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Curb Call – Uber for Real Estate

Curb Call (Uber for Real Estate) — built by Seth Siegler at the Realogy hackathon. It got 2nd place.

I love this idea…I’m not sure leads get any more qualified than someone requesting an agent to show them a house, right now.

Who is going to take this idea / prototype — and scale it to a large metro area?

About Drew Meyers

Founder of Geek Estate Blog / Geek Estate Labs. Zillow Alum. Travel addict & co-founder of Horizon. Social entrepreneurship & microfinance advocate. Fan of Red Hot Chili Peppers and Kiva.

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  • Seth Siegler

    I am! It will be ready for rollout in two weeks for any brokerage, franchise or mls or REALTOR board.

    Thanks For the write up Drew!

    • Would love to hear how those conversations go.

    • Jessie B

      Hey Seth, just ran across this. How is it moving forward?

  • Seth, this is really cool from a tech perspective. I understand the “fill a consumer’s demand for immediate attention” angle.

    Here’s what agents who aren’t so starry-eyed about tech are going to say:
    “Consumers will now value the agent even less. They will respect their time less and have less loyalty. More buyer’s agents’ time will be abused as consumers who are already working with an otherwise-busy agent will just keep grabbing the closest local agent to show them homes and go back to their real agent when they’re ready to buy.”

    “Agents buying into an app like this will actually be reinforcing the notion that they are just overpaid door-openers.”

    I love the idea and how it works. It probably needs to be done at the brokerage level, where they can say “My office’s agents are available to sell our own office listings.” Outside of the broker box, it becomes a big potential negative for the industry.

    • Agree it could be really cool tool within a brokerage, or even potentially between one client and their agent (would have to be tweaked from messaging perspective).

      Getting enough liquidity of drivers in a given market to make this a really viable scenario will be tough. And enough demand to warrant drivers staying in “available” mode.

      This is a marketplace with two sides to fill, & will require a lot more than fancy tech to be a viable scenario in the real world.

      That said, the tech rocks (or seems to based on this video) 🙂

    • Seth Siegler

      Thanks Sam, I appreciate the complement on the tech and the feedback!

      I think it’s a good point that this is best served as a tool of a single brokerage. That’s been my idea vision for it too. That a single brokerage or local franchise would license it as a lead gen benefit for their agents, in order to more easily sell the brokerage listings.

      But one thing to always keep in mind with new solutions like this is that it’s not here to completely change the way all real estate is sold. It’s just a tool in the quiver that you might only use every now and then.

      But it’s a way to potentially monitize the inevitable, occasional times in an agent’s day where you’re in between showings or something specific that has to be done immediately. That’s how Uber drivers use it. They mostly do not use Uber full-time. They only use it periodically between existing clients.

      And then finally, with all due respect, (I mean that) I think you might be looking at the agent respect issue in a glass is half empty kind of way. I personally have never equated having to wait for a service provider with increased respect. On the contrary, I’ve only been impressed with instant response times from my doctors, dentists, contractors, auto mechanics, vets, plumbers, etc. If they can shuffle things up to meet me immediately, I’m very very happy. And keep in mind, this would be your first time meeting this client so it’s a nice first impression and a great first step to earning them as a dedicated client!

      • Thanks for the thoughtful feedback, Seth.

        I’d agree that consumers “value” getting quick responses from service providers. I don’t think that equates to respect for the person’s professional skills, merely happiness that they can have a service performed quickly. Diners will happily make reservations days ahead for an outstanding chef at a great restaurant and write glowing reviews for him or her. When they’re in a rush, they’re happy that Taco Bell is available and fast, but the food preparers are not given any credit.

        I think we are coming from two very different places, but your motivation is in the right one for your business–pleasing the consumer. For those of actually selling homes, we have to decide whether a consumer will respect our time if we tell them they don’t need to. Either way, you’re clearly going to be successful, whether it’s this project or the next. Good luck.

        • Seth Siegler

          Thanks Sam. Fair point about getting value vs respecting the skills. I guess what I’m saying is that it’s a real win for the consumer when they get both. There are times when even the highest quality agents could have a few hours where they could meet a new potential client at a listing. Those are windows in time that can be better montitized with something like Curb Call.

          Not every one of these leads is going to work out well. But what I’m trying to do is increase the value of leads, given the current options. (A question from an IDX or website lead, etc)

          Before I jumped into programming full-time, I sold real estate full time as an agent and eventual broker for more than 5 years and I always looked for opportunities to get face to face with more buyers and sellers. It was one thing to generate leads online but I always felt better about my chances of converting folks to clients when I had the opportunity to get face to face.

          And that’s what this is all about. You’ve made some great points about messaging here. It’s going to be important to position this app properly, so it’s clear as to who it’s for, how it should be ideally used.

          • Good to hear your background. My team works primarily with internet leads. We would agree that getting face to face is the most important thing. At the same time, asking buyers to set an appointment time with us the next day significantly improves the percentage of those buyers we meet becoming long-term clients. The folks that we’ve never met, who demand a showing two hours later, are almost without fail the same folks who will just call another agent the next time they see a listing. There is a certain portion of buyers with this very predictable behavior.

            I guess that’s why I feel so strongly about it for my team, but you’re right, there will be those who use the service correctly, and it will work well for them. I’m hoping you prove me wrong, and better educate those buyers so that they, and their agents using the app, raise that bar a bit.

  • Sam has some great points.

    I totally disagree with Drew’s idea that these are qualified leads. A qualified lead to me is someone who is qualified to purchase (either pre-qualified with a lender or paying cash) and who has a specific idea of the types of properties they are looking for. In my experience, clients who call ahead and plan for showings are significantly more “qualified” than a sign call.

    I think this would be a great tool for my own listings. Would I want the phone calls for other peoples listings and the expectation that I am available to show on a moments notice? Probably not.

    • hehe…always a good discussion with you

      They would be great leads for someone new in the industry, who doesn’t have an existing sphere and book of business like you do. The people who would want these leads, are likely not reading this blog 🙂

      “A qualified lead to me is someone who is qualified to purchase (either pre-qualified with a lender or paying cash) and who has a specific idea of the types of properties they are looking for.”

      What if those triggers were solved on the backend of this app somehow, and you knew? What if it was more of a “schedule time” in the future scenario than a “real time” angle?

      • Here are the scenarios:
        Unqualified consumer gets unqualified agent (lose – lose)
        Unqualified consumer gets qualified agent ( agent loses)
        Qualified consumer gets qualified agent (win-win, but unlikely )
        Qualified consumer gets unqualified agent (consumer loses)

        Now you know why the product doesn’t exist already.

        • Well scenario 1 happens all the time, and people are willing to pay for it. But I get your point, and agree.

          That said, this does seem to be a scenario that would be great for an existing trusted relationship. But then it’s a very different product than Uber for Real Estate. It’s more “schedule time with your agent from your phone”.

          • “…schedule time with your agent from your phone”. I think that already exists. It’s called “texting” or even, (shudder) “calling.” 😉

          • Haha. Touché

        • I know that there are plenty of lead sources that put unqualified agents and consumers together. This takes a different turn for me.

          The reinforcement of bad buyer behavior, by those agents opting in, is not good for them or the industry.

        • Todd Miller

          This happens all the time anyway. A client calls from a sign and by the time the agent gets there the buyer has split.

          And this app does exist, and is called Homing In.

    • Seth Siegler

      Hi Geordie,

      There are a few intricacies of the app that I didn’t get to mention in the 2 min pitch, or to Drew that solve some of the concerns that you have with the concept.

      And by the way, I appreciate the feedback.

      In order for a user to be able to make a Curb Call to an agent, he must have gone through a short ID verification process and also have uploaded a prequal letter which the agents will be able to view.

      Another thing to note is that in order to use Curb Call as an agent, you will only receive instant leads if you manually set yourself to “available”. The only time you would do that is if you actually had a hour or two available after a showing, before meeting another client, etc.

      The concept here is to generate some business out of the downtime that naturally does exist for most practitioners at some point during some days. There are hundreds of thousands of buyers who are not bound to the agent that they are going to buy from within the next year.

      Those people very well could just call the list agent from the sign. The chances of the list agent being available at that very moment to even answer the call (let alone schedule a showing right away?) not too good! This gives these buyers a way to get to an agent who does happen to be free asap.

      If you are the kind of agent who already generates enough of his own leads through some other avenue, than another lead generator is not really what you need. But for other agents who are unhappy with the number of leads they currently have or wish to try attending to leads at a different stage of the sales cycle, Curb Call is worth a try, in my opinion.

      Agent, I do appreciate the feedback! I hope these explanations clarify some of the foggier points.

  • Agree with Sam and Geordie on this, especially Sam’s comment about “the reinforcement of bad buyer behavior.” Buyers already think that agents sit around in the office all day waiting for their call so we can spring from our seats to show them any listing in the metro area at a moments notice. They don’t think about the fact that most agents are often “out in the field” at any given time, showing homes to real buyers, you know, the ones who planned ahead and setup an appointment.

    But even if agents were always available, newsflash, agents & buyers are not the only ones in the transaction. There are sellers, too! Most sellers still live in the homes they’re selling. They have lives, kids, dogs, etc. They are not ready to show at a moment’s notice. They need time to clean up, vacate, etc. Many sellers require 24-hr advance-notice appointments to show their home.

    So, you’re left with a handful agents with nothing to do available to show a handful of vacant homes to buyers who may not be qualified. And I know the video says the buyers would have to upload a prequal letter to use the app, but I think that’s wishful thinking.

    All in all, a clever idea, but probably not practical is it’s currently envisioned. JMHO.

    • The fact that there are, indeed, both idle agents with time to spare and buyers who want to go see a listing right now — means someone will figure out how to match those two parties in a more efficient way. Redfin stands a good chance at this oppty, because their model is more about the brokerage than the individual agent.

      • And the sellers? I imagine buyers will be told quite frequently that, despite the availability of a buyer’s agent, the property cannot be shown immediately. I suppose it doesn’t matter from the buyer agent’s perspective, as they will have their introduction and opportunity to convert the buyer into a client. But once word gets out that buyers frequently aren’t getting their instant gratification, the popularity of the app would most likely plummet.

        • ….and Mike hits it on the head. If it generates buyer leads initially, even if the buyer doesn’t actually get what they had intended, it can be sold (where have we heard that before?).

      • That’s a great point, Drew. The business model that uses “showing agents” could do well with this scenario. It reinforces a downgraded agent stereotype that a lot of us in the business dislike, but that’s just a personal attitude.

    • Seth Siegler

      Thanks for the feedback, Mike.

      It’s a good point that listings aren’t always “go and show” ready. It will be important to note that what the buyers are getting is a showing agent, on demand. Most buyers are aware that if a house is occupied, it will not be available for an immediate showing, but as a recent buyer myself, what I most wanted was to know that the ball is rolling and that I’ll be in there as soon as humanly possible.

      The message that the buyer receives when they press the button to make a “curb call” and then an agent claims the lead, is that “_______ _______ from ________ Realty is investigating showing instructions for this listing. Your agent will call you momentarily.” If it’s a go and show, the showing happens immediately. If it’s in two hours, that’s what the agent tells the buyer.

      Unless this is the first house this buyer has ever looked at (which will sometimes be the case – but probably not that often), they will understand that listings aren’t always go and show.

      And finally, I mentioned this today in some other comments above, one more note is that agents who use Curb Call are not always going to be receiving leads. They only receive leads during times when they manually set their status to “Available”.

      Your concerns and feedback are most certainly valid. No doubt about it but it’s important to keep this in prospective. Curb Call isn’t designed to be the new norm. It isn’t the only way real estate will be sold in the future. It’s a way to help get agents in front of a later stage lead (vs online questions from an idx or something like that). It’s a tool in the quiver. Not the whole quiver.

      • First, I’m not sure that I agree that most buyers know that most listings aren’t “go & show.” When my agents are showing properties to their clients, they often see other yard signs (or lockboxes in the case of condos) and ask, “Oh that one’s for sale, too, can we go in it?” And my agents have to explain over and over again that you can’t just go into any property with a lockbox or yard sign. (It seems like common sense to us in the business, but unfortunately sense is not that common!) And for your app to be different, it will probably need to emphasize the “instant gratification” angle, and then possibly not deliver on it. And if it doesn’t emphasize “instant gratification,” it may be perceived as no different than any other real estate app.

        Second, will there be any functionality for loyalty built into the app? What happens after an agent has shown a property to a buyer, then at a later time that buyer requests another showing during a time when that agent is not available? That leads goes to a different agent? I am continuously shocked at how disloyal buyers can be. I know that, before I got into real estate, I had the mentality that I did not need representation and I just wanted to see the properties. Granted, I always contacted the listing agent, but this app may only make it easier for buyers to waste agents’ time. Without loyalty functionality, many buyers will abuse it, guaranteed.

        Third, the prerequisite to show pre-qualification must be absolute, no exceptions. Without it, it’s simply a lookie-loo app. I’m also continually surprised about how many people think that looking at homes is a fun way to kill some time. We’ve even had a buyer looking at multi-million dollar homes who submitted a fabricated pre-qual letter. We may think, “Why would anyone waste time like that,” but obviously some find such fantasizing as such a great form of entertainment that they don’t care about wasting the time of others.

        You could include a button to become pre-qualified which would then pass the lead to a lender, another potential customer for your app. But then the question becomes, how many buyers will be willing to jump through those hoops to use an app that purports to make it easier to see homes?

        • Seth Siegler

          Thanks again for the valuable feedback and points, Mike.

          It’s a good point about setting buyers expectations as far as being instant gratification goes. I should phrase it as “Start the scheduling process immediately” or something like that.

          As far as a loyalty feature goes, I didn’t plan to have that in the app. That kind of works against you as the agent in some ways. What I mean by that, is that if your own buyers can Curb Call you and expect instant reaction time, they’re going to be disappointed. And you’ll hate me even more! Curb Call only works for agents who happen to be free for a little while. Each time you set yourself as “available” on Curb Call and receive a lead, it’s your opportunity to bond yourself to this buyer and make them forget all about using Curb Call again! Similar to how a lead works anytime you get one online, right? Even if a lead comes in on your site, you’ll want to convert this looker into a client asap so they continue to only use your site and nobody else’s. If this buyer won’t bond with any agent, they’re going to keep jumping around from agent to agent until they buy something, whether they’re using Curb Call or not. But don’t forget, that the house they ask your to show them, very well could be the one they buy. This isn’t an open house with free finger foods… It’s a listing they’ve scoped out and are going through the trouble of waiting for the showing appointment. It won’t always equal a sale but some Curb Calls will be that easy.

          As for the pre-qualification letter – yes. It will be an absolute requirement in addition to identification verification, prior to making a Curb Call.

          I’ve gotten some good feedback about the in-app prequalification or at least sending leads to mortgage agents too. I agree and think there is something there but probably in phase 2.

  • Todd Miller

    This app already exists and is called Homing In.

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