Here’s What You Need to Know About iBuyers

November 10, 2021

If you’ve been paying attention to trends in residential real estate over the past few years, chances are you’ve come across the term “iBuyer.” After a 2020 dip in activity, the iBuyer industry is once again growing, with iBuyers purchasing more homes in the second quarter of 2021 than any other quarter. Why is iBuying getting so popular, and what does it mean for the home sellers? Let’s take a closer look.

Read More:Does Trouble at Zillow Mean Trouble in the Market? 3 Things Homeowners Need to Know

What is an iBuyer?

An iBuyer is a new breed of real estate company that uses digital technology to estimate property values and purchase homes directly from owners, providing a more efficient path for home sellers than the traditional real estate listing process. However, a streamlined process doesn’t always yield the best offer for the seller.


What does an iBuyer do?

A typical model works something like this: the iBuyer provides an online tool where a homeowner answers questions and enters key information about their property. The iBuyer evaluates this information and provides the homeowner with a cash offer for their house after a very short turnaround time (usually less than 24 hours).

Citing speed, convenience, and flexibility as the key benefits, these companies offer an alternative route to the traditional agent-driven process of selling residential real estate on the open market.

How do iBuyers calculate the offer?

iBuyers rely on proprietary software known as “automated valuation models” (AVMs) that factor in a property’s size, age, location, and condition along with market comparisons and other data. By using this data, sometimes in combination with local pricing analysts who operate on the ground in markets where they are active, iBuyers are able to estimate a home’s value in a short amount of time so they can make sellers an offer almost immediately. There are usually three main components factored into the iBuyer offer price:

  1. The iBuyer fee – This number is subtracted from the total valuation. Different iBuyers have varying fees.
  2. Closing costsTitle, escrow, and other closing expenses are subtracted from the home value to calculate the seller’s net proceeds.
  3. Repair costs – These are calculated post-inspection. Each iBuyer does this differently. For example, Opendoor gives you a total repair cost number but doesn’t disclose specifically what the repairs are for. Offerpad provides a detailed report outlining what needs to be repaired, and also gives you the option to do the repairs yourself. Most iBuyers will allow some negotiation on repair costs.

As a result of these deductions, the amount the seller receives is often much less than the offer originally presented. Though iBuyers are typically transparent about the charges, it can be difficult to plan around an offer that drops in price over the course of the iBuying process.

Where iBuyers are operating

What does iBuyer stand for?

The “i” in iBuyer stands for “instant,” and that’s a key aspect of their popularity. iBuyers eliminate the long process typical of residential real estate sales. You can go online anytime of day or night and expect to get a cash offer for your property within a day or two. This is very different from the traditional home-buying process, which often takes weeks or months to complete.

Map courtesy of Curbed as of March 2019

Where do iBuyers buy houses?

iBuying is most common in the Sun Belt states, with North Carolina markets leading the charge in the first quarter of 2021, but it is gradually spreading to the rest of the country. A report in the Wall Street Journal estimates that iBuyers may be involved in almost 60% of real estate transactions nationwide by 2024. In Raleigh, the most popular market for iBuyers as of 2021, such transactions currently account for around 2.9% of the market.

Who do iBuyers buy from?

iBuying is not available for all types of real estate. The properties iBuyers are after are typically relatively new (built within the last 20-30 years) and in relatively good condition.

Luckily, Sundae is a viable option for many different types of homeowners who want to sell as-is with speed, confidence, and certainty. On Sundae’s Marketplace, you’ll have the chance to get a fair and competitive offer price with the potential for multiple offers.

Why is iBuying becoming popular?

The most appealing aspect of selling a property to an iBuyer is that it takes a lot of work and uncertainty out of the sales process. When you sell to an iBuyer, you don’t have to hire a real estate agent, list the home, stage it, or even show it to potential buyers. The iBuyer handles all of that post-purchase. You will still be on the hook for iBuyer fees, however.

You also don’t have to worry about whether you’ll get the asking price in a traditional sale, or whether there will be contingencies that can strain or derail the sales process entirely, which can potentially eliminate months of stress for the seller. So if you are looking to move quickly or you just don’t have the patience for the time and effort necessary to participate in the typical sales cycle, this might be a great option to consider.

Changing demographics may also be fueling this trend. Young home buyers prefer to conduct their research and shopping on the Internet, so as more of them enter the real estate market, the demand for online solutions goes up. The iBuyer model holds special appeal for these consumers.

The downsides of using an iBuyer

As with many innovations, there are some potential drawbacks to taking the iBuyer route to selling property.

Lower offers

iBuyers typically offer a price that is below market value so that they can clean, renovate, and resell the property for a healthy profit. That means you likely won’t be able to get the top asking price for your home. The idea is that the seller is paying for convenience via one quick transaction (eliminating a lot of hassle and uncertainty in the long run), so it’s up to you to do the math and determine whether it’s worth it. And that can be difficult to asses before the iBuyer has inspected your home and made deductions for repairs.

Price changes

Another potential pitfall with using an iBuyer is the accuracy of the purchase offer itself. Because iBuyers emphasize speed and convenience, most rely heavily on data in favor of on-site due diligence. This can lead to unexpected repair expenses discovered during the home inspection that significantly decrease the original offer price, which often jeopardizes the sale of the home.

Lack of seller support and guidance

You also will be on your own navigating what can be a stressful life event. In fact, 64% of respondents in a 2020 survey said moving was the most stressful event they’d had to endure. While iBuyers have tools and resources available on their websites to guide and educate you, many homeowners appreciate the perspective and industry knowledge a local market expert can bring to the table during the selling process.

Find out how Sundae helps you get the best outcome when selling a home.

The road ahead for iBuying

The practice of iBuying is still in its infancy. While it is rapidly growing, it is not yet available nationwide. iBuying also hasn’t been around long enough for the model to be tested by large economic fluctuations or a recession, so it’s likely it will continue to evolve and change along with market conditions.

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Kyle Spearin

Kyle is Sundae's Real Estate Editor. As both an investor and content marketing professional, Kyle combines his passion for real estate investing and educational background with his love of helping others. His experience with real estate tech companies, including contributing to BiggerPockets Pro, gives him insight into markets across the United States.