Regina Benjamin, the former surgeon general of the United States, is consulting with the Seattle-based real estate technology company on new, ever-evolving safety protocols as it launches with an initiative dubbed “Move Forward. Stay Safe.”
“Shelter — a healthy home — is a basic essential we all strive for,” Benjamin said. “As people venture into the real estate market, it’s critical they have precise information and guidelines on how to stay safe during every part of their move.
“From listing, to shopping, to closing documents, we must minimize risk and protect each other. I am pleased to join Zillow in its dedication to public health through this new initiative.”
The homebuying aspect of the platform will be re-launched first in Phoenix and Tucson in Arizona and Raleigh and Charlotte in North Carolina. It will continue to launch on a rolling basis to all 24 Zillow Offers markets, dependent on a number of factors, including local restrictions.
Any time a Zillow employee visits a home, they are going to have to pass a health and safety test after, which includes a temperature check. The company is stepping up protective equipment requirements and launching formal requirements around that equipment.
Zillow is also working to reduce the number of visits a Zillow employee has to make to a home. Prior to the company pausing homebuying over COVID-19-related health concerns, a Zillow employee would have to visit a home at minimum, three times.
Now, it’s only one required visit, the initial inspection, which, even then, includes protective equipment and social distancing from the homeowner. The usual final inspection, after the contract is signed, is now being done virtually.
“We are excited to begin purchasing homes again, and making it even easier for home sellers to move — with new cleaning protocols and more virtual tools and services,” Zillow President Jeremy Wacksman said in a statement. “These past two months have confirmed our belief that real estate is resilient.”
“In fact, we’ve seen that people — despite these uncertain times — still want to move,” Wacksman added. “Zillow Offers gives them a safe, seamless way to do so, whether selling or buying.”
The company never stopped selling homes during the pandemic and is leaning further into technology to do so. Customers can virtually walk-through Zillow-owned homes with 3D tours, which are available on each listing.
Buyers can also request virtual consultations with Zillow’s local broker or a Zillow Premier Agent or use self-tour technology in certain markets.
Zillow, like competitors Opendoor, Offerpad and Redfin, paused its homebuying operation in March, as states began to issue stay-at-home orders. Prior to the shutdown, the company had nationally begun slashing its inventory to guard against a potential slowdown associated with COVID-19.
Zillow sold 2,394 homes and purchased 1,479 homes through Zillow Offers in the first quarter. It ended the quarter with 1,791 homes in inventory, down from 2,707 at the end of the fourth quarter.
In the first quarter, Zillow Homes — the segment of the business under which Zillow Offers, the company’s homebuying and selling platform, exists — generated $770 million revenue, the most since the platform launched. That segment of the business operated at a net loss of $98 million before income taxes.
On average, the company lost $4,478 per home it sold in the first quarter of 2020.