Showing Time (Dis)service
As independent contractors, real estate agents make the choices for how they manage their appointments. An unfortunate growing trend is to use an automated scheduling service so the agent does not have to be involved in this part of the process. This service also removes "follow up" from the agent's task list. At the onset of setting up showings for a buyer, for a listing that utilizes the ShowingTime service, the Buyer's Agent is instructed to call an 800 number to schedule all appointments. They speak to a non-licensed operator who coordinates with the owners or tenants of the property and texts/emails that agent back with showing instructions (where to find lockbox/any special codes). The Listing Agent is completely removed from the process of setting up the appointment. After the showing, the Buyer's Agent receives an email with a few multiple choice options for providing feedback to the Seller.
It sounds simple, but the reality for the Buyer's Agent can be quite the opposite. If the owner/tenant declines the showing, there is no follow up to reschedule by the Showing Time rep. I've had this happen multiple times when attempting to show a property. I have called the Listing Agent to be told that I have to schedule through the service. I have explained that the occupant has twice declined our attempts to make appointments with no explanation. Agent stated she would call me back to set up when they are available, but she never did. On another occasion, Buyer and I were 15 minutes from our scheduled appointment, to have it suddenly canceled via email due to an illness. In this situation, an agent followed up with a phone call behind her ShowingTime notification to ensure that I was aware of the change. But I never received a call back when the occupant was well again for rescheduling. I am quite certain the Listing Agent didn't intend to abandon the potential to sell her listing, but it was relegated to the black hole of "out of sight, out of mind" because she no longer operates in this part of the selling process. In other situations, the showing was scheduled despite an offer by another buyer had been negotiated and accepted. This situation is not only frustrating to the Buyer and me, but represents a lost opportunity for the Seller, who was unaware that another interested party was in the wings who might have given them better terms--had their Listing Agent been part of the scheduling process... In another situation, the Showing Time agent said a property couldn't be shown, and when I bypassed the system, the Listing Agent said it could. I've had other agents tell me the Listing Agent refused scheduling service to them when they bypassed the Showing Time system! Finally, in the worst scenario that I have personally encountered, the showing was scheduled and upon arrival, the Buyer and I found the vacant house had frozen pipes that had burst in the winter and had poured water into the house for what appeared to be days. Because the Listing Agent again was removed from the showing schedule process, not only were they not preparing the house for the winter, they weren't preparing it for showing (not to mention preparing it for winter). Even worse, after receiving the automated ShowingTime feedback email, I replied that my Buyer was highly interested in making an offer. I never once received a call back to show it once the repairs were made, (not to mention a thank you for cutting the water off at the street and reporting the incident). Since one of my Buyers was involved in two of the above situations, I was firmly instructed to show no other listings that Agency (not just the Agent) had. In hearing from other agents frustrated by the issues with the ShowingTime service, I've learned that many agents are bypassing listings using this service unless the property is specifically requested by the Buyer. If even one showing is missed due to the use of this service, it is one too many.
What do agents who use ShowingTime say to justify it's use? That it saves time... In literally every situation, it's better for the Agent, not the Seller, to whom we have primary responsibility to serve.
I have seen ShowingTime used effectively. I can literally schedule showings at all hours when I am working. Agents often take inquiries 24/7 and in a situation where an agent is serving another client or living life, they might fail to respond to an inquiry in a timely manner. Out of office messages on phones and showing instructions in the Agent Remarks section of the listing can be used to properly manage showing appointments. And for bank-owned properties, when selling communication is not such a critical component, ShowingTime can provide a valuable service that allows the agent who generally works in a lower price point to serve multiple listings and in turn make a living. However, agents can just put a lockbox on the door, which has a feedback component, so I don't see the reason they would pay for this service unless they intend to use it for every listing. For new construction, which also relies less on communicating between agents and sellers, it can also ensure appointments are set so the builder knows what is happening with his inventory. In my opinion, this is satisfactorily handled using systems provided by our lockbox system, so I remain convinced that ShowingTime only better serves the agent rather than the seller.
Let's face it, Sellers are hiring Listing Agents to SELL their property. Unless they are paying for a discount firm, why should they accept an agent cutting corners on two of the most important parts of the process--Presentation and Following Up? Setting up appointments is part of our Presentation as agents. Buyer's and their agents typically do not want the Listing Agent present for showings because they don't feel the same freedom to explore or comment. Therefore, scheduling appointments is the one opportunity we Listing Agents have to determine how much the agent knows about the area and amenities and to relate information that they can use during the showing to sell the property. Do some agents rush us off the phone or ignore our text information--unfortunately, yes, some Buyer's Agents are careless or lazy in their jobs. However, that doesn't mean a Listing Agent shouldn't try at each opportunity to communicate with the agent who is in front of the potential buyer. The use of ShowingTime eliminates every opportunity to do that. When Follow Up is limited to a few generic questions sent on an email, how is the Seller to receive information that could make a difference in selling faster and for more? Worse, knowing personally that the Feedback Request indicated a strong intent to make an offer to purchase and was ignored, I can assuredly say that in many cases Sellers whose agents use ShowingTime are definitely missing opportunities to sell their home because their agents are not actively involved in communicating during two critical parts of the selling process.
The growing trend of using this automated service does damage to our industry, frustrating Buyers, allowing missed opportunities for both Buyers and Sellers, and does a disservice to the Seller by under-representing and under-informing them. I certainly understand the interest of some agents in operating as efficiently as possible, but if it is at the detriment to their Seller, so they can move on to other business, it is being used inappropriately. The quest to chase the next listing should never come at the expense of the clients who trust us.