Inman

Zillow is testing self-guided home tours to compete with iBuyers

Credit: Keni Thomas/Inman

Zillow is currently piloting a new program in Phoenix that gives prospective homebuyers access to the online behemoth‘s homes without appointments or even agents, seemingly pitting the company more directly against other online homebuying and re-selling rivals (a.k.a. “iBuyers”). 

The feature, called Tour it Now, is currently available via Zillow’s app for a “handful of homes in the Phoenix metro,” a company spokesperson told Inman in an email. Would-be homebuyers interested in viewing those homes merely have to pull up the Zillow app, which will give them directions to the property and unlock the door when they arrive.

A screenshot showing Tour it Now. Credit: Zillow

Tour it Now is only available for homes that Zillow owns outright and is selling — for example, those the company purchased through its iBuying program Zillow Offers — not for any home that happens to appear on its web portal.

The latest update of the main Zillow app includes Tour it Now, meaning would-be homebuyers don’t need to download anything extra to take advantage of the program. They also don’t need to schedule showings in advance or bring along an agent.

Asked how Zillow ensures that homes are not damaged by unaccompanied visitors, the spokesperson said that homes are fitted with motion sensors that can capture still images. If the sensors detect movement when there shouldn’t be any, Tour it Now is disabled and the property is “flagged for investigation by the local Zillow team.”

Tour it Now is also only available from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., and Zillow gets an alert if someone spends more than two hours in a home. Such features are meant to ensure people don’t enter a home at the end of the day and “stay through the night,” according to the spokesperson.

The program has been live for about two weeks and will roll out to all Phoenix area homes that Zillow is selling “very soon,” according to the spokesperson.

The location of the pilot program is especially significant. Phoenix is ground zero for iBuying, with Opendoor, Offerpad, Zillow and others all scrambling for market share in the Arizona city.

Meanwhile, Zillow has repeatedly stressed the importance of Offers in recent months. For example, chief executive Rich Barton elaborated on the program last month during an earnings call, hinting that while many home sellers may not take Zillow’s instant cash offers iBuying is still a useful tool for connecting with potential customers.

For those homes that Zillow does end up buying, Tour it Now potentially makes them more accessible — and thus more marketable — to consumers. It appears to be a kind of real world version of Zillow’s free-to-everyone portal that revolutionized listings over the past decade and a half.

Tour it Now also looks a lot like a direct response to the experience offered by rival Opendoor, which allows would-be homebuyers to unlock homes with their cell phones. Like Zillow, Opendoor uses in-home surveillance to protect the homes it sells.

Asked if Tour it Now was a response to similar offerings from other iBuyers, Zillow’s spokesperson said that the company is “focused on making the home shopping experience as convenient as possible.”

“We realize that buyers are looking for the ability to visit and tour homes on their own timeline,” the spokesperson added, “and ‘Tour it Now’ will allow them to do just that.”

Email Jim Dalrymple II

Zillow is currently piloting a new program in Phoenix that gives prospective homebuyers access to the online behemoth's homes without appointments or even agents, seemingly pitting the company more directly against other online homebuying and re-selling rivals (a.k.a. "iBuyers").  The feature,
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