Editor’s Note: CurbCall was rebranded as Connect Now in 2018
CurbCall’s technology makes it easier for brokerages, listing portals to offer showings on demand
– by Teke Wiggin Jan 25, 2016 –
CurbCall, a provider of technology that lets consumers request showings much like they may hail drivers using Uber, has pivoted from offering an app to consumers to peddling an API (application programming interface) that can be used to stitch its “showings on demand technology” into brokerage websites and listing portals.
The shift in direction is being spearheaded by Stephanie Sullivan, a “long-time serial entrepreneur in the mobile high tech and real estate space” who recently bought CurbCall, the startup announced today. (Founder and former CEO Seth Siegler has remained with startup as chief technology officer, while Sullivan has taken on the role of CEO.)
Prospective buyers who visit websites that have embedded CurbCall’s showings on demand tool can request instant showings from listing pages on real estate websites.
- Brokerages and listing portals can use CurbCall’s new API to add showings on demand functionality to their websites.
- CurbCall’s technology includes safety features for agents.
- The startup says it’s close to signing agreements with several major real estate firms.
What makes Curb Call different?
The difference between Curb Call’s technology and your run-of-the-mill contact form is that Curb Call is designed to be able to connect buyers with agents who are nearby and are free to handle showing requests.
“Instead of relying on email-based leads that may arrive to an agent who may or may not be available to answer it in a timely manner, we route them to your agents who specifically marked themselves as available to answer at this moment,” Siegler told Inman about CurbCall’s API in November. (CurbCall announced its API and acquisition by Sullivan today.)
Agents who have downloaded CurbCall’s agent-only mobile app — Curb Call no longer offers a mobile app to consumers — can receive showing requests made by buyers on their brokerage’s websites if they’re near a listing a buyer wants to see and if they’ve indicated that they’re free to show listings.
Agents have a short time window to accept showing requests before they are routed to other agents.
“If the agent is not available at that time, it routes to the next agent that’s available within a certain radius,” Sullivan said. “Just like an Uber experience.”
When agents claim a showing request to initiate communication with a buyer, the buyer can then see the agent’s location on a map (if they’re using a mobile device).
Flexibility to fit
CurbCall’s API offers brokerages and listing portals a lot of flexibility to shape and program the technology to fit their website and lead-routing protocol.
For example, brokerages and listing portals could choose between prompting buyers to either fill out a blank contact form or book a specific showing time with a scheduling tool.
The major brokerages that are considering building CurbCall’s showings on demand technology into their websites want a buyer’s showing request to first be sent a property’s listing agent. And if the listing agent isn’t available but works on a team with other agents, they want the request to then go to one of the agent’s team members.
Only if the listing agent and the agent’s team members are tied up, would most of the brokerages mulling CurbCall’s technology then be comfortable with the showing request going to a buyer’s agent, Sullivan said.
Listing portals that embed CurbCall’s technology in their websites, on the other hand, would be likely to program their showings-on-demand tool to often send showing requests to buyer’s agents right off the bat, not listing agents, according to Sullivan.
Sullivan said CurbCall is “very close” to signing agreements with some major real estate firms. It’s in talks with “one of the largest” real estate brokerages in the world, some of that firms’ competitors, and major listing portals and web-development companies, she said.
Skeptics say showings on demand technology is gimmicky. Setting up showings often requires coordination between a buyer, buyer’s agent, listing agent and homeseller. Buyers who use showings on demand tools thinking they can see homes lickety-split will often end up disappointed, they say.
To manage expectations, Sullivan said CurbCall’s technology informs consumers that not all listings can be shown immediately.
Another criticism leveled at showings on demand is that they can put agents at risk by encouraging them to meet strangers in homes.
To address that concern, CurbCall has designed a safety feature for agents — available as both a standalone app or inside CurbCall’s showings-on-demand app — that can send alerts to a contact when a showing begins, if a panic button is pressed by an agent or if the agent leaves the showing area.
CurbCall scrapped a consumer app in favor of a website API because, when offered through a consumer app, CurbCall’s showings on demand technology “was always limited based on our available resources and having to educate consumers about our app,” Siegler said in a statement.
“With a brand new API that brings CurbCall to already-existing home search apps and websites, we can easily plug our functionality into existing channels,” he said.
Have you used CurbCall? It will be interesting to see how well they do, as some portals like HomesForSale have struggled in the highly competitive space.