Seth Siegler wants prospective home buyers to get into open houses whenever they want, using an Uber-like app to hail a real estate agent. He says it will unite buyers and sellers and deliver superior customer service. Bill Fowler takes a look in to the future … and likes what he sees.
Who doesn’t love Uber?
Uber prides itself on giving you a ride that’s not only exceedingly pleasant, but speedy. With Uber, you use an app to track the minute by minute progress of your car’s arrival. The ease and utility of the whole Uber service, between the app, clean cars and the payment system (no tips and automatic billing) is making taxi companies everywhere very nervous.
All of this isn’t lost on Seth Siegler, founder and developer of Curb Call. He’s applied Uber’s “ready when you are” concept to real estate. If Siegler has his way, prospective buyers will be able to get into open houses whenever they want — and agents will benefit too, because they’ll never sit idle again at pre-set open houses, where people may (or may not) show up.
Siegler says homebuyers today are already equipped with great knowledge about the homes they like. They’re already well past the research phase. They simply want to be allowed inside for a closer look.
So when a homebuyer searches online and finds at a few houses they feel good about, getting access to the inside is the next step. As an agent, delivering that access successfully, making clients happy and hopefully completing the transaction is often a question of timing.
Enter Curb Call.
The On Demand Open House
Imagine you’re an agent with some time to kill on a Saturday afternoon. You grab a good book and park yourself at a local coffee shop. You login to your agent account in Curb Call, set your status to “available” and simply wait.
Minutes later you’re notified that someone (with a buyer account to Curb Call) wants to see a home nearby. Using Curb Call, you respond that you’re on the way. You arrive at the address and walk these people through the house. From a customer service perspective, two very good things happened: the home shopper gets instant access to a home they’re interested in and the home seller gets a potential buyer.
From the agent perspective, other good things happened, too. The agent that had some time to kill on a Saturday might have picked up a side of the transaction. Also, the selling agent didn’t have to drop what they were doing and race to the home or even worse, attempt to reschedule the showing and possibly lose the sale.
“The day of a real estate agent is unpredictable to say the least,” explains Siegler. “Sometimes you’re swamped and sometimes you’re looking for new leads. It’s impossible to stay busy 100 percent of the time. Curb Call allows agents to monetize the occasional small windows of free time in a given day by giving them the ability to be available to meet new buyers whenever they have the time.”
Siegler says Curb Call could just create the agent’s perfect scenario: Holding open house on your own schedule, where the only visitor is so interested that he is waiting outside for the open house to start.
Licensed to Brokers
Siegler believes Curb Call is good for any broker that thinks their agents might enjoy some extra leads. But he also says Curb Call delivers something more: Superior, on-demand customer service that can help brokers and agents differentiate themselves in competitive markets.
“There’s a thirst for this among buyers and agents alike,” Siegler says, noting that he was inundated with inquiries after unveiling the prototype of the app at the Realogy / Retlsy hackathon last fall.
For now, Siegler plans to make Curb Call available exclusively to brokers, and as a member benefit through selected MLSs.
“We’re only live in the markets in which we have brokerage clients so far,” Siegler says. “For now, that’s Orange County, Calif., San Diego, Phoenix, Las Vegas, Seattle and Washington, DC.”
Siegler says that Curb Call is growing quickly and that many more contracts are in the works. Yet like all consumer-facing technology, to be most effective there needs to be a healthy population of consumers using the app for the broker to see value.
That’s why Siegler is working to drive consumer demand for the app too. Curb Call is a free download in the Apple App Store, and a Droid version is coming soon.
“Curb Call is perfect for homebuyers who don’t have a buyer agent yet, because we help them find an agent if the listing interests them,” Siegler explains. And that means that Curb Call can bring the buyer and seller together, faster.
Healing the Disconnects
Are there potential potholes with Curb Call?
Agents could be hailed by Curb Call, only to arrive at a home they know nothing about. But Siegler says this issue has less to do with Curb Call and more to do with the age-old problem of agents simply being uninformed on the market in which they operate. In the age of the Internet, how many agents enter a showing and the client knows more about the home than they do? This probably happens more often than anyone would like to admit.
These issues aside, Siegler has built an app that may help more agents work with more clients — and that was always his intent.
There are many disconnects between the real estate professional and their clients, and Curb Call helps mitigate one that’s very common. Buyers are impatient and when they need help, they need it immediately. Providing a service as vital as a guided tour of a home — and doing it quickly and efficiently — can only be a good thing.