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The Year Ahead

There’s Still No Amazon for Housing, But Fintech’s Working on It

Buying and selling a house is a large, complicated transaction, so companies are focusing on making small parts of it easier.

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Photographer: Joanna McClure for Bloomberg Businessweek

It’s hard to imagine a better scenario for real estate technology than the one that played out in 2021. Low interest rates and pent-up demand ignited the hottest housing market on record, while the pandemic gave buyers and sellers new reasons to conduct business virtually.

And yet the year will be better remembered for the way some of the biggest names in the industry struggled. The highest-profile flop was Zillow Group Inc., the online listings giant that pulled the plug on its nascent instant homebuying operation in the face of mounting losses. Compass Inc., the tech-driven real estate brokerage, saw its shares plummet 50% as part of a broader selloff in property-related technology stocks. Better, an online mortgage company, fired 9% of its staff.