Financial technology, or fintech, is washing over Wall Street. Companies are inventing technological ways to do financial transactions, loans and banking processes that are radically changing the financial services and real estate industries.
Fintech is cutting out the middle man in a wide variety of real estate transactions, and this is causing traditional lenders, buyers and investment groups to take notice. Both lending and borrowing are now faster processes, with fewer delays and lower costs. In addition, consumers have shortcuts for financing, finding properties and closing deals.
Investing in fintech real estate companies is semi-speculative for investors. The new wave of technology must shake out the losers until there are clear winners. However, investors can find some solid companies that are set to change the real estate business forever. (See also: How Fintech Can Disrupt the $14 Trillion Mortgage Market.)
We have chosen four fintech companies that are making changes in how real estate is bought, sold and managed. All figures are current as of December 14, 2017.
1. Zillow Group Inc.
Zillow (Z) provides buyers with information on housing availability, pricing and financing. It also gives sellers a direct line of communication with potential buyers. The company deals with both home ownership and rentals.
Zillow reported a rise in quarterly earnings and revenue in the third quarter versus a year ago; results surpassed analysts' estimates. However, revenues have been flat over the last year and the company has been reporting negative operating income.
Nonetheless, the stock has been in an uptrend since October 2016, and it has consistently found support at its 50-day moving average. The stock is up 11.9% year-to-date, as of December 14, 2017.
Zillow has not replaced real estate agents so much as it has made their jobs easier. The platform is quickly becoming the go-to place for real estate companies that have properties for sale.
Buying shares of Zillow at this point would be based on the conviction that fintech is going to be the primary way real estate transactions are handled in the near future.
2. Fiserv Inc.
Fiserv (FISV) uses technology to facilitate lending, risk management and loan origination. Increasingly, banks are relying on Fiserv to process transactions related to real estate. This is a company that was founded well before the fintech revolution but has moved into advanced technologies as the financial services industry has evolved. It is disrupting the traditional lending process by moving transactions quickly and providing lenders with accurate information on borrowers quickly to reduce risk.
FISV stock is trading just below its 52-week high of $133.11, so investors will need to decide if now is the right time to get in, or if they should wait for a dip.
Third quarter 2017 earnings and revenue rose from the previous quarter and from the prior year. However, revenue and operating income have been flat for this company over the past four years, so investors may be getting in on a growth opportunity if fintech continues to capture market share. In other words, revenues and income could pick up dramatically.
3. SS&C Technologies Holdings Inc.
Property management, commercial lending and real estate lenders use SS&C Technologies (SSNC) for transactions. The disruption here is that companies have nearly instant processing and clearing.
Revenues have increased steadily for four years. The stock had a heavy sell-off last November, but has since rebounded. Over the last year, the stock rallied over 41% and looks to build on that in the coming months.
4. Fair Isaac Corp.
Fair Isaac (FICO) provides the credit ratings that drive real estate sales. It’s hard to remember when consumers had to wait to learn their credit scores. Today, a potential buyer can walk into a bank knowing her exact FICO score and how it stacks up against other borrowers.
Conversely, FICO helps lenders through its Decision Management Software. The entire borrowing and lending cycle has been disrupted and replaced by an efficient process driven by technology. Many of the services are cloud-based.
The stock put in a double bottom last November and December and has been climbing ever since. Over the last 12 months, the stock has gained nearly 27%; it appears to be in an uptrend that could continue into the new year.
The Bottom Line
The startups in fintech are not publicly-traded companies yet. Finding financial technology companies to invest in requires looking at those that started a few years ago, and traditional financial transaction companies that have evolved into fintech entities. (See also: What Advisors Can Expect from Fintech Next Year.)
Buying stock in these companies should not be seen as a gamble. Perform due diligence and insist on strong company fundamentals before jumping in.