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Opendoor.com launches in Phoenix

Yesterday Opendoor.com finally launched their product in Phoenix. If you’re a regular reader of Architect This City, you might remember that back in July of this year I wrote about how they had just raised $10M of funding to make selling your home as easy as a few clicks.

Well, since then, I’ve been following them like a hawk. I had all the founders on Twitter notification (so I got notified every time they tweeted) and I was eagerly anticipating their launch.

Now that they’ve launched, we have a much better idea of how their business model is going to work. I say “better idea” only because there’s still portions of it that are a question mark for me.

In any event, Opendoor basically provides instant liquidity to homeowners. You go on, tell them about your home, and they then make you an offer to buy, which looks like this and lasts for 3 days. The offer they make you is calculated using comparable sales and adjustments based on your home’s unique characteristics.

Upon accepting their offer, they then schedule a home inspection (at their cost) to confirm your home’s condition. Once this is done, you just select your move out date and Opendoor handles the rest. The fee for all this is 5.5%, which the company claims is less than the 6% that realtors typically charge (this would be high for Toronto).

After buying your home, Opendoor plans to turn around and resell it.

What this reminds me of is a “bought deal.” In the world of investment banking, a bought deal is when the bank itself agrees to buy the entire offering of a particular security, as opposed to going out to the market and trying to raise the money. The advantage to the company (offering the securities) is that there’s no financing risk. They know they’re going to get their money. But it usually means the company gets a lower price.

So what I wonder, is if this is what’s going to happen here. Since Opendoor is effectively taking on the selling risk, does that mean their offers will be lower? Or are all their costs built into that 5.5% and that’s truly their core business model? I’m sure some of this will surface in the coming weeks.

I do, however, think they are smart to be focusing on the supply-side of the marketplace and offering virtually perfect liquidity to homeowners. Real estate is a unique asset in that it’s difficult to bring supply to the market. And so if control the supply-side, I think you have a pretty good shot at controlling the market as a whole.

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