Buyers and sellers are searching the Internet when looking to buy or sell a home and using the computer or cell phone/PDA to communicate via e-mail or text messages. Why then is it that so few real estate agents take advantage of Internet technology where buyers and sellers can be more involved with, and actively participate in, their real estate transaction online and provide the service consumers have come to expect?
The real estate business is a service-oriented business. If the purchase or sale of real estate is considered one of the most emotional and largest financial decisions many consumers make, why not get to the next level and offer more services by providing online access to buyers and seller clients in their real estate transaction?
Online transaction management (transaction management systems) is not something new in real estate. In 2002, I started researching various online transaction companies and closed my first real estate transaction in August, 2003 using the SettlementRoom online transaction platform where the buyer, seller and buyer’s attorney were active participants in the real estate transaction online. And that was in a time period where Internet access and usage were still in an infancy stage and many consumers did not have broadband, high speed Internet access, or cell phones with e-mail and Internet capabilities.
Fast forward to 2008 and consider the impact the Internet now has on the consumer, and the real estate professional. If the consumer can find properties for sale on the Internet, then set appointments online to see those properties, why is it that their real estate purchase or sale transaction details are not available to them online as well? With so much information available on the Internet, and more and more websites to find it on, many buyers and sellers desire to be more involved in their purchase or sale transaction.
Online real estate transaction management technology is readily available and provides buyers, sellers, attorneys and other professionals the ability to actively participate in the real estate transaction whenever they want, in real time, and at any computer with Internet access.
These web-based platforms offer a secure, password protected site where participants are provided a username and password. Being web-based, there is no software to purchase and install, no updates to purchase, no data to backup and no annual tech support fees.
Transactions are easy to create. Just log on to start a new transaction online, and begin the process of filling in the transaction details; create or select an activity plan; invite participants; upload and post documents; create additional tasks, set timelines and reminders; post messages and add website links.
An e-mail is automatically sent to invited participants that provides a user name and password. The logged on user controls access to each document, task or message they create, and whether it is available and viewable by all, certain participants or simply a personal note or reminder to be kept private.
Think about all the documents that come across our desks, and the desks of all the other participants in a real estate transaction, which must be delivered via postal mail, fax, e-mail and sometimes even hand delivered; such as the contract of sale, letter correspondence, various inspection reports and certifications, mortgage related documents, inspection repair issue correspondence, invoices, etc. These documents must be continually available for access and review. Consider the follow up calls and information discussed which needs to be recorded and saved.
Transaction folders are used to manage documents while at the office, but what about the times when information is needed, and we are not in the office? What about the buyer and seller, how organized are they in keeping their information and documents in one place and having that information available when they need it? Managing a real estate transaction online provides the buyer or seller with one access point to receive, send, view, save and print documents, as well as one place to go to where all the information related to their transaction is available.
A listing or sales transaction progresses in steps, and in time frames. There are benefits to this alternative method of providing real estate services. Just take a look at a listing or sales transaction, and decide if it makes sense. Ask yourself what types of information would benefit the client if it were online and available for immediate access, whether the client is at home, at work or away on business.
Think about what you do now, and consider these alternatives.
Consider the benefit to the buyer or seller in having a summary page of their transaction details, open tasks, completed tasks, messages and all documents in one place, with easy access at their convenience. A signed contract of sale is posted, providing immediate access for viewing and printing.
Want delivery and acceptance confirmation; ask for a confirmation reply for receipt and acceptance. Posting of letters and all correspondence enables the buyer or seller to receive, read, print and reply, more timely. Would it be time efficient to post the home inspection report, termite inspection reports and other inspection reports, for immediate review and action? Is there value in providing your clients with easy access to documents online?
When listing and marketing a home for sale, would it be beneficial having the listing agreement, and all other required forms, available online? Would it be useful to post the MLS printout, home feature flyer and various ad copies for the seller’s review, and or printing? How about providing the links to the various internet web sites where the property is being marketed and showcased (company website, personal website, virtual tour, MLS web site, Realtor.com, etc)? Would a seller take a moment to go to these websites to look at how their property is being marketed if all the links were available on their transaction web site to just click on? What about showing comments/feedback, all in on place?
I have subscribed to and used a few different companies which provide web-based online transaction management, such as SettlementRoom, Relay Transaction Management and SureClose. And there are many others to choose from. While each is slightly different, all have been easy to use and do not require a large financial investment. Some charge an annual subscription fee per agent while others are per transaction fee based. Just do a Google search for real estate online transaction management and spend some time researching various companies and the varied transaction platforms.
Another benefit is the ability to obtain all information on a CD after the transaction closes, and copy it to a computer for easy access after the transaction closes. This eliminates the need to go to the storage room, basement or across town to the main office to obtain the folder when a client calls a year after the closing and needs information because they misplaced (threw away) their paperwork. The more information placed online, the more there is available to save after the closing.
Online transaction management is not much different than what is already being placed in a sale transaction folder or typed into a contact management software program. The difference is in the services that online transaction management allows you to offer your clients. Think about the potential of online transaction management. Try it. You might like it, and provide more services to your buyers and sellers.
(Licensed since 1971, David Fialk, CRB, CRS, ABR, GRI, e-PRO Certified Internet Professional, is the Broker Owner of Choice Realty Co., Iselin, NJ and provides Real Estate Sale Training. He can be reached at 732-283-2100 or David@ChoiceRealty.com.)