Homebuying Startup Orchard Reaches $1 Billion Unicorn Valuation (But What Is House Price Growth Slows … Or Falls??)

Let’s get ready to tumble! New homebuying startup emerges as US house prices begin slowing.

(Bloomberg) — Orchard, which offers cash to homebuyers upfront so they can purchase a new residence before selling their old one, raised $100 million to fuel growth in an ultra-competitive housing market that’s pushing shoppers to find new ways to stand out.

The fundraising round values the startup at more than $1 billion, making it the latest unicorn company to tackle the challenge of simplifying the process of buying or selling a home. Boston-based Accomplice led the round, with existing investors FirstMark, Revolution, First American and Juxtapose also participating.

“We can say we’re a unicorn, which feels good for about five seconds, and then it’s back to the real world of building a business,” Chief Executive Officer Court Cunningham said in an interview. “We’re trying to create a modern way to buy and sell homes, and that’s capital intensive.”

Cunningham, previously CEO of online marketing company Yodle, started Orchard in 2017 to take on what he viewed as a ripe opportunity: Consumers were frustrated with the traditional way of buying and selling homes, and the $1.7 trillion U.S. housing market was big enough to make tackling the problem worthwhile.

Orchard focuses on people who are trying to buy their next home while selling an existing one, a nerve-wracking process that can cause a transaction to collapse or result in households carrying two mortgages.
In addition to offering cash to help clients buy their next home, the New York-based company provides funds to make light repairs before listing the existing home on the market. Orchard seeks to profit by operating as a brokerage and earning commissions.

There have always been services that purchase homes from you. Typically, there firms simply pay off your mortgage, so if you have a higher mortgage balance relative to you home value, you may not like what you are offered. But Orchard is not that model.

If you “List with Orchard,” and your home doesn’t end up selling on the open market, Orchard will buy your home. Sellers in some markets also have the option to sell immediately to the company. Orchard wants you to list for 30 days before selling to them for their backup cash offer price. If you sell directly to Orchard, you’ll also pay an additional 1% convenience fee on top of the 6% you’re already paying commission.

When home prices have been rising at a 17-18% YoY pace, this seems like a good model. But what if The Federal Reserve removes it massive monetary stimulus and/or The Federal Government slows down it fiscal stimulus? Then Orchard, if they purchase your home, will likely lose considerable amounts. Being aware of this possibility, Orchard is likely to buy homes at a considerable discount.

But there is still worries about inflation. Here is the Citi Inflation Surprise index.

Orchard has a northern Virginia site.

Publicly traded companies known as iBuyers are pioneering a high-tech approach to home-flipping intended to make selling properties easier. Those firms include Opendoor Technologies Inc., Redfin Corp., and Offerpad Solutions Inc. A fourth, Zillow Group Inc., recently raised $450 million by issuing bonds, backed by the homes it buys and sells.

Whoomp, there it is.

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