A broker friend of mine downloaded the WAV Group 2004 Broker Transaction Management study recently and gave me a call. Like every real estate broker in America, she has long adapted her business to online forms. Like most brokerages, she also confesses that they have a forms box of printed forms in every office. A few years ago, she made a decision to purchase digital signatures for all of her agents.
Today, she is considering transaction management. Again. This is not her first visit to this consideration, but rather an annual trek that is part of her end-to-end customer experience analysis. She agreed to my recording of the call and the publishing of this article as long as I do not identify her. Here is my synopsis of her thinking.
Why did you decide to adopt digital forms?
It was so long ago that I am not sure I remember. We used to go to the Association of REALTORS office and pick up a forms packet. When we installed internet and email back in the late 80s or early 90s, we started getting the forms electronically.
What is the benefit of digital forms today?
Our state forms are probably one of the most important member benefits we get from the REALTOR Association. Having a standard form is the cornerstone of compliance. I also know that printing forms has risks. The primary risk we experience is an agent using the wrong form. Aside from that, there are privacy and security issues to printed forms that are challenging to manage.
Why digital signatures?
Well, we waited a bit on digital signatures. It was kind of a catch-22. A digital form without a digital signature was pretty useless. Many fundamental usability issues came into play. First, you needed to be connected to the Internet. Second, all parties had to be comfortable with digital signatures, including the banks! The ability of managing forms and signing forms online did not really become easy until everyone had an internet-enabled smartphone and an eFax service. That is where we are today, so many of the barriers to adoption are taken care of.
What is the benefit of digital forms today?
Only about 1 in 10 of our transactions stay electronic throughout their life cycle. I am guessing at this statistic, but based upon the deal flow that I see, that seems about right. The highest use case is getting a missing form signed. Our transaction managers or agents explain how quickly and easily a customer can complete a needed form and it can be done in a matter of minutes.
Why digital transaction management today?
The truth of the matter is that I am still not sure. We are still in an adoption phase with digital forms and signatures. Keeping them all organized in a single system and the ability to use that system as an online meeting place for all parties in the transaction makes sense. But everyone needs to be in. Anyone who is not in will make it partially fail. In any transaction that could be an agent, a competitor’s agent, a competitor’s broker, any of the customers and, of course, the banks. There is still a long way to go for TM to have an opportunity for widespread usage. I still feel that it may be a cumbersome digital filing cabinet.
What products will you consider?
All of them! We are in a zipForm market and we use DocuSign for signatures. They have a new transaction management solution that has evolved since they purchased Cartavi. I also network with other brokers around the county and a lot of them use Instanet for forms, signatures, and transaction management. Others use DotLoop or Skyslope. Those doing it the longest use TransactionPoint, Settlement Room, SureClose, or CoreLogic Transaction Manager. I have been keeping a list.
What is your biggest fear?
I have a lot of them. Some brokers in our market already use transaction management solutions. It aggravates our agents because they struggle to learn how to work with all of the different systems that are in use.
I have never had an agent rush into my office saying “Oh my god! We gotta get this transaction management system! It’s amazing!” That has never, ever happened.
Customers do not express their exuberance for a transaction management solution in their transaction. We survey our customers and ask them questions about our forms and digital signatures. The results are mixed on those products, too. There are raving fans for the signatures, or they don’t really care. The survey results are also mixed when we represent a client who interfaces with a competitor’s transaction management solution.
My peer group around America seems to agree that market-wide adoption by the Association and/or MLS is the best solution. Each broker having their own system undermines adoption. I don’t see transaction management as a brand defining solution in our business today. We operate in seven MLS areas today, so I doubt that I will have the opportunity to see all of them adopt the same system. That means that we are likely to need to become experts at multiple systems. I hate that as much as I hate the disparate MLS systems and data standards themselves.
WAV Group believes that it is helpful to view episodes of others making decisions to inform decisions that you are making in your business. We are thankful that this broker shared a few things about her ongoing exploration for transaction management.
Clearly, transaction management is a local business decision. There is not one-size fits all. Clearly the first requirement of transaction management is integrated forms. Transaction management without signatures does not make sense either. Competing transaction management systems in a market can create a new set of problems. It was also interesting to note that her agents and customers are not begging for it.
Is transaction management a vitamin or a painkiller?
I will be moderating a conversation with a broker next week on April 1st – April Fool’s Day! How quaint.
The title is the Top 5 Reasons Brokers are choosing Digital Transaction Management. Joining me on the webinar is Aaron Wheeler, President of the Oakville Group (residential, commercial, property management, mortgage).