Mar 04, 2006
By Kathy Bevan
Real Estate Marketing Online
Amid ongoing industry concerns about the Internet technology tidal wave that threatens to push REALTORS® ever farther away from a central role in real estate transactions, one B.C. brokerage owner is using technology to ensure that his REALTORS® are always front and centre.
Rick Dubord, owner/manager of HomeLife Benchmark Cloverdale, has created a virtually paperless transaction process for his office - with his REALTORS® in control of the process. And if the system he's been beta-testing continues to be successful, it may well lead the way for REALTORS® across the country to control virtually paper-free transactions.
Dubord's goal: to create a fully integrated, web-based business management system to give REALTORS® control of the real estate transaction, from the beginning right through to title registration. This includes being able to incorporate electronic signatures onto transaction documents.
"REALTORS® can put everything they need into cyberspace, and be able to access it wherever they or their customers are, and obtain and transmit signed documentation. This effectively enables sales reps to do everything involved in completing a transaction, right from their laptops," says Dubord. "This creates the best customer service possible - no matter where our client is, no matter where the REALTOR® is, they can do business together."
He says: "Most important of all, the control is in the hands of the REALTOR®. With this system, we control the real estate transaction, not the lawyers, not the title companies, not the third-party referral services."
Dubord's Cloverdale office has been testing electronic transactions for the past year and a half, with the co-operation of the Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver, the Fraser Valley Real Estate Board and the Real Estate Council of B.C. "Our real estate council has given us the go-ahead to archive our deals on CD-ROM," says Dubord, which is yet another step toward a fully paperless transaction process.
Each of the 18 REALTORS® in Dubord's office has access to a web-based Virtual Business Management Centre, which integrates data from MLXchange. All but two of the REALTORS® own Compaq laptops, which include a digital signing feature. The office has invested $10,000 in an LED screen for the office's boardroom, so REALTORS® can electronically review and revise documents with their clients by linking their laptops to the oversized wall screen.
When an offer comes into the office, it arrives via e-mail (or through an e-mail fax). The REALTOR® involved can then take that e-mail document to the client, to review and revise electronically, and then digitally sign right on the laptop. The e-document can then be e-mailed to any other parties to the transaction, including any other REALTORS® involved.
"Everything sits on the REALTORS®'s laptop. Our REALTORS® can access all the transaction information whenever they want to; they can show it to their clients whenever and wherever it's most convenient; revisions can be signed off on, electronically," says Dubord. "It becomes an electronic deal sheet, stored in each REALTOR®'s own computer files."
The REALTOR® e-mails the deal sheet to the office's administrative assistant, who then uploads the information electronically to the office accounting system, rather than having to manually re-enter almost 200 fields of data. "The time-saving is enormous, plus the possibility for error is minimized," says Dubord. "The real estate transaction is characterized by redundant data entry and old-fashioned document management. Salespeople spend an inordinate amount of time administering transactions, when they should be dealing with existing clients or seeking out new ones."
Clients are kept in the e-loop as well. They are each given a username and password, and sent e-notices of important information (for example, upcoming closure date) to keep them aware of everything that's happening with their transaction. Vendors are sent e-updates of listing activity; for prospective buyers, a computer-assisted design program provides to-scale floor plans, and Google maps show them the surrounding neighbourhood.
Eventually Dubord hopes to see REALTORS® invite all the parties in a real estate transaction to participate electronically. "We already have the capability of sending a PDF of a transaction to the lawyers on our database. Insurance companies, home inspectors, mortgage providers, moving companies - we can put them all together electronically," he says. "Most important of all, this puts the REALTOR® in control throughout the transaction process - not any third-party referral services."
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