Robots are Starting to Do Showings

vre 80 stillA company called Zenplace in San Francisco is using robots to help its agents conduct showings. When people arrive at the unit, they’re greeted by what amounts to an iPad on a mobile stand that leads them around, but it’s personalized; it’s the agent’s image and voice that people see and hear. Other companies are coming out with their own versions of this.

It’s a good question whether this type of automation will take off. As people get used to buying goods at automated stores in which everything is done with your phone or credit card and no employees are around, it’s feasible mobile iPads will do the trick at showings.


Screen grab from Zenplace video

Whether you like the idea or not, it’s a trend that’s poised to hit your industry. There are other tech trends you’ll be faced with whether you like them or not. One is a kind of virtual tour that’s more immersive than what you get by just wearing goggles. You get an additional tactile component, because you’re wearing gloves with sensors. Now you feel the door handle when you open the refrigerator as well as see it in multiple dimensions.

Will this be the norm six years from now? Who knows, but now that the genie’s out of the bottle, it’s not likely to get put back in.

REALTOR® Magazine spent a few days at CES in Las Vegas two weeks ago and brought back coverage of all types of tech innovations coming to real estate. CES stands for Consumer Electronics Show and it’s the big showcase each year at which companies try to wow people with what the’re cooking up for us.

You can learn more about CES and also about real estate robots in the latest Voice for Real Estate video. The video also looks at something the U.S. Department of Labor did a few weeks ago that could eventually be important to you because it promises to get the real estate industry one step closer to setting up association health plans (AHPs) for independent contractors.

The agency proposed adding “working owner” to the definition of employer for purposes of setting up AHPs, which would enable sole proprietors and small business owners to ban together for insurance under the large group market, which could make coverage available more cheaply than under the small group market. There remain a lot of hurdles, but this was a crucial step in the right direction.

The video also looks at the three-day federal government shutdown and what could happen to your pipeline of homes sales if there’s another one in a few weeks, which could happen since the short-term budget law expires in early February. If your buyers are applying for FHA-backed financing, they would probably be okay, although processing might take a bit longer. But if they[re buying a new house in a flood area, they might not be able to get flood insurance, and that would mean a delay in  closing.

Watch the video now.

Robert Freedman

Robert Freedman is director of multimedia communications for the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®. He can be reached at

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  1. Hopefully, a live person is still inside the house so that criminals don’t get any ideas about these easy targets.

  2. I am not keen on robots! I prefer human interaction. But we need to move with the times

  3. Like it or not, automation is quickly changing the way that the business of real estate is being done. Adapt or be left behind.

  4. Yes, this will be the norm in the next few years. Any type of smart automation is a nifty way to show off and amaze consumers.

  5. Darrin Brunner

    Realtors are already viewed by the general public as being lazy do-nothings who just drive people around and open the front door. It seems like this will only further that perception.

    How does this thing unlock the door? Do we need to put some sort of electronic lock on the door? How does this thing close the window or sliding glass door left open by the buyer who just left? How does it keep a home secure between showings? In its current state, it can’t. I can see it being used in condos, where there’s additional security in place, but planting one of these things in a typical suburban detached just isn’t going to work well.

    If this catches on, these things will be manned by out of state, Kaplan trained, churn and burn licensees in call centers, and they won’t even need to be Realtors.

    Is that the direction we want to go? Maybe so. Maybe for the low-end, this will become the norm, and we’ll only see a real, live Realtor showing high-end homes. Would a seller in your top 5% market accept one of these things “showing” a house?

    Eventually, we’ll have walking, talking, robotic avatars that can overcome the issues I’ve mentioned here. But that time is still pretty far off, a minimum of 20 years before this sort of thing becomes common.

  6. Angela Schill

    I hate robo calls. I hate customer service with long menus to get human help. I only use the human checker at the grocery store. There is no replacement for personal service, a smile and a warm non-robot voice to answer my questions.

  7. Interesting!?! However, I don’t think we should look at technology as an inevitability. We have a choice… to embrace, reject it, or take the middle ground which is knowledge of technology and offering (it) when appropriate. For the most part I think we underestimate our power (our voice) as consumers. Lest we forget, we all speak “Green!”

  8. What these robots can do will add fun to showing but having a live person to answer the guest’s questions will still save a lot of time.

  9. Sure. Robots doing showings are cool and all, but nothing beats the warmth of human interaction. Maybe try putting these two together and see what happens? Just a random thought.