ShowingTime President Discussed COVID19 Real Estate Showings Data

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ShowingTime made publicly available the data showing the swift drop off of real estate showings when COVID19 struck. But then it also showed, over 60 days in advance that real estate would come out very strong. Listen to the president of ShowingTime talk about the data.

TRANSCRIPTION

Jen Goodhue (00:00):

Welcome everyone to the Brokerage Insider. This is the podcast where real estate professionals come to learn how to grow their business and use tomorrow solutions for today’s problems. I’m your host, Jen Goodhue. And today we’ve got Michael Lane who is the president, and one of the founding members of ShowingTime. This has been a fantastic interview. We talk about COVID-19 trends in analytics. What data is showing us about how the real estate market is bouncing back. It’s been a very interesting conversation and I hope all of you take something away that is valuable for your own business approach.

Jen Goodhue (00:38):

I’m here with Michael Lane, who is the president and founding partner for ShowingTime. Many of us know ShowingTime in the industry. I’ll let Michael speak towards that a little bit. But part of why I wanted to bring him on the podcast, if you all haven’t seen it, they did a phenomenal piece of content. As we’re kind of moving out of the heels of the COVID crisis and pandemic right now, they had put out a chart that was showing state-by-state demographics as to what showings were doing. And I think it was just such an impactful piece of data and impactful piece of content. And we’ll get into that a little bit more here in a minute. I want Michael first to introduce you and welcome you on our podcast.

Michael Lane (01:16):

Hi, Jen,

Jen Goodhue (01:18):

Happy to have you, and I’d love for you to give us a little bit of background on yourself and your company. For those of you who don’t know ShowingTime, they have been around as such a force in the industry for so long, and we are so happy to have Michael here today.

Michael Lane (01:31):

Well, Jen, thank you again for inviting me to participate in your podcast this afternoon. And happy to be here. Just a little bit about me and about ShowingTime where we are in our 20th year in business. So that’s impressive. And it’s the cargo. About 20 years ago, I’m one of the I joined the founder of our company, Scott Woodard shortly after he started the company. So I considered myself a founding management team member. And as president, I had most of our new business, certainly all of our sales and marketing, I participate heavily in partnerships. Any of the acquisitions that we’ve done over the years and just kind of growing the business overall, we what else can I tell you? You know, just what we do. I think people know us the most for providing, showing service technology and call center services to the real estate industry that is made up of a, kind of a family of products, including pure software as a service technology that’s implemented into MLS is throughout the U S and Canada.

Michael Lane (02:43):

That’s on one end. And then we also have call center services, which is really a tech enabled service where humans help the appointment scheduling process, wherever technology can’t do it entirely on its own. So sometimes that means we’re. We have appointment specialists who are calling people who did not answer an online appointment requests, or they leave messages. People are, they just create a convenience for agents who are driving in their car and they can’t get on their mobile app, but they want to call in, cancel a bunch of appointments or reschedule a bunch of appointments or whatever it might be. It’s kind of a, a high end customer service element, which is very popular to our subscriber base.

Jen Goodhue (03:26):

I certainly remember that product, when it came into my market, when I was managing a handful of residential and commercial offices I had to have extra bodies to give out lock box codes and do all of the concierge support that you have. And it was such a brilliant idea to bring in that human element and mix it with software. And I think that, you know, any more, you look at showings compared to what they used to be 10 years ago, or even 20 years ago when you founded the company and it has drastically changed. So I’d love to hear a little bit more on just the evolution of ShowingTime and what your customer reaches and, and some things like that.

Michael Lane (04:00):

Well, we started out as a pure technology company when the company was founded here in Chicago and Chicago is one of those kinds of outlier markets where it’s really hard for agents brokers needed to make appointments with each other, because for a long time, there were no electronic lockboxes in the city. And in downtown Chicago, there are still no electronic boxes. So that means that the listing agent typically will go to the showing to open the door buyer’s agent and the buyer. So it’s, you know, scheduling a showing is finding the combined availability of four different participants, which is, you know, requires iteration. It requires a lot of phone tag and it was screaming for technology to help make the workflow easier. So we started in that space in it grew. We actually, I know you’re from Colorado, Colorado is one of our early markets.

Michael Lane (04:57):

And our first acquisition was a really small company based out of Colorado called the Rocky mountain consulting company. And they provided a, an office software called Showing tracks. And you remember, you probably remember it, a popular re max product back in the early days. We so that company joined us in, I think it was 2001 and that product we grew through 2008, we rebranded it as ShowingDesk and then ShowingTime front desk. And we were for a long time, the most widely used provider of office software for offices that had an appointment, a secretary at the front desk who prior to using us would probably have been using no cards or a three ring binder to keep track of appointment

Jen Goodhue (05:50):

That agent’s always yup. And we’d have to re I I’m totally dating myself right now for the record, but those darn binders, those four ring binders. Oh, that’s it. Yup.

Michael Lane (06:03):

So that was a, a very popular solution until around 2008. And I should, I shouldn’t say it until it’s still obviously, but in 2008, with the recession, we have many longterm loyal clients say, you know, we love you guys, but we’ve got to let go of the appointment. It doesn’t leave us with anybody to use your software. Boy, if you guys could provide the people, in addition to the software, we would keep using your, you know, your services. And we partnered with one of our major software clients here in Chicago who told that to us. And that was when the ShowingTime appointment center was born. And there are other companies that have been doing that for years, but we got into that end of the business with the, you know, the human assisted service in about 2008.

Jen Goodhue (06:56):

Okay. What an interesting way to pivot through that recession, what a brilliant idea to take your customer feedback and truly take it to heart. That’s what makes us companies, in my opinion,

Michael Lane (07:06):

Well, we were, we knew we were going to lose clients if we didn’t do it. And we’d been trying to not get into the call center part of the business, because the economies of running our call center are so hard. It doesn’t, you know, if you think about having 20 people helping on the phones, you know, two or three of those people call in sick, or they need to go on vacation, it just turns the business upside down. So

Jen Goodhue (07:30):

I can’t tell you how many times I would have to cover for my weekend staff because that’s when they’re most important. And if they called in sick, it was on me.

Michael Lane (07:38):

Yeah. And that’s the type of job. People don’t plan to do that for their whole life state come and go, you know, and it but it wasn’t until we got into the hundreds of, or, you know, around a hundred people that we started being able to do it efficiently and kind of fast forward to now we’ve grown that that business just through sales and through position of a couple other companies in the space to realize the scale that we wanted to. So we now have about 500 appointment specialists that is our, probably our most popular offering. We have, you know, our, our rough coverage of kind of the U S and Canada, we have, we support about 70% of homes that are sold in North America. And about a third of those are maybe a little bit more than a third have the human assistance kind of upgrade.

Michael Lane (08:34):

So we call that kind of our, our premium service offering alongside of our office software, which companies still use that original product. We have an appointment secretary doing it themselves if they don’t want to outsource it. And we kind of offer an in between package to where they do it by day. And we covered them after hours, if that’s the preference, the goal, you know, essentially to try to get systems that would cover every different way that people like to schedule showings and we’ve you know, added to that and refined those products over the years to kind of get the number of clients that we have.

Jen Goodhue (09:12):

Interesting. So I’m going to take you back to something that I think you said that was really relevant. I’m actually back in 2008 fast forwarding into 2020 on the heels of the coronavirus in what COVID has done to real estate you know, with essential services and challenges with that and ask you a very direct question. Do you, I’ve heard a lot of murmurs from people that they’re concerned that there’s going to be as much of a market crash as there wasn’t a wait. I personally don’t see that. I think markets are rebounding. You guys have data that’s pointing toward that, so I’d really be interested for your perspective on that.

Michael Lane (09:48):

Well, I’m an optimist, you know, and as as entrepreneurs tend to be, you know, and I have looked at what’s happening, you know, I think there will undoubtedly be some prolonged effects of what the country’s been through in the last couple of months, but I will tell you, when I look at the number of markets tonight, you know, we, we talked a little bit about the content that we’re posting in our webs website that shows the showing trends in each state of the U S and we update it nightly that I see markets where they’re showing activity is, has exceeded the activity of 20 in year over year, which would indicate that you know, there’s pent up demand in markets. Those buyers that stayed home in the months of March and April are now out shopping for homes. And the big question is, will the increase in activity of the next, the forward-looking 90 days compensate in sales for the last activity of the last two to three months.

Michael Lane (10:50):

And I think there’s a good, in many markets. It will you know, there, there may be an economic cycle in front of us. It’s hard for me to know for sure, but I’m optimistic based on, at least on the showing activity that companies are gonna have very strong brokerages are going to see excellent third quarter results. I think they’ll find that the seasonality of sales this year is unlike any other, there’ll be agents who were planning to have a enjoy, maybe the second half of the summer being a, you know, time when they would do other things where they would, you know, re be post, you know, second quarter sales. So, you know, unusual year, but I, I, I am optimistic that there’ll be many companies that make up for lost time in two, three. Now, whether there’s a recession, it had, I can’t say that for sure. I think there are a lot of positive things going on in the economy, and I think there are many and several incentives that the government is putting place to help people buy homes and how, you know, help small businesses recover. But it’s, it’s hard to say I’m not a professional economist, so I wouldn’t, I wouldn’t,

Jen Goodhue (12:05):

We certainly will hold you to your optimism and looking at your data. And if for those of you that have not looked at this piece of content, it is one of the better pieces of content I’ve ever seen a real estate tech firm put out in the midst of a crisis to kind of start putting minds at ease because Michael is exactly correct when I pull it up every day, depending on the state or the region or whatever, I’m making calls to high level brokers and CEOs that day. And I will reference it. For example, in Minnesota, they have been stronger year over year. We have other places, unfortunately, Colorado fell off the map. We were down 95%, but now we’re almost back up to met year over year. I, so for those of you that have not seen this piece of content go to ShowingTime.com and its impact of coronavirus, it’s a really well done piece. I think it’s very encouraging and I think even real estate agents should be using it to show their sellers. Hey, there’s, there’s promising things coming. And like you said, Michael, I really think that the, the aftermath of this will change the seasonality that we’re used to in real estate from being such a strong spring market, into being a very strong summer and fall market. And that’s what my hope is.

Michael Lane (13:19):

Yeah. I, you know, on top of everything else and working from home my family, we are in the process of selling our home and looking for a new home right now. So we are under contract. We did a bunch of showings that were conducted by video.

Jen Goodhue (13:37):

Okay. Yeah. Did you hear about this?

Michael Lane (13:39):

Yeah. And then we had, so we had three interested buyers come back after viewing video either live video or a Matterport tour that we had for our home came in for their second showing in person. And we were fortunate enough to get an offer after third buyer came through. And so we’re, you know, proceeding towards a closing right now. I hope, but it it’s an interesting time. You know, we, we were under the impression that there was just no real estate sales occurring in April, but we came to find, you know, a home came on the market, a couple of doors down from us, and then it went under contract a week later. And we were just, we started to think, you know, there are people real estate, isn’t this central service in Illinois. So are still doing showings. Buyers are still looking at homes, they’re doing it a little bit differently.

Michael Lane (14:33):

I think they tend to do more research and gather more facts before they go out on their first showing. So that the number of in-person interactions are probably going to be fewer before people buy homes and least that’s, you know, I think that’s what we’re doing. We’re doing a lot more research at. So look at a home, it’s really something we’re serious about. You know, unlike when we started last home, we looked at a lot of homes being offered just because we wanted to see everything, you know now we’re thinking twice about all that human interaction and we’re doing a lot of research online. There’s a lot of content that wasn’t there 10 years ago. Yeah. I think that, so, you know, the number of in-person showings I think will go down and probably stay down permanently because there’s so much good content that can people can do online, including, you know, virtual showings and video sellings

Jen Goodhue (15:29):

Agreed. And I’m, I’m excited and hopeful that you are moving in that direction. Because I think that the Coronavirus has done something to real estate, and that is the inevitable factor of PropTech and the evolution that is required with it, that we have millennial buyers out there. I myself am actually looking at buying a home right now. I went last summer was considering a move to Montana. I saw probably 30 houses. I wouldn’t do that now. I would make a very intentional effort to only see something that I felt like I was going to write an offer on.

Michael Lane (16:02):

Exactly. I think that’s how people are, are working in home. And people are just figuring out all the extra steps you need to do to be careful. Well, you know, we’re, we’re going on showings, we’re wearing masks and, you know, it’s, it’s kinda crazy, but people will figure out are figuring out a way to move forward is kind of the, the lesson here. But to that end, we are actually building technology that we’re going to deploy to over the next few weeks to our entire customer base, that will allow them to launch a video showing within time app. So they can do that for free now on FaceTime or other tools. But what will change is right within ShowingTime, they will be able to create a showing appointment as they always have have, but then they’ll have the option to use tools that we provide them so that the listing agent can be holding their mobile device and walking through the home for a buyer and a buyer’s agent who were at home because of what they do in a, in a market where the buyer doesn’t want it to her homes, but the listing agent can go to the property.

Michael Lane (17:08):

This is what we did for our video showings. We took the kids in the car and drove around in our listing agent brought up the buyer and the buyer’s agent on her phone. And she walked around her home answered questions and they saw, you know, it’s not quite the same as doing it in person, but she did multiple showings that way. And we’re gonna post that technology right within our mobile app. And that’s great. That’s really exciting.

Jen Goodhue (17:33):

Well, for those of you that are ShowingTime customers there, you’ve heard it first. They are obviously aggressively moving and changing with the needs and the requirements of, of every market and every region that has been affected by this. And that’s, that’s exactly what you can hope for out your vendor that, that they really are listening. They are ahead of the curve. As far as they can be with development efforts to ensure everyone’s safety and that real estate still can be an essential. I mean, I, I, I don’t understand some of these States where it’s not essential. I think a place to live is a pretty essential thing, but you know, it is sad that there are some States where it is not an essential service. And so they have suffered a little bit more drastically than others. But again, I would encourage anyone who wants to see the raw data and the analytics. These guys have 70% market share. So their stats are incredibly accurate that it’s, it’s showing very good statistics, state by state as to what is happening. Tell me, Michael, what was, how did you guys come up with this idea for this brilliant piece of content? What, what were the, what were the minds behind that?

Michael Lane (18:37):

A great question. So, as we started, I would say this is in the second week of March, when you started seeing on the news you know, that coronavirus had spread to the U S and it was starting to affect markets. And we have many clients in particular, New York, we were getting requests from our MLS clients rather than doing monthly reports. Could we give them weekly updates on showing activity in their markets? Cause that that’s always been part of what we offer to them is just a monthly summary report of what’s going on month over month in year, over year and showing activity, but that suddenly was good enough anymore. And they started saying, you know, could we do a weekly update? And they started asking for daily updates on what was going on with showings because, you know, brokers can, you know, certainly an agent will know what their activity is like, and it’s a little bit harder for a broker to know they use our reports for that, but certainly at an MLS level, it’s hard to get your arms around day to day changes.

Michael Lane (19:37):

So we could see at that point that we were going to have a wave of requests from clients to produce reports for them more frequently. And we decided that the most scalable way to do it was to put it on our website send the links to each market and have them provide that link to their members to go back and view what’s going on. So we, we created state level reports, but in each of these States, we have multiple MLSs where the data is being sourced. So we actually got 300 MLS that we serve and the, the minimum amount of data to be included in this is we needed tens of thousands of showings bring each month. And we wanted two years of history. So we knew that the data was statistically significant, and we also wanted to normalize it. We didn’t want the data to be dominated by large markets.

Michael Lane 20:34):

It had to be an equal spread of large, medium and small markets. So we took the approach of using the ratio of showings in any given month to the first week, the year. So if you look on it, you know, you, we show the the trend line is a percentage change in the most recent seven days versus the first full week of the calendar year. And we do that. We track that you’re, you know, every single day in 2019 and that’s the blue line, the 2019 curve versus this year. That way it takes out the fact that some markets are larger than others. It takes out the fact that some markets have been using our products longer than others. You know, newer markets may not use this quite as heavily. So that was why we displayed the data the way we did, but it also gives you an idea of how much change has occurred, you know, and where you ought to be compared to the same month last year, taking into account seasonality.

Michael Lane (21:37):

This proved to be, and that this is the most scalable way we could do it. There’s actually a layer more granular than this that we don’t share on our public website. That is the MLS level report. And we provide that to our MLS partners in each market. So in Florida, we have about 20 markets in Florida that each have a, a, an, a graph similar than this. That’s more granular to just their market. So in, like in your market, and you’re probably an RA Colorado, if you’re so there’s a specific graph that they have and they distribute to their members.

Jen Goodhue (22:17):

I think it’s been so impactful and such an intelligent way to adapt with what the market needed and what consumers and agents and brokers, and obviously other tech firms me being, you know, in another SaaS space have needed in order to really finally execute their strategies based on true logical data and the way that you guys went about it, I think is just so phenomenal.

Michael Lane (22:43):

Well, thank you. I wish I could take credit for unfortunately there, there are many people on the team that are in particular chief analytics, officer Daniel, [inaudible], who’ve put this together, but but yeah, we’re proud to, to put the information out and help people understand what’s going on in their various markets.

Jen Goodhue (23:05):

So what’s next for ShowingTime focus on some of this COVID stuff that you’re ready already planned out in product. Where, where do you see yourself in a few years?

Michael Lane (23:14):

Well, he’s got, you know, we’re, we’re launching more premium products related to sewing management. Like the video product that I just talked about that will probably be free for a certain amount of time to help people until kind of the market stabilizes. It’ll ultimately be a premium service that an agent will subscribe to if they want to have that capability longterm. But we’re also, we’ve just recently developed some new analytics software around showings that we’re distributing. We’re in our first six markets right now where agents can look at the showing activity on their listings compared to a benchmark of similar listings. It’s kind of like a CMA, except for it’s really just showing activity. So, you know, like when we’re selling our home in Chicago, the big question you always have is, you know, are, are there buyers looking at similar homes around us, but not ours, right?

Michael Lane (24:09):

That’s, you know, that is the tough question that a listing agent always has to answer with their client is, you know, are we priced appropriately to make sure that every single buyer that’s looking for a home is looking at our home and, you know, and if you’re over priced, you tend to see that your showings are lower than those around you indicating that you’re missing some buyers that are looking at similarly priced homes, but not yours. So that’s a new product that we’re rolling out next to the video product. And then we, we also have our, you know, our market stats line of products. So we about five years ago acquired 10 K research in RBI, which up until that point where the two largest providers, providers of market reports in real estate, okay. We’re proud to have nearly a million subscribers to that line of products as well.

Michael Lane (25:01):

Many of them are showing product clients, but we are enhancing and building new products in the data and analytics space alongside, and, you know, and of course our, our secret sauce in all of those is the showing activity. So the appointments, the same data that we’re selling in our website here it kind of the state and national level is embedded into these more granular marker reports that we’re offering. And those have been popular and we’re bringing out brand new ones as we move on, so a lot going on and you know, other stuff longer term that I can’t quite share yet, but constantly listening to our clients and trying to figure out what they need, particularly as it pertains in the kind of the middle of the fall on a week, we call ourselves, you know, we’re an infrastructure provider in the, you know, the phase of the real estate cycle between the initial contact with the realtor and the closing. So we’re, you know, as soon as the buyer starts working with an agent, we’re used very heavily to coordinate their sewings to understand what’s going on in the market and then right up until the closing. Cause we, you know, we’re tracking not only the showings, but the inspections, the appraisals, the final walkthroughs, all that activity is data that we’re kind of, we’re accumulating and building new products and services around

Jen Goodhue (26:19):

Yeah. Such powerful data. So those of you that are not familiar with ShowingTime, I highly encourage you to check them out. It’s obviously a company that I used when I used to manage offices at the largest franchise in the world. And it, they have done a great job with their product line of innovating and, you know, staying ahead of the curve and thinking from a data perspective. And so that’s why I’m just so happy. Michael agreed to participate in our podcast and Michael any, any last thoughts? It’s been great to talk to you. I really appreciate you coming on

Michael Lane (26:50):

To visit with you as well. It was a pleasure to be here and thanks for the great feedback on our products. I appreciate it. I’ll pass it on to all the people who are working hard to put this content out. And there’s anything I can do as a follow-up.

Jen Goodhue (27:04):

Okay, Michael, thank you so much.

CEO | Director of Strategy
With more than 17 years experience in the real estate industry, including being a Realtor and Broker / Owner, Stegemann brings a wealth of knowledge to this job as CEO of TRIBUS. He focuses his time on helping brokers enhance and expand their business and working with the TRIBUS labs team to consider what's next in real estate.
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