years people threw out the internet in their minds,” he said. “Obviously, the internet turned out to be pretty big.”

Rascoff also discussed recent Zillow research showing that a buyer’s market is looming in 2020.

The Seattle tech giant recently calculated that while home values grew by 9 percent in the past 12 months they will only rise by 6-7 percent in the next 12 months, and the U.S. will enter a buyer’s market come 2020.

“Part of it is the anti-immigrant political tone which has caused Chinese buyers to look to Europe and other parts of the world instead of U.S. — and part of it is prices have gotten so out of whack because home values appreciate so much that other asset classes start to look attractive,” Rascoff said during the interview.

Rascoff also discussed some of his company’s recent evolution and the market’s reaction to it — in particular, moving into mortgage origination and the all-cash, fast close online homebuying business with Zillow Offers, its new service that launched in April and is expected to be in four markets (Phoenix, Las Vegas, Atlanta and Denver) by the end of the year.

Rascoff said the coming months will show just how many people choose the convenience of an instant online offer that is usually a lower, but guaranteed, price.

“It’s a great convenience to the seller but they might get top dollar if they list conventionally,” Rascoff said.

When Yahoo Finance anchor Jennifer Rogers asked Rascoff if he’s worried about Amazon going into real estate, he said there’s no predicting what the online giant will do.

“I just read last week that they’re going to sell Christmas trees,” Rascoff said. “If you were the Christmas tree lot operator, you probably thought you were safe.”

And of course, Rascoff’s interview left plenty of time for lighter topics — when asked about his prodigious Twitter habits (he posted more than 19,000 tweets since joining the platform in 2009), the Zillow CEO said that he has “a pretty well-developed filter.”

Email Veronika Bondarenko