Companies created to help buyers purchase homes are now stuck holding the bag on loads of inventory. Will Parker and Nicole Friedman report in The Wall Street Journal:
Ribbon Home Inc. had a fast-growing business during the housing boom. The New York City-based startup purchased homes with cash on behalf of buyers. Then it sold the homes to the buyers at the same price, plus a fee, once the buyers got a mortgage.
This approach made their clients’ offers more appealing, since sellers often prefer all-cash transactions that can close quickly and are considered more reliable. Ribbon has been active in hot markets such as Atlanta and Charlotte.
But last year as mortgage rates surged, some Ribbon customers backed out of their purchases or needed more time to get financing. That left the company owning nearly 400 homes, according to property records analyzed by research firm Attom Data Solutions and confirmed by the company.
Ribbon is one of a handful of young companies known as power buyers. These firms created a niche business around helping home buyers gain an edge during the hypercompetitive housing boom. Now that the market has cooled, some of these companies are stuck with hundreds of homes they acquired on behalf of clients.
Orchard Technologies Inc., another power buyer that has been active in places such as Denver and Dallas, helps customers buy a new home and move before selling their previous home. If clients can’t sell their homes after four months, Orchard agrees to buy them.
The company now owns about 200 homes its customers were unable to sell, said its Chief Executive Court Cunningham. Mr. Cunningham said Orchard has had to buy homes from customers three times as frequently over the past six months.
The unanticipated glut of homes these firms are carrying is an example of how housing-oriented companies that thrived when mortgage rates were super low are struggling to survive in a higher rate environment.
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