Market Split on Zillow: Will It Double or Tank?

Jacob Harper  |

Real estate website Zillow Inc. (Z) is coming off its highest volume week in its history, as the company has announced plans to diversify its already robust revenue stream. However, the company is not without its detractors, and currently carries one of the highest short floats in the entire Financial sector, indicating that while some investors are doubling down on the website, others see a bubble due to burst at any time.

The Bulls on Zillow

While Zillow is best known for its real estate appraisal function, the company is diversifying into software, a social media ranking system similar to Yelp Inc. (YELP) , while rolling out the comparative shopping Mortgage Marketplace. The company has made some high profile acquisitions, notably the purchase of StreetEasy for $50 million, giving Zillow even more of an edge on small-time competitors Trulia (TRLA) and Move, Inc. (MOVE) .

Joe Fahmy of Zor Capital has been incredibly exuberant on Zillow, saying that he thinks the stock “(could) go up 50% to 100% in the next year.”

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Less enthusiastic than Zor but still optimistic on Zillow are Morgan Stanley, upgrading from equalweight from underweight on Feb 24; CRT Capital, upgrading from Fairly Valued to Buy on Feb 5; and  RBC Capital, upgrading from Sector Perform to Outperform on Jan. 6. RBC Capital additionally raised their price target to $110, or nearly 25 percent over current market value.

The Bears on Zillow

Not everyone is buying into Zillowmania. The stock’s short float is 29.70 percent, indicating an exceptionally high amount of investors feel the stock is due for correction. But this is nothing new.

Zillow has been dogged by aggressive bears for several years now. Investor skepticism on Zillow probably hit its apex in Sept. 2012, when notorious short-seller Citron Research turned their attention to Zillow, publishing a hit piece that alleged “unscrupulous” insider transactions coupled with a dying revenue model.

While Citron’s muckraking caused a short-term drop in price, Zillow shook it off and is up 66 percent from its price a year ago. Their most recent earnings report on Feb 12 showed record profits in stark contrast to analyst expectations that the company would incur a loss. Following the beat and a brief moment north of $100 a share, the company did an about face, dropping below $85 in just a couple weeks' time.

Whether Zillow’s forays into software and a more social media-like service can produce another record quarter will become much clearer in May when the company reports their first fiscal year quarterly earnings for 2014.

By midday on March 31 Zillow had notched a .88 percent gain to hit $87.80 a share.

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