A real estate agent’s job is not an easy one. It requires lots of driving, plenty of paperwork, good people skills, and the ability to juggle what can sometimes be a madhouse schedule. William Schoeffler hopes he can help at least remedy the scheduling part.
Schoeffler, a 22-year-old senior at the University of Oregon, has recently launched an online tool for real estate brokers that he believes will make it easier for them to schedule their home showings, and by extension, ease the shopping process for home buyers.
Home buying has surged across the country during the pandemic and this is particularly true for Bend, where prices have skyrocketed as West Coast city dwellers have started migrating to Central Oregon with remote jobs. That has resulted in increased pressure for real estate brokers who are struggling to find homes for their clients amid low inventory.
“We are starting to find success and are becoming heavily used by busy realtors,” said Schoeffler. “This helps agents, especially right now because inventory is at a historic low and properties can go in days.”
Instashowing, the online tool Schoeffler developed, allows real estate agents to schedule times to view a home. Once a time is scheduled, agents and the buyer meet to view the home. The tool, which has a free version, is essentially designed to help agents stay organized and save time.
“I think it’s a great tool for listing agents in scheduling showings,” said David Gilmore, a broker for Coldwell Banker Bain. “The online calendar can streamline showing times and prevent double bookings in this era of low inventory and high demand that can generate multiple showing requests on new listings.”
Schoeffler conceived the Instashowing idea two years ago when his parents were shopping for a home in Bend. The family had just moved to Oregon from Santa Rosa in the wake of the devastating 2017 wildfires in that California city.
Schoeffler joined in with the home search but soon found himself surprised not with the home-buying process but the challenges faced by the agent.
“I was sitting in the car with our realtor. I saw the mounds of paperwork she was handling and she was complaining about having to call for three hours just to book the showing tour,” said Schoeffler. “I couldn’t believe how outdated and painful it was for our realtor. I knew software could help.”
A week prior to the encounter with the agent, Schoeffling was in Eugene at a business pitch competition. Students at the event were launching an app that helps with scheduling tutor appointments.
“I thought the same thing could be applied to real estate,” he said.
Instashowing formed in his head as a business plan, but Schoeffling had no prior experience in real estate or building applications and websites.
So the student-turned-entrepreneur scoured Upwork and Fiverr websites for help and connected with freelancers to assist with the coding aspect of the project. He funded the development of the web application with a $5000 grant from the University of Oregon business school and money from school scholarships.
Schoeffler, an avid runner and amateur pilot, is still just getting started with his company. Working out of the Collective on Bend’s Westside, he continues to do product development, marketing and sales for the web application.
A suite of digital products for agents is also in the works. That could include a platform for agents to communicate with their clients similar to Slack, he said.
“Agents can collaborate on listings their clients want to view and create showing tours with the fastest route. It will also help agents collaborate together for things like scheduling appointments, presenting offers and sharing inspection reports and disclosures,” he said.
Schoeffler has made some tweaks to the site to conform to COVID-19 rules. Through the site, a COVID document, which certifies the agent does not have the virus, is available and can be filled out and filed by agents.
He does it all while also attending online classes in his final semester as a Duck. That has sometimes led to sticky situations.
“I have had real estate brokers schedule demos with me in the middle of my classes on Zoom and I had to leave,” said Schoeffler. “Juggling school and a startup is difficult!”
Separating his new business and his school career has been challenging.
“People at first loved my ‘cute class project.’ But it was never a class project, and it’s hard to be taken seriously when that is someone’s first remark,” said Schoeffler.
Even with hurdles in the way, including Schoeffler’s age and COVID-19, the company’s growth has been steadily increasing. In August, the site had 525 weekly active users and by November that number had grown to 857.
Schoeffler hopes to keep the ball rolling after he graduates in December. He envisions more products to expand his fledgling company but the long-term goal is to help a housing market that is plagued with high costs and shrinking opportunities.
“Housing really is the most foundational aspect of people’s lives,” said Schoeffler. “I hope I can work to make a big impact, tackling some of the most intricate problems in real estate. This will help people live better lives, whether that is with my company or at another.”