Zillow on Thursday completed its $500 million acquisition of ShowingTime, which real estate agents use to schedule home viewings, as federal regulators did not extend their window to review the deal.
The Seattle-based home listings platform had announced buying the Chicago-headquartered schedule making app in February during the company’s annual earnings call. However, the Federal Trade Commission delayed the deal’s close by extending the review period.
Under a 1976 federal law to police antitrust behavior – dubbed the Hart-Scott-Rodino Act – the FTC may intercede into proposed acquisitions and probe the companies involved. The Information reported Thursday that the FTC, under its Joe Biden-appointed chair Lina Khan, did just that, scrutinizing Zillow about its market share in myriad aspects of the residential real estate economy.
But the federal agency did not apply its power under the Hart-Scott-Rodino law to extend review yet further. Asked why Friday, a FTC spokesperson declined to comment.
Zillow responded to questions with a written statement that seemed to acknowledge federal scrutiny may continue.
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“We’ve been, and continue to be, open and transparent with the FTC throughout its review process and intend to cooperate fully with all appropriate procedures,” the statement read. “We believe a robust, competitive real estate market best serves consumers and are looking forward to Showing Time helping improve the home touring experience for customers and partners across the industry.”
ShowingTime has little visibility to the consumer, but within real estate it – perhaps along with the San Francisco-based company DocuSign – is the dominant example of how technology has recently changed deal making. Many Multiple Listings Services sync in with ShowingTime, and agents often expect their counterparts will be on the platform.
Agents have expressed misgivings about Zillow’s penetration into another corner of real estate. Already, the company operates Zillow Premier Agent, where agents pay a monthly fee to pop up on the website when users are browsing for homes. Zillow started its brokerage business in earnest earlier this year, and it has siphoned the majority of company resources into Zillow Offers, an iBuying division.
“I’m very sad that Zillow was able to buy ShowingTime,” said Angelique Andrae, a managing broker at Weichert Realtors in Silver Springs, Maryland. “Since they are now a broker, I also think there’s a potential conflict of interest there.”
Indeed, The Information reported that federal regulators are broadly examining Zillow. One possible focus is how Zillow divides listings into the “listings agent” and “other agent” categories, based on whether the home for sale is coming from an MLS internet data exchange feed.
Austin, Texas-based brokerage REX filed a lawsuit over the practice, blasting it as the “segregation rule.” Federal judge Thomas Zilly denied REX’s motion to enjoin Zillow’s classification method. But Zilly also denied Zillow’s motion to dismiss the lawsuit in an order earlier this month.