The COVID-19 crisis has forced countries, companies, and consumers to embrace digital tools like never before. The demand for telehealth services has skyrocketed, remote communication and collaboration tools have gone through the roof, and technical support teams have turned to AR and remove video to fix issues from afar. The real estate industry has also had to adapt to travel restrictions and social-distancing measures, with technology playing an increasingly pivotal role.

Last month, real estate brokerage company Redfin reported a 494% increase in requests for video-based home tours in a single week, while Zillow saw a 533% increase in 3D home tour creations between February and March, suggesting that existing technologies are being repurposed during the pandemic. Today Zillow announced it’s rolling out new tools to help renters execute the entire leasing process virtually.

Upload and sign

As part of the Zillow Rental Manager, the company’s dashboard for property managers, landlords can now upload an existing lease form and send it to the tenant to read and sign electronically.

Above: Lease uploads and leasing on Zillow

Zillow already supported e-signatures as part of a tool that allowed landlords to create new leases from scratch, but this was only available in a handful of states.

Back in 2018, Zillow expanded to enable renters to apply for apartments and pay rent and utility bills directly through its platform, and last year it rolled out virtual home tours, enabling landlords and property managers to capture and upload visuals of their properties through the Zillow 3D Home Tours app. Allowing landlords to upload leases and send them to renters to sign through a single platform basically closes the loop on virtual rentals for one of the largest rental marketplaces in the U.S.

When the prospective tenant receives the lease, they log into their Zillow account and type in their name, and the tool generates a generic signature as an example. The tenant then hits “adopt and sign” to seal the deal.

Above: Zillow rentals e-signature

Zillow acquired an e-signature company called Dotloop back in 2015 and now offers its service to the broader real estate industry as part of a standalone product. Zillow executive Douglas Pope told VentureBeat the new Zillow functionality was “inspired by the Dotloop team’s expertise, which allowed for the acceleration of the product.”

The timing of today’s launch is notable. Zillow said rental traffic is currently 5% above pre-COVID-19 expectations, following a 26% dip below its original projections for March. In other words, it looks like the rental market could soon kick into gear if lockdown orders are eased across the U.S. But even with fewer mobility restrictions, many people will want to minimize contact with other people for a while, so the more activity that can take place online, the better.


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