Real Estate

Why Zillow’s Acquisition Of ShowingTime ‘Flipped The Switch’

Homesnap founder Guy Wolcott and ShowingTime President Michael Lane outline how vendors and multiple listing services create a more robust tech and integration experience.

The first two days of Inman Connect have been extraordinary, and today will be no exception. It’s not too late to register and catch up. When you do, you’ll plug in to today’s sessions, plus get access to all of the day 1 and 2 sessions on-demand. 

In the quest for a seamless, digital transaction, there’s been one constant roadblock: a lack of interoperability between multiple brokers’, vendors’ and MLS’ technology. Now that the pandemic has hastened demand for a seamless, 100-percent digital transaction, professionals are figuring out what it takes to create an integrated tech experience that benefits buyers, sellers, agents and everyone in between.

Michael Lane

ShowingTime President Michael Lane said he’s experienced a boom in integration requests from brokers, which has highlighted the need for a more seamless integration experience. “We need to do a better job integrating,” Lane said in his Connect Now session with Homesnap founder Guy Wolcott and Real Estate Standards Organization CEO Sam DeBord on Wednesday. “We’ve done tons of integrations over the last 20 years, it’s just that the landscape is changing a little bit more now with all the new entrants.”

Wolcott said Zillow Group’s acquisition of ShowingTime was a turning point for him, as Homesnap has rolled out numerous integrations over the past 13 years.

“When there was an announcement that Michael’s company was being acquired by what had become a broker and a member participant in all the [multiple listing services], I think that that sort of flipped the switch for a lot of people,” Wolcott added while noting he doesn’t believe ShowingTime doesn’t have any bad motives. “It was like, ‘Oh my gosh, this is a lot of data to be in the hands of someone who’s now a market participant.’”

Guy Wolcott | Photo credit: Homesnap

“The message to us was, you know, we need to be able to have more of a multitude of players in this space that can work together rather than just assuming that the single player will provide a proprietary solution for everybody,” he added. “We don’t want to be kind of trapped in a ‘there’s only one game in town kind of thing.’”

Wolcott pointed to the way various email providers work together when it comes to calendar invites. A Gmail user can send a calendar invite to an Outlook user and it works seamlessly, he said.

“I didn’t have to know what software you guys were using when you sent me the appointment for this,” he explained. “For this session, it just worked, because the people making the [Gmail and Outlook] software had all agreed on a couple of fairly lightweight standards that sort of make the world go round.”

“That’s what we’re advocating for,” he added.

Session moderator Sam DeBord said the Midwest Real Estate Data (MRED), the California Regional Multiple Listing Service and Bright MLS are already working on a common application programming interface (API) to create a more seamless experience.

“I think it’s a great idea for MLS is to make it easy to give their members the most convenience, to give them a choice of showing vendors and we totally support that. We support integrating wherever we can,” Lane said. “What makes it a little bit tricky is that brokers who are selling homes, they’re responsible for those listings in the data that they put into a platform is often pretty sensitive.”

In the quest for interoperability, Lane said vendors and various stakeholders must be proactive about data safety and making sure the data doesn’t land in the wrong hands.

“What I hear of what Bright MLS and California Regional MLS have put out is they’re aligned in some way with facilitating that type of integration, rather than having everybody try to put all their data in one place,” he added. “They’re trying to make it easy for appointments to be exchanged. And I think that’s going towards a good place.”

Wolcott said MLSs can aid interoperability by establishing standards that third-party vendors must follow to access an API. “So one of the ways [MLSs] can be a force for good is by helping to set up standards and saying the vendor they’re going to approve and recommend have to abide by those standards,” he explained. “I think that is a really useful way for them to use the kind of market power they have.”

At the end of the day, Wolcott said listing agents and brokers should be driving the conversation about interoperability, and MLSs and vendors should work together to deliver what agents and brokers want.

“It’s pretty simple, right? Listing agents and brokers should be able to use whatever software they want to manage their showings because they like it best,” he explained. “Buyer’s agents should be able to use whatever software they want to schedule tours and showings because they like it the best and it fits with everything else they do, and those systems should be able to work all across the country without tons of like regionalization.”

Email Marian McPherson

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