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Zillow now lets you e-sign your leases

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. And then there is the real estate industry, which has also had to adapt to travel restrictions and social-distancing measures, with technology playing an increasingly pivotal role in keeping business ticking over.

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 finding a new lease of life during the pandemic. And today, Zillow announced what could prove to be a small-but-vital cog in the “remote rentals” wheel, as it rolls out new tools to make it easier for the entire leasing process to take place 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

It’s worth noting here that Zillow already supported e-signatures as part of a tool that allowed landlords to create new leases from scratch, however this was only available in a handful of states. With the ability to upload existing lease documents into the Zillow Rental Manger, and request signatures from tenants digitally, this makes Zillow a more integrated “end-to-end” virtual rental platform across the whole U.S.

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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. By allowing landlords to upload leases, and send them to the renter to sign through a single platform, this pretty much closes the loop on virtual rentals, on what is among the largest rental marketplaces in the U.S.

When the tenant receives the lease from their landlord, they log into their Zillow account, type in their name, and the tool generates a generic signature for illustrative purposes. 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, which Zillow now offers as part of a standalone product to the broader real estate industry. Zillow executive Douglas Pope told VentureBeat that the new Zillow functionality was “inspired by the Dotloop team’s expertise, which allowed for the acceleration of the product.”

The timing of the launch is also notable. Zillow said that rental traffic is currently 5% above what its expectations were before the COVID-19 crisis, a spike that follows a 26% dip below its original projections for March. In other words, it looks like the rentals market could soon kick into life should the lockdown orders be eased across the U.S. However, even with fewer mobility restrictions, many people will still want to minimize their contact with other people for a while into the future, so the more activity that can take place online, the better.


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