Zillow, the real estate website known for estimating house values, said on Tuesday that it would exit the business of rapidly buying and selling houses amid heavy losses and that it planned to let go about nearly 25 percent of its employees.

The announcement was a major strategic retreat and a black eye for Richard Barton, Zillow’s chief executive, who founded the company 16 years ago and has long talked about transitioning Zillow’s popular website into a marketplace. Last year, Mr. Barton predicted Zillow Offers, which made instant offers on homes in a practice known as iBuying, could generate $20 billion a year.

On Tuesday, Zillow, which said it has 8,000 employees, said the division had been the source of huge losses and had made the company’s overall bottom line unpredictable. Zillow Offers lost more than $420 million in the three months ending in September, roughly the same amount that the company had earned in total during…

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