When Zillow announced that it was purchasing ShowingTime earlier this month, shockwaves rippled through the real estate industry. Hundreds of comments piled up in online forums, and debates broke out online and in real life. Even now, industry members are still figuring out how they’ll respond.
The response is a testament to how widely used ShowingTime is and how much at least some industry members like it.
But ShowingTime also isn’t the only platform that helps agents manage their showing appointments. In fact, several other options existed before the acquisition news, and still more are racing to market now.
Individual agents, brokerages and multiple listing services (MLSs) will ultimately have to decide which platform works best for them. But to help make some sense of the chaos, Inman reached out to company leaders and industry members in recent days to get the lay of the land.
We saw demos and interacted with the platforms where possible but didn’t have time do to full test runs with every platform. The goal here is to raise awareness, not provide reviews or advocate for any one platform over another. So do your due diligence as you explore the options.
In any case, the takeaway from these conversations is that there’s exploding interest in showing platforms, and new options are proliferating quickly to meet that interest. Here’s what you need to know:
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The reason the ShowingTime news this month was such a big deal is because ShowingTime itself is a big deal.
In an interview with Inman, ShowingTime President Michael Lane explained that the company was founded 21 years ago with the goal of simplifying the labor-intensive phone calling process agents went through when they tried to schedule showings.
Over time, the company has struck up partnerships with MLSs and integrated with their platforms. Today, ShowingTime boasts relationships with more than 370 MLSs (more than half) and claims to provide technology for more than 950,000 industry professionals.
Asked to sum up the platform, Lane compared the way ShowingTime works to OpenTable, the software that lets people book restaurant reservations with the tap of a button.
“It’s set up for instant booking,” Lane said, “which is like a hallelujah for buyers’ agents.”
ShowingTime’s long history also means it has had time to evolve a variety of features. In addition to appointment booking, it also has a call center and can provide a remote personal assistant at a fraction of the cost it would take to hire someone on the ground in an agent’s community, among other things. Other features include the ability to produce data-based market reports and manage leads.
Lane ultimately argued that his company’s history and diverse product offerings give it a significant edge as it heads into a new era.
“We’ve been doing this for a long time,” Lane said. “You might think an appointment is a simple thing, but the reality is there are many, many layers to what we do.”
There are basically two things that could happen in the wake of the Zillow-ShowingTime acquisition news. The first is that there could be a significant migration among agents away from the ShowingTime platform and toward competitors.
Inman has already covered at some length the negative reactions to the acquisition news, so suffice it here to say that one of the most common complaints had to do with concerns over how Zillow might use ShowingTime data.
Zillow, on the other hand, has said it will leave ShowingTime’s data privacy policies in place.
“Your buyer and seller data entered in ShowingTime are yours and may not be misappropriated for any other use,” Cooper explained. “The showing history on your properties will not be provided to anyone other than you and, if you request, your client.”
Cooper, who reached out to the companies after the acquisition news, also said a firewall will go into place between ShowingTime and Zillow to protect data. Anything could happen years down the road when contracts change, but Cooper said that for now “we are confident and have great recourse that everyone will operate in accordance with our existing agreements.”
He added that his organization is also exploring all its options, “as every responsible company does.” In a video posted a day after the acquisition announcement he additionally encouraged KCRAR members to “keep a cool head.”
In any case, it’s possible that negative sentiments about the deal will lead agents and institutions to other options. For example, Andrea Geller — a Chicago agent with Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices who has been closely watching the debate surrounding the deal — said she was happy for the ShowingTime team after the acquisition but felt there probably is an opportunity now for other players to enter the space.
“My feeling is that Sentri is going to be able to grow quickly because they’re well funded, they’re associated with the National Association of Realtors, and they already had a seat at the table,” Geller said, referring to one of the up-and-coming platforms (see below for more on them). “I think they probably have the best opportunity.”
On the other hand, some agents are excited about the news. Hao Dang, a Seattle-based Windermere team leader and user of Zillow’s Premier Agent program, told Inman he is excited.
“I love the acquisition, to be honest,” he said. “What it really comes down to is a client having the best possible experience shopping for a home.”
Dang specifically thinks the acquisition could lead to better integrations between real estate tech platforms and a streamlined experience that ultimately saves agents work.
Though Dang’s perspective represents a minority among the agents who have spoken to Inman for various stories over the last week, it’s certainly possible — or likely — that ShowingTime’s size, age, and industry connections will keep it at the top of the heap for the foreseeable future.
For his part, Lane said the acquisition should support ShowingTime’s growth. The company specifically wants to improve its mobile app and build multilingual capabilities, among other goals.
“We love the fact that they want to invest in our products and make them better,” Lane said. “The perfect outcome for a company like this is to find another bigger company who wants to take it to another level.”
Even before the ShowingTime acquisition news, there were a handful of companies that were providing rival platforms. In many cases, ShowingTime’s size forced these companies to adopt alternative strategies such as geographic specialization or targeting a different segment of the market.
However, in recent days they’ve all seen a major increase in interest from potential customers at the agent, brokerage and MLS level. Here are some of the platforms that are already out there and, to some extent, operational:
Texas-based agents Michael and Stacy Spickes launched TourZazz in 2018 after years of working with buyers and sellers. The couple partnered with an Austin-based technology developer to build the platform, and the idea was prompted by a sudden uptick in the couple’s work with buyers in particular. As a result, it was designed with the goal first to streamline the work for buyer’s agents.
Today, the company describes its product as a “holistic scheduling and showing ecosphere.”
During a webinar last week, Michael Spickes walked through the TourZazz app. The demo showed how the app color-codes appointments depending on whether or not they’ve been accepted. Once agents create a schedule, they can drag and drop the appointments’ order, set meeting locations, invite multiple participants and even schedule breaks for snacks during a long day of showing properties.
The platform also streamlines communication between real estate professionals and their clients.
“It allows you to click one button, and TourZazz handles all the communications involved,” Spickes said during the demo.
TourZazz integrates with the CoreLogic ecosystem, and it’s capable of integrating with other systems as well. The company also provide services to individual agents, brokerages and MLSs. The Spickes began beta testing the platform in the Austin market last spring and have since rolled it out to about 600 agents and 100 assistants and Realty Austin — the brokerage the Spickes themselves have long worked at.
The plan is to continue expanding the platform, first in the Austin market. Stacy Spickes added in an email to Inman that in recent days they have been in “back-to-back Zoom calls” with MLSs boards and brokerages.
More: Visit TourZazz’s website here.
Touchbase is headquartered in Quebec, Canada, and has been around since the mid 1990s. Vice President Alain Brunel told Inman his company has significant marketshare in Canada and has historically focused on Canadian clients, though it also has the capacity to serve U.S. real estate professionals.
Touchbase began preparing for more expansion into the U.S. several months ago, but since the ShowingTime acquisition, the company has decided to make an even more concerted push south.
“With all of the calls we’ve been receiving we’ve decided now is the time,” Catherine Jean-Couture, a marketing specialist with Touchbase, also told Inman. She added that the platform is designed to enable high levels of customization and that it “allows you to cut out redundant steps.”
The company has both web-based and call center support, training resources and an app, among other things. The platform additionally includes lockbox integration and tools that enable communication with agents, clients and various team members.
Touchbase has traditionally signed agreements with MLSs and Realtor boards. The company can work with individual brokerages, but according to Jean-Couture, “as a general rule we always strive to go with the real estate association directly.”
With that philosophy in mind, Touchbase has designed its system to adapt to “any available MLS system on the market,” according to a company fact sheet. The Touchbase software can be directly integrated as a button in an MLS platform.
Jean-Couture encouraged agents interested in using Touchbase to reach out to the company directly but also to urge their MLSs to get in touch with the company.
More: Visit Touchbase’s website here.
Instashowing promises to help agents book more appointments, and thereby have happier clients. William Schoeffler founded the company in 2018, and he decided to market directly to agents and brokerages because ShowingTime — which he described as “the 800-pound gorilla” in the space — was already dominating the landscape when it came to direct MLS relationships.
Schoeffler provided a live demo of his platform to Inman, during which he showed how agents can quickly book appointments. The platform’s interface displays basic information about a property, including a photo, alongside a calendar. Agents can choose time slots, appointment durations and enter private remarks, among various other features.
The platform can be accessed via desktop or on a phone and will integrate with MLS technology as well.
Although Instashowing was designed around individual agent needs, Schoeffler told Inman he has received numerous calls in recent days from MLSs requesting demos of the software, meaning the company may be striking up more relationships at the institutional level in the future.
More: Visit Instashowing’s website here.
Denver-based real estate technology company Showingly offers an app that it calls “AGENT.” The company promises the app will let agents manage more showings, as well as “reach your past, present, and future network with a CRM integrated directly with Showingly’s Home Buyer app.”
Showingly further bills its platform as the “world’s first showing management platform designed for agents, by agents.”
The company’s app lets agents schedule appointments via desktop or through a mobile app. The platform also has a queueing feature that allows agents to organize showings in relationship to each other, among other things.
For listing agents, the app has tools for reaching out to prospective buyers and for tracking feedback on listings.
More: Visit Showingly’s website here.
Oregon-based About Time Tours is the brainchild of co-founders Matt McCoun, who has a background in real estate, and Chris Mergenthaler, who has worked in software development. The duo launched their company last year, and their website describes the old process of booking home showings as “outdated, clumsy, and frustrating for all parties.”
To improve the process, the company has created a platform that, among other things, includes scheduling tools and mapping features to help agents plot out their appointments and estimate travel times. Additionally, it has in-app photography capabilities, note-taking features, and communication and feedback options.
The platform will also integrate with MLS software.
Right now, About Time Tours is available in Oregon, with future plans to expand into the Miami, Florida, area.
More: Visit About Time Tours website here.
Systems Engineering is based in North Carolina and offers a variety of real estate software products. The company’s “NAVICA Showing Manager” lets agents schedule appointments, has calendar features, feedback prompts and other tools. It can also assist in building data-based reports, among other things.
The company markets its showing manager to both offices and to MLSs.
More: Visit System’s Engineering website here.
In addition to the platforms that are available right now, there are also a handful in the works. These platforms are in various stages of development and hint at the rapidly expanding showing management tech landscape.
Arguably the most buzzy of the up-and-coming platforms, SentriKey is the handiwork of SentriLock, a company that provides lockbox services and is a subsidiary of the National Association of Realtors (NAR). The platform’s NAR affiliation could give it an advantage in terms of resources and reach.
SentriKey also has time on its side. In a statement last week, the company revealed it began exploring a showing platform more than a year ago in light of increased consolidation in the market.
“Our board directed us to develop a solution to address the growing lack of choice of showing service solutions, given the natural fit with our current lockbox business,” Scott Fisher, SentriLock founder and CEO, said in the statement. “With recent industry acquisitions, this validates the decision that a trusted partner is needed more than ever to ensure Realtors have a choice in showing service solutions.”
Speaking with Inman, Chuck Shroder, chief technology officer at SentriLock, said the goal also is to leverage the firm’s existing technology. Among other things, the platform will include access to a virtual assistant dubbed “SAM.”
“We’re centering our product around automation,” Shroder said. “SAM focuses on those mundane tasks that an agent has to deal with on a daily basis.”
Other features — which are laid out in a company fact sheet — will include a simple scheduling dashboard, a mobile app, communication tools, data resources and the ability to grant property access to other professionals such as appraisers.
Devin Beck, SentriLock’s director of revenue, also told Inman that being owned by NAR means that unlike other firms “the chance of us being purchased by someone is extremely small.”
SentriKey is slated to debut March 31 and will be available to existing SentriLock customers. The offering will be available through MLS and Realtor association partnerships but not as a product for individual agents.
More: Visit SentriLock’s website here.
Ohio-based technology company Delta Media announced in a statement earlier this month that it would “rapidly finalize and deploy a full-featured, wholly independent real estate showing service nationwide.” Delta’s announcement came days after the Zillow-ShowingTime acquisition news, and the statement adds that the company has seen an “avalanche of immediate industry support” for its product.
“We are ready to help out those who have been disenfranchised by recent events,” Michael Minard, Delta owner and CEO, also said in the statement. “Delta Media already has trusted relationships with nearly all MLSs, the ability to scale fast, and a nationwide footprint in place as we partner with many of real estate’s most coveted brokerage brands.”
The statement adds that the platform is already 90 percent complete.
Among other things, Delta has in the past been known for offering a customer relationship manager (CRM), marketing tools and website design.
In an interview with Inman, Minard went on to say that his company has been in talks with various MLS boards since the ShowingTime acquisition. And alongside surging interest, Delta ultimately decided to take the plunge into showing management because it had the tech infrastructure in place to move quickly.
“We were sitting on all the tech,” Minard said. “We could launch not just a competing product, but a better product.”
Minard ultimately said Delta’s showing platform could be ready in four to six weeks.
More: Visit Delta’s website here.
Texas agent Josh Hayles is currently developing a platform. He first had the idea for a showing platform several years ago, after he became frustrated by the slow process of coordinating showings. He and a business partner began formally taking steps to build a platform earlier this year.
Hayles told Inman they aren’t going to rush the process, and version 1.0 could be ready in three to five months.
More: Shotgun Showings doesn’t yet have a website, but it does have a Facebook group.
With a proliferating number of options, it may become increasingly difficult for agents, brokers and MLSs to choose which one works best for them.
However, Geller advised prospective clients of the different platforms to look at how well they integrate with the technology those clients already use. She also suggested looking at who is running the platform and if that person’s experience meshes well with that of the clients.
Finally, Geller said prospective platform clients should ask if the company they’re working with has the resources to survive longterm.
“What do they have the ability to handle?” Geller said. “What are the things they’re looking at down the road? Do they have the funding to carry it through? You can’t go with someone who may or may not make it.”
Whatever happens, Hayles, the Texas agent building his own showing platform, said that change is inevitable. Agents can either embrace the industry’s evolution or be left behind.
“We don’t need to stop this change,” he said while discussing the ShowingTime acquisition. “We need to adapt and evolve and be the creatives that throw their own hats in the ring. Don’t fear these things.”