Where I live, there really aren’t any choices when it comes to getting internet access. As a result, prices are high, and service is lousy. It was the same way back when we had a landline. There was that one company that we dealt with, and it wasn’t because of their service.
We quit cable TV and DirecTV long ago because we didn’t want to pay for all the channels that we never watch. In a household that doesn’t watch sports, a combination of a digital TV antenna and a streaming service works just fine.
In a market where there are only one or two companies that provide home internet, we can count on price increases and on paying too much for some marginal products. There is no need for customer service or innovation. It isn’t like we can just quit the internet until something better comes along.
I see the same thing happening in the real estate industry. There are fewer choices when it comes to the software we need to run our businesses. Fewer companies are growing larger before being purchased by even bigger companies. Zillow’s acquisition of ShowingTime is a perfect example.
This is what a modern-day monopoly might look like — hypothetically speaking, of course. As fewer companies dominate the scene and own the software that it takes to run a real estate business or company, prices will go up while customer service and innovation decline. (If it can decline any further than it has.)
As a small business, I do not want to use a product that is owned by a competitor, and Zillow Group is definitely a competitor.
ShowingTime is a product used by many real estate companies and MLSs around the country, including the MLS I belong to. My company uses the service for all our listings. I don’t want to use a competitor’s service, and I can’t afford to build my own.
ShowingTime is certainly convenient, but there is a lot of room for improvement in how the app and system work. There haven’t been many changes, upgrades or noticeable improvements in years. When it first arrived on the scene, it was innovative. As the userbase gets larger, it is harder to make changes and please everyone.
There are some features I would love to see added that would help small businesses like mine. Most real estate companies are small businesses, and I have talked to other broker-owners who are asking for the same features.
Both the app and the website could be made easier to navigate, and the website seems overly complicated. That could be simplified, too. Not mention, the interface looks a little more dated each passing year.
There is a huge opportunity for someone to come up with a competing solution. One that can be integrated into a MLS. One that can be set up to work with large real estate companies and small ones, too. Something new with a fresh look. Something that takes advantage of AI and VR and smart home technology.
In the last year, I had the opportunity to look at a few solutions for our MLS, and to be honest — I wasn’t impressed. In fact, at times, I wanted to cry. It’s as if the software is designed by people who have never had to use software to set up showings for a home that’s on the market.
There is money to be made. There are companies and MLSs that do not want to use ShowingTime once it is owned by Zillow. Using software owned by a competitor is not a good situation, and it wouldn’t even occur if there was more competition in the marketplace.
Competition is a good thing. It’s competition that forces companies to innovate. Companies that are faced with competition are more willing to up their customer service because they value their customers and have to fight with competitors to keep them instead of putting them on hold and recording their call for “quality purposes.”
If there is a company out there that wants to have the next hot new app for real estate agents, consider creating an appointment scheduling solution. It is a great opportunity, and from what I can see, there isn’t much competition.
Just stop development on your current project — the one that no one asked for and that no one will use. Instead, change over to developing the software we need.
Right now, I can think of a couple of other services that I use that don’t seem to have any competition in the marketplace. A large real estate company could come along and buy them up. Where is the competition — and why isn’t there more of it?
Why do companies spend so much time and money on products we don’t need and never asked for?
More importantly, why can’t someone come up with reasonably-priced options for cable or streaming services for people who never watch sports channels and don’t want to pay for them?
How about some variety and some movies and a little comedy and more cooking shows? Why aren’t there more shows like Bridgerton and The Queen’s Gambit and The Great British Baking Show?
Teresa Boardman is a Realtor and broker/owner of Boardman Realty in St. Paul. She is also the founder of StPaulRealEstateBlog.com.